High scoring, lots of ball movement, great three-point shooting, and a fast pace. That’s what characterized the Kings’ historically great offense last season and carried them back to the playoffs. The starting lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, and Domantas Sabonis was a well-oiled machine with great offensive potential.
Much of the 2023-24 season didn't look quite the same. Fox started the season playing like an MVP candidate but then missed some time with an ankle injury during which the Kings fell apart. To start the new year, he looked tired or banged up and often settled for threes rather than getting to the rim.
Murray struggled offensively early in the season, still getting used to his new defensive responsibilities and expectations to be more than just a catch-and-shoot threat. Huerter and Barnes struggled to contribute, leaving the stat sheet concerningly empty on many nights.
New additions JaVale McGee, Chris Duarte, and Sasha Vezenkov, who were all supposed to be impactful role players, struggled to do that. Things just weren’t flowing very smoothly on either end of the floor for much of the season and the Kings didn’t start off 2024 very well.
A four-game losing streak—including a blowout loss to the 76ers without Joel Embiid, a heartbreaking overtime loss to Damian Lillard and the Bucks, a blown 20-point lead to the Suns, and a loss to the Pacers without their two stars—took them out of the playoff picture for a while.
It also created quite a fuss about the trade deadline. The Kings’ intentions to make some moves were clear long before that, but the team’s recent struggles caused many fans to call for big changes in the starting lineup.
The Kings are back
Fortunately, the Kings answered their losing streak with a revival of the team we saw last season. They won three games in a row against the Hawks, the Warriors, and the Mavericks.
Barnes in particular has been phenomenal, scoring like crazy and filling the stat sheets. The veteran doesn’t usually get plays called for him or many touches. If he is getting as many good shots as he has recently, the Kings are playing the right way.
These last three games, they have been shooting well, playing with pace, attacking the paint, and moving the ball. Fox and Huerter look like themselves again, all starters scored double-digits in all three games except for Huerter’s eight points against the Hawks, and the Kings finally look like themselves again.
Hitting their shots and getting great looks is obviously a huge part of this change but in the last two games, defense has contributed as well. It is not often that we can praise the Kings’ defense, but they have been playing well, getting stops and forcing turnovers.
Good defense always leads to better offense since stops, steals, and deflections allow the Kings to get out, run, and play the game at their own pace. Murray has been at the head of the snake, guarding Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic as well as possible and collecting blocks.
Of course, they are not playing perfectly—every team has its flaws. For the Kings, missed free throws and fourth-quarter play are still issues, but they finally look like the team that took the league by storm last season again, and it is great to see. Now, they just need to keep it going for the rest of the season.