Lyles’ Spot in Kings’ Rotation No Longer in Limbo


The Sacramento Kings made one of the most pivotal trades in franchise history at last season’s trade deadline.

General manager Monte McNair knew his team’s roster was not built to end the longest playoff drought in NBA history and decided to shake things up heading into 2022 All-Star Weekend.

McNair made a blockbuster trade on Feb. 8, 2022 that sent fan-favorite point guard Tyrese Haliburton and franchise three-point leader Buddy Hield to Indiana in exchange for two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

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The trade was maligned by the majority of the NBA media that included a now famous clip of former NBA player JJ Redick where he compared the move to malpractice. All of this criticism widely overshadowed another trade made two days later.

On Feb. 10, the Kings decided to trade unhappy former No. 2 overall pick, Marvin Bagley, in a four-team trade that obtained Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles to Sacramento. DiVincenzo was the headline acquisition for the Kings as he had been on their radar for a while and was part of a failed sign-and-trade deal with the Bucks that would have made him a King two years prior.

Jackson was a cheap experiment to capture the potential No. 4 overall pick he once was. Lyles was more or less an afterthought— a potential role or deep bench player.

Lyles’ Rotation Spot in Limbo to Start

Despite emerging as a solid rotation player after the trade last season — averaging 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists across 22.8 minutes per game in 20 starts — Lyles’ minutes were up in the air for the 2022-2023 season.

Coach Brown spent much of the early parts of the campaign experimenting with the team’s rotation, leaving Lyles to compete for minutes with the likes of Chimezie Metu, Richaun Holmes and KZ Okpala. Brown also tinkered with small-ball lineups that left Lyles on the bench.

Lyles’ contributions ranged from being the first big off the pine to getting garbage-time minutes and multiple DNPs. His lack of rebounding and defensive consistency left his place in the rotation in question.

January Became Turning Point

The new year was a turning point for Lyles.

He found his defensive consistency, becoming a reliably switchable big, being able to guard the perimeter and paint. Additionally, he became extremely efficient offensively, putting up 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds on 53% shooting from the field — including a blistering 42% from behind the arc on three attempts a game — all in just 17.7 minutes per contest.

Lyles was the best player off the bench that month. His offensive and defensive spark was needed while usual sixth man Malik Monk had his worst month of the season.

All of this culminated in the Jan. 23 match-up against the Memphis Grizzlies. Lyles had the game of his career, posting 24 points and shooting 6-of-8 from deep. Lyles became the defensive anchor, generating two blocks and two steals in the span of two minutes.

Behind Lyles’ effort, the Kings put together their best defensive quarter of the season, holding the second-placed team in the West to just 10 points.

With the Kings chasing the playoffs and homecourt advantage, Trey Lyles is a key piece to the lineup that Coach Brown summarizes perfectly (per The Sacramento Bee):

“He’s got a tremendous feel. His team defensive instincts within our scheme can help us get to the next level.”

Over his last six games, Lyles is averaging 10.0 points (50% FG, 35% 3PT, 73% FT) and 5.2 rebounds over 20.2 minutes per game.

About Carlos Ganarial

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