NBA

The Newest Kings Have Injected Life Into A Depleted Roster

May 10, 2021, 10:13 AM | Updated: 11:04 am
Apr 26, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Delon Wright (55) shoots the ball...
(Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

Delon Wright, Moe Harkless & Terence Davis have helped lead Sacramento to a 7-3 record over their last 10 games

Once De’Aaron Fox entered health & safety protocols on April 23rd, it seemed as if the Sacramento Kings were on the verge of a downward spiral.

Then, the team lost reliable forward Harrison Barnes to an adductor strain just a few days later. Shortly after, exciting rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton suffered a scary knee injury that (thankfully) resulted in no structural damage.

Coming into play on May 4th, the Kings were without Fox, Barnes and Haliburton–meaning that recently acquired Delon Wright, who acted as the starting point guard for the Detroit Pistons for most of this season, would be inserted into the starting lineup.

Wright has been far more than just a fill-in, holding averages of 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists 3.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per game over the four games that he has acted as the starting point guard.

The 29-year-old is posting those numbers on 50-percent shooting from the field and a blistering 42-percent from the three-point line, creating a four-game stretch that jumps off of the page.

The emergence of Wright has been fun to watch, especially when the vision of playing the veteran guard next to De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton for a full season becomes more enticing by the day.

Wright is under contract for the 2021-22 season, having one year and $8.5 million remaining on his three-year, $28 million deal.

Alongside Wright in the starting lineup, Moe Harkless has brought a reliable presence to the rotation that is reminiscent of what experienced veterans such as Iman Shumpert, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter brought to the young roster in recent years.

The only thing is, Harkless is 27 years old (turns 28 on Tuesday.)

Many NBA fans remember remember Harkless’ contributions as the starting small forward on the 2015-19 Portland Trail Blazers playoff teams, with the 2018-19 team advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

Over the past two seasons, the 6’7 forward has seen his role as a starter diminish to an end of the bench player, with Sacramento seemingly acquiring him in the Nemanja Bjelica trade as a throw-in. Over 11 appearances with the Miami Heat this season, Harkless only averaged 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds over 11.3 minutes per contest.

From the day that he arrived in Sacramento, head coach Luke Walton has given Harkless plenty of playing time, starting with 16 minutes per game off of the bench over his first six appearances with the team before Walton inserted him into the starting lineup for good on April 8th.

Harkless has progressively gotten more into a rhythm over the past few weeks, with the St. Johns alumni averaging 12.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game on 50-percent shooting from the field over Sacramento’s recent 3-1 stretch.

Not included in those numbers is Harkless’ notable attitude, effort and demeanor which have won over the hearts of Kings fans.

Before arriving in Sacramento, Harkless’ career appeared to be on life support. Playing out the final months of a one-year, $3.6 million deal at the end of the bench on a contending Miami Heat team.

The Kings injected life into Harkless–and Harkless has reciprocated the act by helping lead this team (if ever so brief) back into the hunt for a Western Conference Play-In spot. After watching what he has done in his limited time here, you have to wonder if general manager Monte McNair would like to retain Harkless as a rotation piece for next season.

That might not be up to the Kings in the end, as Harkless has likely played his way into a more favorable contract than recently expected.

Regardless of what happens, Sacramento fans will not soon forget what Moe Harkless has done for a team that had seemingly flatlined.

With Harkless and Wright both being moved from the bench and into the starting rotation, the Kings bench production was a huge question mark.

It is a question mark no more, with Terence Davis acting as a spark-plug recently and scoring points off of the bench at a level that could be considered Sixth Man of the Year worthy if done over the course of a full season.

Davis, who was acquired at the deadline from the Toronto Raptors, has been on a tear as of late, averaging 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 46-percent from the field and 35-percent from the three-point line over his last six games.

Sacramento is 5-1 in those games, with Davis joining his fellow new Kings teammates in Delon Wright and Moe Harkless as the driving forces behind the team’s improved play.

Davis’ speed and motor are facets that the Kings have been lacking in recent memory, giving the team a significant boost of energy off of the bench while also playing solid defense.

The undrafted 23-year-old is in the final year of his two-year, league minimum deal and will enter restricted free agency at the end of the season. Monte McNair likely has plans for Davis beyond this season, as the young guard has a $2 million qualifying offer that the team can offer before being able to match any offer given to Davis in restricted free agency.

When it comes down to it, this Kings team would not be in the position that it is currently in–having won five of their last six and seven of their last 10–without the newest players in Wright, Harkless and Davis.

Depth was a glaring issue at the beginning of the season, with Cory Joseph, Glenn Robinson III and Nemanja Bjelica’s contributions failing to translate to wins. While the newest Kings assuredly are not the clear-cut answer to solving Sacramento’s 15-year playoff drought, they have brought life to a team that hopes to make strides in the near future.

With Wright under contract, Harkless proving to be a player that deserves a longer look and Davis showing signs of becoming a solid Sixth Man, the Kings have some legitimate options to work with this offseason.

Monte McNair’s first trade deadline was a resounding success. That, we do know for certain.

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