The Sacramento Kings finished the 2020-2021 NBA season with a 31-41 record. Just a few years ago, the Kings looked like a promising team on the rise, but have yet to fulfill the expectations since. In fact, the team has regressed as players are aging or losing their footing as quality ballplayers. The Kings had a lot of burning questions to answer this season.
Marvin Bagley III’s injury concern was the biggest what-if of the King’s season. For the third straight year, Bagley dealt with injuries, causing him to miss half the season. The team should be looking into moving on from the 21-year-old forward. The Kings season was riddled with trade rumors. As the team was falling behind in the standings, more rumors were coming out on players that were likely to be moved.
Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield were subjected to trade rumors throughout the season. Both players were having average seasons to their standards but for the Kings, the two were not improving the team. Neither ended up being traded, but the message of the rumors clearly made it to the locker room. Changes in Sacramento this offseason could appear blatant this summer.
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The Kings were mediocre at best this season. With highlights from a group of players, and lowlights from the others. Another losing season under the belt in Sacramento making it 15 years since their last playoff berth. This is currently the longest active streak in the NBA for a franchise. Although the 31-41 record is not what the team wanted, the promise of their young talent made the season worthwhile. While most will look at the negatives of the team, such as head coach Luke Walton or Bagley. Some might look at De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton and think the future is bright.
Team Award Winners
MVP – De’Aaron Fox
This should not come as a surprise, as Fox was absolutely incredible throughout the whole season. The 23-year-old guard averaged 25.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. Fox was a borderline all-star for a struggling Kings team. If the team were to win a few more games throughout the season, then Fox would have been a participant. Fox has been steadily increasing his production since his rookie campaign, and every year is a step closer to reaching stardom.
The fact that a player averaged a stat line of 25 points and seven assists per game, and did not make an all-star appearance is incredible. Without Fox on this Kings roster, the team would have barely won 15 games. An explosive player with the ball in his hands, the guard is able to create many opening for himself and others. Fox is not a stat padder of a player, every shot or pass he makes is to win the game.
Defensive Player of the Year – None
The Kings were the worse rated defensive team this season. Ranking last in defensive rebounds, and were amongst the bottom for other categories such as opponent’s second-chance points allowed, points allowed in the paint, and rebound percentage. The Kings were abysmal on the defensive side of the ball. There were a few players that could have been named to this award such as Fox, Haliburton, or Holmes. But when a team is ranked last in defensive rating, they do not deserve the award. The only bright spot of this team defensively is that they can produce steals. A few of the Kings players were able to manage over a steal a game, but even so, they only ranked 15th in the NBA.
Sixth Man of the Year – Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton came into Sacramento red hot. In his first nine games, he averaged 12.1 points, 5.1 assists per game on 50 percent from the field, and 52 percent from three. After that hot start, and a few injuries to the rotation Haliburton got his first NBA start. In his rookie campaign, Haliburton made 58 appearances, but only 20 starts on the season which allows him to be handed this award. In 58 games, the rookie averaged 13 points, three rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. While shooting the ball with great efficiency.
On most other teams, Haliburton would not be coming off the bench. But with Fox starting and having a career year, it was hard for Walton to give Haliburton starting minutes. The young guard thrived in his new role with the Kings, as Haliburton led the bench’s offense. The 20-year-old led the team’s second unit on offense and would be relegated to playing alongside Fox from time to time. Haliburton’s success with Fox on the court paved a way for the young guard to be granted more starting gigs. Although more towards the end of the season, it would be unlikely to see the guard win the sixth man of the year next season.
Most Improved – Chimezie Metu
Although Metu only played in 36 games this season, his performance on the court shined. From averaging six minutes a game to nearly 14 this season, the center proved to be a valuable rotational piece. Metu is a strong finisher around the rim as he averaged 50 percent from the field as most of his shots came from within the paint. Since coming to Sacramento, Metu showed more progression in his ability to produce than in his time with San Antonio.
The center improved his boxout mechanics, as he is more aggressive rebounding while pushing away the opponent. Metu is also becoming a better defender, as he doubled his defensive stats from the season prior. The big man is slowly improving and went from garbage time minutes to quality backup center minutes. Next season will be big for Metu, as a chance for minutes will arise.
Biggest Disappointment – Marvin Bagley III
Another season, another injury. Although it is cruel to judge a player based on their health and is fair enough to see that Bagley is not improving. The injuries that he had suffered in his career were not minor ones. Dealing with a right foot fracture one year, then breaking his hand the other, the power forward is just never on the court. In 43 games this season the forward averaged 14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds per game, on 50 percent from the field.
From his time on the court, Bagley has not shown any improvement to his game since being drafted. In an always-changing NBA, players have to adapt to new school mechanics and schemes to stay in the NBA. Bagley has yet to show that for the Kings. Although he averages 7.4 rebounds a contest, it is very apparent that Bagley gets bruised in the paint. Most of the rebounds come when there is no one around him. Bagley is soft around the rim as well, barely fighting through contact, and relies on post moves such as spinning and hooks. Rather than attacking the rim after an entry pass.
With that said, the Kings did exercise his contract keeping him Sacramento for an extra season. With all the injuries to Bagley, the Kings want to see a full season or close to a full season of what he can be capable of in the NBA. But another injury-riddled season could be the end for the forwards time in Sacramento.
Sacramento has two future all-star guards on their roster in Fox and Haliburton. What needs to happen this offseason is to find players that can complement both of them. Both Haliburton and Fox are crafty scorers and can handle the ball. What the team needs are some wing players that can catch and shoot. The Atlanta Hawks last offseason brought in multiple players that run the floor and shoot. These moves proved successful as both Trae Young and the team saw great progression.
The Kings should follow in the footsteps of the Hawks. Add wing players that can run the floor and find open spots from three. The team also needs to figure out if Bagley is worth keeping. The team did exercise his rookie contract keeping him around for an extra year. However, if things do not work out with the forward it would be wise to trade him sooner rather than later. This franchise should trade Bagley before it becomes too late. If he gets injured again his trade value will even further decline and the team would not be able to salvage anything from him.
Along with moving on from Bagley, the team should also move apart from both Barnes and Hield. These players still have value, and in turn, could net a huge haul. Hield is a hot commodity for playoff teams. As every team in contention is always looking for a player who can score at ease. In return for Hield, the Kings should look for that ‘3-D’ forward. Barnes is aging and his return in a trade would be smaller than most.
But again, playoff-contending teams will throw in a first-round pick for a player with Barnes talent and experience. Barnes is a former NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors and is a great ‘3-D’ player. Even though Barnes matches well with the young core in Sacramento, his age does not match the cores. By the time Fox and Haliburton are ready to compete, Barnes would be past his prime. It would be smart to move his value now rather than waste his prime for a team-building experience.
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