Kings

Kings’ Youth to Drive Any and All Positive Discussion This Season

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The Sacramento Kings have officially ended the 2020 preseason with an even 2-2 record, which ultimately means exactly nothing. It was a preseason of highs and lows, buzzer-beaters and blowouts, and exactly one constant:

It’s nice to watch basketball again.

Here are some takeaways from this preseason that may or may not mean anything as we plunge headfirst into another NBA season.

Tyrese Haliburton is as Advertised

“Elite-level passer.” “Natural playmaker.” Defensive “disruptor.”

Whether you read NBC Sports or Bleacher Report, it became clear before the draft what kind of player Tyrese Haliburton looked like: a versatile, high-IQ, defense-first guard with on- and off-ball talent. Yahoo Sports compared him to Lonzo Ball and dubbed him “the most intriguing player in the NBA draft.”

So far, that all feels exactly right. The Kings are lucky to have him.

Over the course of four preseason games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors, Haliburton showcased all those abilities that made him a clear lottery pick. Among rookies, he ranks near the top of the class in multiple stat total categories: assists (1st in class), steals (2nd) and blocks (2nd). He ranks slightly lower in rebounds (8th total, 4th offensive, 9th defensive), and points (11th).

His offensive feel will improve over time (he seemed nervous about taking his own shot in the team’s first game against Portland but had already become more confident by the time they played the Warriors). Meanwhile, his defensive instincts are bewildering to see. More than his instincts, he guards with a sense of urgency on virtually every possession. I won’t be surprised if he quickly becomes the best defender on the Kings roster this season; I’ll be surprised if he hasn’t earned it by this time next year.

Machine Gun Fox

For The Lead’s Top-50 list for the ’20-’21 season, I wrote of my hopes that De’Aaron Fox would recover his 3-point shot and confidence this season. After four preseason games, I’m not worried, but I’m worried the time might soon come to get worried.

The Lead’s Top 50 for 2021

Last season, Fox averaged 29.2% on 3.6 three-point attempts per game, his first sub-30% season since coming into the league. For the preseason, Fox averaged 6.8 attempts per game.

He made 14.8% of them.

Only Buddy Hield attempted more 3s, averaging 9.2 attempts per game (and making 40.5% of them; average that for a season, Buddy. Please.).

I doubt Fox will attempt nearly as many 3s when the games count, and the preseason is a good time to experiment, whether that’s with lineups, fancy tricks or funky shots. That said, I might be leaning forward a little more in my seat if Fox pulls up from deep on opening night.

Give it to the Guy

Conventional wisdom suggests that above-average free-throw shooting can be a positive indicator of solid 3-point range ability.

Kyle Guy rejects conventional wisdom.

In four preseason games, the point guard made just 55.6% of his free throws on 2.2 attempts per game. That didn’t stop him from wreaking absolute havoc from three, sinking 45% of his three-pointers while averaging five per game, including the game-winner in Sacramento’s first match-up against Golden State.

Kings Twitter would like to formally offer Guy a supermax contract. Jokes aside, the second-year player who spent most of last season with the G-League Stockton Kings is currently on a two-way contract, and offering him an NBA-level contract in any capacity would require some player movement that, at least to start the season, feels a bit unlikely.

Still, I’d like to see more of Guy in Sacramento, and if veterans like Cory Joseph move on as the season progresses, Guy might just have the opportunity to shoot his way into the rotation.

Luke Walton doesn’t Know how to Wear a Mask

Hanging over the entire NBA season (and of course, the entire world) is the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s a lot more to be said about this, about the surreal nature of the NBA attempting to operate a standard league season after proving that contained bubbles can work, about the need for every single player and organization member to buy in and follow the rules, not just for themselves, but for everyone around them, about many things.

That’s probably why Kings coach Luke Walton’s mask etiquette (or lack thereof) has bothered me so much.

It started with Sacramento’s first preseason game against the Blazers, when shooting guard C.J. McCollum gently reminded Walton to keep his mask on per NBA COVID protocols.

It continues. Virtually every time the camera cuts over to Walton, his mask is either off or improperly worn (cover your noses, people!).

Most of the Kings’ fandom has accepted that Walton isn’t a good coach. I’ve made my peace with that. Apparently he’s also just not someone who cares very much for rules and regulations.

I just hope, for his sake, Walton learns how to wear a mask before the team has to play Minnesota.

A Happy, Healthy and Productive Marvin Bagley

Marvin Bagley had not played in an NBA game in 11 months before making his preseason debut against the Warriors. Between injury struggles and testing positive for COVID-19, Marvin could have easily come into the season feeling down and looking for sympathy.

Instead, he’s been all smiles, and that’s wonderful to see.

Playing in limited minutes against the Warriors, Bagley put up a modest statline. He averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game; after a year off, that’s nothing to scoff at for the young forward.

Can he do better? Yes. Will he? I think so.

After a tough loss to the Warriors in their last match of the preseason, multiple Sacramento sources reported that Bagley returned to the court postgame. The reason? To practice his free throws. They say the work you do when nobody’s watching is the key to success. Bagley is walking into this season with something to prove, both to the league, and to himself. If he puts in the work, look out.

It’s not Bagley’s fault that he’s not Luka Doncic. He just needs to be the Marvin Bagley many in Sacramento know he can be. Please stay healthy…

The Wild Ride Ahead

Another NBA season is about to begin, one unlike any other. Quiet arenas, constant COVID testing, and the possibility of players getting sick will make this a season where basketball feels almost secondary. The NBA machine is rolling forward. For all teams involved, not just the Sacramento Kings, it will almost certainly be a wild ride.

But hey, there’s always the promise of a vaccine and next year’s draft, right?

Follow us on Twitter @Kings_Lead for the latest Kings news and insight. 

About Bryan Rollofson

Bryan Rollofson is a Sacramento native who grew up watching the "Greatest Show on the Court" Kings of the late '90s and early 2000s. He's been trying to recapture that greatness ever since.

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