Can the Kings Level Up or Are They Hitting Their Ceiling?
Sacramento’s playoff drought is finally over. Now it’s looking to take the next step and make noise in the postseason. Will internal improvement be enough? Or will the front office be pressured into making a deal?
The Continued Evolution of De’Aaron Fox
Seventeen games into the new season, De'Aaron Fox has been making a superstar leap. He's currently fourth in the NBA in scoring, putting up 30.7 points per game. One of the biggest keys to his improvement has been his 3-point shooting. He's averaging a career-high 8.5 attempts from beyond the arc and making 36.3 percent of them.
Last season, defenders would go under screens and dare Fox to shoot, but this year he's made that a less viable option by hitting pull-up 3-pointers at a 40.3 percent clip. His improved shooting has opened up more driving lanes, and he's second in the NBA in drives per game. Fox's offensive improvement has been crucial to the Kings' success.
Defensively, Fox has been a force as well. He leads the team in deflections and steals, and his length allows him to switch onto bigger guards and smaller wings. His caginess on defense has been a key factor in the Kings' quest to build a solid defense.
The Kings' Defensive Improvement
The Kings' defensive improvement has been noticeable this season. While they still have a negative net rating overall, their starting lineup has the third-highest net rating among lineups that have played over 100 minutes. Under coach Mike Brown's switch-heavy system, the Kings have focused on playing solid team defense, relying on effort, IQ, and angles to make up for their lack of defensive stars.
One standout player on the defensive end has been second-year forward Keegan Murray. Despite missing some games due to injury, Murray has made a significant impact when he's on the court. He has guarded the opposing team's best scorer and held them to a shooting percentage slightly worse than their season average. Murray's length and extra strength have allowed him to be a versatile defender.
While the Kings still have room for improvement on defense, they have shown progress and are committed to finding ways to shore up that side of the floor.
Assessing the Potential and Limits of Continuity
As the Kings look to level up and become a true playoff contender, their front office is faced with the challenge of assessing the potential and limits of continuity. They have a young roster with players like Keegan Murray, Kevin Huerter, and Davion Mitchell who are still developing and have shown promise. However, there are questions about how far this roster can go without making any major changes.
According to reports, the Kings are expected to be active in the trade market this season, targeting any stars that become available. They have a trove of tradable players and assets that could be used to make a significant trade. However, they also need to weigh the importance of preserving team chemistry and culture.
The Kings will need to find the right balance between taking risks to upgrade their roster and maintaining the positive trajectory they're currently on. It's a delicate balancing act that many young teams have struggled with in the past.