NBA

Six Games, Six Observations For The Sacramento Kings Start To The Season

Nov 1, 2021, 12:05 PM | Updated: 2:33 pm
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 27: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates with Tyrese H...
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With six games in the books, let’s look at some key Kings storylines

When the 2021-22 NBA schedule was released near the end of the summer, Sacramento Kings fans let out a huge collective groan once they looked at the opening stretch of games.

On the road in Portland for the opener? The Kings had only won two games there since the 2011-12 season.

Home-opening weekend against Utah and Golden State followed by a trip to face the reigning Western Conference champion Suns in Phoenix? Brutal.

An unideal stretch to open up the season, and yet, the Kings enter Tuesday with a .500 record of 3-3 after splitting the weekend’s matchups against New Orleans (113-109 win) and Dallas (105-99 loss). Each game that Sacramento has played–if even for a quarter or two–they have looked like a team that will cause problems for others on a nightly basis this season.

As the Kings prepare for a tough home-road back-to-back against Utah and New Orleans, let’s take a look at six observations from the first six games:

Harrison Barnes for Most Improved Player…or Most Valuable Player?

‘The Black Falcon’ has embodied a super hero in every way to start this season.

It’s becoming more clear as each game passes that Harrison Barnes’ career-year in 2020-21 was no fluke. After a red-hot preseason, Barnes has been one of the most valuable players in the game and has without a doubt been the most valuable member of the Kings to start the season.

Barnes’ per-game numbers are video-game-esque:

  • 23.3 points
  • 10.3 rebounds
  • 2.7 assists
  • 1.0 steals
  • 48% FG
  • 45% 3PT

The 10-year veteran has posted three double-doubles over the first six games and drilled a memorable buzzer-beater last Wednesday night in Phoenix that will be remembered in Kings Land for a long time.

This Kings team does not hold a .500 record without Barnes, and I don’t think it’s too much to assume that the team would have one or maybe even zero wins without his services on the floor. Barnes’ ability to match up with multiple positions on the floor and his flexibility at both the small and power forward positions add male him even more valuable to a lineup that needs just that: a flexible forward that can be plugged into multiple spots.

Some people scoffed at Barnes’ four-year, $85 million contract that he signed prior to the 2019-20 season. I don’t think many are second-guessing the deal at the moment.

Richaun Holmes is worth every penny–and then much more

If Harrison Barnes has been Sacramento’s most valuable player to begin the season, Richaun Holmes is a close second.

The fan-favorite center is following up his career-year in 2020-21 with quite the encore performance–right on the heels of signing a four-year, $46 million deal prior to the start of the season, nonetheless.

Through six games, Holmes has been getting it done on both ends of the floor:

  • 16.3 points
  • 10.5 rebounds
  • 71% FG
  • 94% FT *leads team (min 10 attempts)
  • 1.5 blocks
  • 105 defensive rating *leads team
  • four double-doubles

Holmes has outplayed the amount of his contract in each season of his tenure with Sacramento, and 2021-22 is looking like it won’t be any different. When you look at the deals some centers around the league inked this offseason, the 28-year-old Kings center looks more like a steal with each dropping push-shot.

The Kings have a gem in Holmes, a player that gives 110% on both ends of the floor and isn’t one dimensional by any means. His ability to knock down the push-shot, clean up around the rim, rim-run and knock down free-throws make him a juggernaut on the offensive end.

Holmes’ biggest foe this season has been foul trouble, as the 6’11 big is averaging just under four personal fouls per game to start the season. If the center can cut down on the fouls, his 27.7 minutes per game average could increase, giving Sacramento more time with their prized big man on the floor.

De’Aaron Fox: Time to panic?

No.

Let me just start by saying, no. It isn’t time to panic.

De’Aaron Fox has struggled to knock down shots to open up the season, and one could say he hasn’t looked as aggressive on the offensive end to start the season as well. Through six games, Fox has not been driving the lane as much, but instead has attempted 65 of his 114 field goal attempts from 10 feet or more away from the basket.

Fox is shooting an abysmal six-of-35 (17%) from three-point land, but he does not seem deterred from letting it fly.

Through six games, Fox has attempted at least four three-point attempts in each games. Couple his three-point shooting with a 37-percent mark from the field, the budding star guard is off to a lackluster start to the season.

With the NBA changing the way that referees asses fouls based on initiating contact in a basketball play or manner, Fox’s aggression in going to the basket has not been reminiscent of last season. In 2020-21, Fox finished the season top-11 in the league in free-throw attempts (10th) and personal fouls drawn (11th).

This season, Fox is 16th in personal fouls drawn and 20th in free-throw attempts. It’s only been six games, but Fox will need to find his 25-point form in other ways that don’t include 7.1 free-throw attempts per game like in 2020-21.

Even when Fox is getting to the line, his struggles at the line have continued as he is shooting a career-low 61-percent from the charity stripe.

Getting into the paint and scoring at the rim is Fox’s bread and butter, using his speedy and agility to get to the basket. Fox is shooting 60-percent at the rim (23 attempts) and 46% from three-to-10 feet from the basket (26 attempts) this season, great improvements from his three-point (17% over 35 attempts) and 10-to-16 foot (27% over 22 attempts) percentages.

Fox is creating offense even without scoring, averaging 6.3 assists per game, but the Kings need their star guard to create even more.

Six games isn’t enough of a sample size to make any concrete assumptions. Several players are getting adjusted to the way that the league will asses calls, even players like Damian Lillard (18.3 points, 34% FG, 23% 3PT), Trae Young (22.3 points, 29% 3PT) and even Luka Dončić (22.5 points, 42% FG, 23% 3PT).

The shots aren’t falling, but it’s a long season.

Buddy Hield is coming for the three-point crown

“Next shot, best shot.”

That’s a motto that Buddy Hield has mentioned multiple times over the years, with 2021-22 being no different.

Through the first six games of this season, ‘Buddy Buckets’ ranks third in the NBA in three-point field goal attempts (62) and third in made three-point field goals (25). As a whole, his three-point shooting is off to a strong start as Hield has knocked down 40-percent of his long-ball attempts to open up the season.

Hield’s three-point shot falls in bunches, with the guard’s hot-streak down the stretch during Wednesday’s win in Phoenix and even late in Sunday’s loss to Dallas proving as prime examples. If Hield finds the bottom of the net once, even after missing three or four attempts prior, you had better put a body on him.

Sacramento’s all-time leader in made three-point field goals, Hield trails Steph Curry by just six triples on the season leaders list. Hield is currently on pace to attempt a career-high 781 three pointers (9.52 per contest) and knock down 315–a number that would rank 6th on the NBA’s single-season made three-point field goals list.

While the three-pointers will assuredly continue to rain, Hield’s rebounding deserves its flowers.

Through six games, Hield has pulled down 6.0 rebounds per contest, an underrated aspect of his game. Also, the fact that Hield has embraced his role as a sixth-man is massive for this Kings team. Head coach Luke Walton has opted to play Hield late in most of the team’s game this season, giving Sacramento a starting-caliber bench player that holds the ability to take over games.

‘D’ is for Defense….and Davion

Davion Mitchell has been exactly as advertised.

The rookie guard has been fun to watch on the defensive end, causing chaos against some of the NBA’s best players like Donovan Mitchell, Luka Dončić and Damian Lillard. Mitchell’s presence on the defensive end has appeared to be contagious, with other members of the Kings upping their intensity on possessions like Sunday’s notable sequence in Dallas:

The ninth-overall pick in this year’s draft is averaging one steal per game to open the season and has shown potential to be a knock-down option on the perimeter, with Mitchell’s 22-point explosion against Golden State giving fans a look at what is hopefully to come in the guard’s future.

For now, with offensive weapons like De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton on the roster, Mitchell doesn’t need to worry about scoring double-digit points on a nightly basis.

Disrupting the opponents offensive flow, pestering opposing offensive threats and bringing the energy on a nightly basis. That’s what this Kings team needs, and that is what Davion Mitchell is bringing to the floor.

The new ‘City Edition’ jerseys are actually good

I think Nike did it right this time.

For the past couple of years, it’s seemed as if Nike had just been throwing Sacramento’s City Edition jersey together in a rush, almost as if they were just trying to get it over with. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, they literally used the same exact jersey two years in a row, with the only change being the the color (from baby blue to red). It just seemed lazy to me.

Previous Sacramento Kings City Edition jerseys

Last season’s jersey was the best that the team had had, but the recently-announced jersey for 2021-22 is by far the best, in my opinion.

It’s reminiscent to the early 2000’s jerseys, but has a modern twist. It looks like some actual work went into the jersey. The shorts are really cool. The court design is interesting, but I think that Nike, the NBA and the Kings did a good job this year.

Here are the new City Edition jerseys that will debut on November 19th against Toronto at Golden 1 Center.

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