After years of losing, the Kings took the NBA by storm last season. They were the fun, young, up-and-coming team that came out firing on all cylinders and running the floor night in and night out. They were exciting, hard to beat, and one of the teams primed to take over the league.
This season, they don’t look quite like the same team. Personnel-wise, not much has changed. The starting lineup returned alongside the main bench players from last season; Davion Mitchell, Malik Monk, Trey Lyles, and Alex Len. Chris Duarte, JaVale McGee, and Sasha Vezenkov were the only new faces to come to Sacramento.
And yet, despite not much changing, the game feels vastly different.
What makes the Kings look so different?
The Kings’ shooting percentages have not changed much outside the midrange, and the percentage of field goals coming from three only increased by two percent.
They still move the ball a lot, leading the league in passes per game, and the pace they play with is pretty much the same as last season. The three areas in which the Kings got noticeably worse are free-throw shooting, fast-break points, and points off turnovers.
They can’t get any stops and thus can’t get out and run, which they did so well last season. This lack of transition also makes the offense look less dynamic and smooth.
It is ironic that this is the Kings’ biggest problem. Ever since training camp started, Mike Brown has been aiming for defensive improvements, preaching physicality and fight instead of relying on outscoring opponents every game. Not many players responded well to this, and instead of getting stops, the Kings still get beat and look slower on the other hand.
The Kings’ offense last season was historically great. This season, seven teams have a better offensive rating than Sacramento had last season. Teams are scoring more and more and if you can’t guard, it is hard to keep up.
Plus, the Kings’ rotations are clunky this season. One reason for this is that the team already suffered more injuries this season than last and had some important players out. Secondly, several players are not living up to expectations, and sometimes, Coach Brown just looks like he is at an absolute loss on who can come off the bench and produce.
The core is not the problem. Overall, De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, and Malik Monk have been good—even though Fox and Monk had big parts in the team’s last two losses. The supporting cast has struggled to contribute consistently, however, especially the new additions.
It is time to make changes to this Kings roster
Continuity is important in the NBA, but the Kings might have too much of it. They are not surprising anyone anymore, and it seems the group that was so successful last season has stalled out.
The Kings need some fresh energy, some players who can add new dimensions on both ends of the floor.
Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and Davion Mitchell have already been made available on the trade market. At first, it seemed that the Kings would try to make a big splash and get another All-Star.
By now, it seems more likely that they will look to upgrade their role players. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor proposed the duo of Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic to shake things up. Kyle Kuzma, Matisse Thybulle, Alex Caruso, and Dorian Finney-Smith are other names that could help change the team’s identity, particularly defensively.
There might not be a perfect move but after losing three games in a row—including two they definitely should have won in Milwaukee and Phoenix—it is becoming clearer than ever that the Kings need some new faces and energy.