How are the Sacramento Kings finding early success?

To nobody’s surprise the Sacramento Kings have started the season 6-3 and sit firmly in the Western Conference Playoff picture.

OK, let’s be honest, we’re all surprised. I don’t think anyone expected this kind of start for the Sacramento Kings, especially with schedule they were given early.

5 of 8 games were against playoff teams last year. The Nuggets won 46 games and missed the playoffs losing on the last day of the season. A healthy Grizzlies team with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol is never an easy game.

Yet, they have managed to go 6-3 and are now on five game winning streak. To people who have watched the Sacramento Kings during this streak, they will have a good idea of why this success is happening. To those who haven’t, let’s talk about some of the reasons.

Sacramento Kings Breakout Players

Maybe the biggest reason for this success early on is improvement from the Sacramento Kings young players, as well as the additions of the front office made in the offseason.

De’Aaron Fox

De’Aaron Fox looks like a completely different player in one season. As a rookie, Fox showed flashes of his insane speed, but many times didn’t know how to control it.

This season, he understands when to push and when to slow down and set up the offense. He has put in major work on his jump shot and it shows. He’s still not a great three-point shooter, but he has hit mid range jumpers regularly.

His improvement in the pick and roll has been outstanding. He’s reading the defenses so much better and knows when to and pop that mid range jump shot, attack the rim, or drop it off to the roller. He’s averaging 17.5ppg, 3.9rpg, 6.9apg, and 1.5spg.

Fox is looking like the point guard Sacramento Kings fan envisioned when he the fifth overall pick last year,  and I don’t see him slowing down.

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield was inserted into the starting lineup this season and boy was that a great decision. Even when Bogi returns, don’t expect Buddy to go to the bench.

He has earned his starting spot. He’s averaging 18.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.4apg, with shooting splits of 52/44/84. We all knew Buddy could shoot, but more importantly, he’s been aggressive on the glass and has shown major improvements defensively.

Buddy is having the best year in his career and it’s coming at the perfect time.

Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein is playing in his contract year and he has done of good job of securing his money so far. WCS is showing everyone why Kings fans have been so high on him.

Physically, it’s tough to find athletes like WCS at his size. With the emphasis on pushing the ball, he is blossoming right before our eyes. Averaging 17.4ppg and 9rpg on 55% from the field. The most impressive thing is the centers he’s done that against.

With the likes of Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis, Steven Adams, Nikola Jokic and Marc Gasol, WCS went through a gauntlet of great centers and held his own in every game. He looks like a player that will be a vital part of the Kings future moving forward.

Nemanja Bjelica

Nemanja Bjelica has been one of the more underrated signing this offseason. He came to this team to give spacing as the Kings lacked that last year. He has not only provided spacing, but has been vital to the Kings offense.

His passing has been impressive, but he is having by far the best offensive season of his career. Averaging 15ppg, 6.5rpg, 3apg shooting a blistering 58% from the field and 54% from three. I doubt he keeps these percentages up, but Bjelica looks like he’s found a home in Sacramento.

Just for fun, Bjelica ranks 6th in the entire NBA in effective field goal percentage and 10th in true shooting percentage. 

Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III, who was the second pick in the 2018 NBA draft, has been better than I expected. Watching him in summer league, he struggled scoring and playing through the physical contact.

I thought it would take him at least a season before he started contributing major minute to this team and I was wrong. Yes, Bagley is having his struggles offensively.

He has a hard time scoring on the block against stronger defenders and when forced right, he still tends to bring the ball back to his left hand which makes his shots a lot tougher. Aside from his struggles, there are major positives. Coming into the draft,

Bagley was expected to be one of the worst defenders in the draft. That is simply not true. Even with a slight frame, Bagley uses his athleticism and length to his advantage. He’s been a good shot blocker so far averaging 1.3 blocks per game on the season in just 23 minutes per game. He’s aggressive on the glass, averaging 7.1 rebounds per game, and almost 3 rebounds on the offensive glass.

The effort and energy Bagley brings to the game is exactly what you want  from a young player. His skills will need time to develop, but effort is something every player can bring, and Bagley is doing just that.

Team Play

Coming into the season we all wanted the Kings to play fast. This team is young and athletic and on most nights will have an advantage in that department.

Head Coach Dave Joerger has put an emphasis on pushing the pace and wow has it paid dividends. The Kings currently rank 2nd in the entire league when it comes to pace. They rank 4th in the league in fast break points, and 3rd in paint points per game.

Pushing the pace has not only helped the Sacramento Kings get easy buckets this season, but their percentages have taken a major spike as expected. 3rd in field goal percentage and 4th in three-point percentage. 

These numbers are impressive and credit needs should be given not only to the players, but Coach Joerger for understanding the type of his team he has and putting them in the best situation to succeed.

Final Thoughts

It’s been such a pleasure watching the Kings this season. They are playing exciting basketball , but most importantly, they are playing winning basketball.

Expecting the Sacramento Kings to win 40+ games is not realistic, but if they continue to push the pace and pressure opposing defenses, expect the Kings to be in a lot of games.

Learning how to win close games and stay in close games against the better teams will mature and develop this team drastically. They’re having fun and playing for each other. Let’s keep it rolling!