The Bad Kings
The 2017-18 NBA season was supposed to be one of hope and optimism in Sacramento. Every writer, blogger and podcaster predicted the Kings would be out of the playoff race early but would be League Pass worthy with a mix of spry veterans and springy young players. Even Vegas pegged them to finish with only 28.5 wins this season, the 3rd worst predicted record in the league. 12 games into this young season and Sacramento is downright awful at NBA basketball leaving fans feeling like Kostas Koufos.
Employing a mix of young players on rookie contracts and some grossly overpaid mid-tier veterans [looking at you $20 million George Hill, he of the 8.2 PER], NBA fans at least hoped for some exciting basketball. What we’ve gotten so far is just bad and no fun to watch. Seven footers can’t rebound, shooters just aren’t shooting and the youngsters ain’t running. The Kings are being outscored by an average of 9 points a game this season, meaning the games are over long before the final buzzer sounds. They reeled off an impressive 7 game losing streak early on to bring their record to 1-8 before beating the dreadful Thunder and young 76ers in Sacramento’s shimmering new basketball palace, the Golden 1 Center. Most recently, they were obliterated by 27 points, courtesy of the decidedly not juggernaut Knicks.
Statistically, the best two players on the Kings are Zach Randolph and De’Aaron Fox. Let that rattle around for a moment...now back to facts. Fox is 19 and two years removed from high school, Randolph is 36 and was a member of the infamous Jail-Blazers of the early 2000’s. These are two players on the opposite ends of the NBA spectrum of experience and salary. Physically, they couldn’t be more different as well with Fox being a blindingly fast blur of sheer athleticism and Randolph a lumbering MonStar of a man listed at 250 but looking like 300.
As a team they are ranking near the bottom of most statistical categories. For so many young players with young legs these Kings have the 2nd slowest pace of all 30 teams at 96.2. The are also ranked 29th out of 30 for offensive rating and scoring. Some positives for these sons of Sacramento are the lack of turnovers (4th), fouls (7th) and 3pt shooting percentage (13th). Defensively, they are ranked 20th overall. The numbers say that the Kings play very slow and under control but are not very good at putting the ball in the basket, especially from deep (30th out of 30 teams in 3pt attempts). JaKarr Sampson leads the Kings in PER at 21.2 and I know literally nothing about that player; not his position, college, height, etc. Vince Carter is last at 1.6.
Is there any hope in Sactown? The young guys do sometimes look good. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic can legitimately shoot the basketball; De’Aaron Fox cannot (18% 3pt shooting %) but is scary good in the open floor and can be a menace defensively with his speed and length. Justin Jackson looks alright strictly as a scorer who takes the right shot at the right time. But that is it for optimism because Willie Cauley-Stein is just awful and refuses to rebound, Skal Labissiere is simply uninspiring and Frank “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” Mason hasn’t played enough to figure out the NBA game.
The Kings have some very likable players and the fans are still optimistic while understanding they are going to be very bad this season. Foregoing wins for some highlights and goodwill while the young guys figure it out is an okay strategy for a small market team. Fox leads the squad in minutes played, so at least Coach Joeger knows where his future exists. The 19 year old’s game winner against the 76ers gives California’s capitol city some reason to hope. At least we have the Sactown Royalty Twitter feed to keep us smiling as the losses pile up.