Chris Duarte is healthy and ready to contribute to the Sacramento Kings
Oct 4, 2023, 12:58 PM
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
In early July, Chris Duarte was added to the Sacramento Kings via trade with the Indiana Pacers. The Kings sent Dallas’ 2028 second-round pick and their own 2030 second-rounder in exchange for the former lottery selection.
The 6’5 wing was taken four picks after Davion Mitchell in the 2021 NBA Draft and has a good relationship with All-Star center Domantas Sabonis on and off the court from their time as teammates on the Pacers.
With training camp underway, seeing where Duarte sits in the rotation when games begin will be a storyline worth watching. Sacramento’s first preseason game is Sunday, Oct. 8, against the Toronto Raptors in Vancouver. And the Oregon alum is ready to contribute towards a winning team and culture in any way he can.
“I’m just going to go out there and play my game,” Duarte said at media day. “Just play my game. Just go out there and help the team. Contribute in any way I can. We already have something special going on right here. So, like I said, just being here is something special.”
To watch all media day interviews with Sacramento Kings players, check out the Sactown Sports 1140 YouTube page here.
How did Chris Duarte perform during the 2022-23 season?
Duarte is coming off of a complicated season in Indiana. The roster had a logjam of guards/wings. Duarte was alongside Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, Jordan Nwora, and Oshae Brissett. He averaged 21.5 minutes in the first eight games and was continuing to build off his promising rookie season.
One game after tallying 30 points on 10/15 shooting against the Brooklyn Nets, Duarte suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for six weeks. Upon returning, his play was inconsistent and ultimately cut short due to issues with the same ankle in March. When introduced in Las Vegas as a member of the Sacramento Kings, Chris Duarte explained his prior injury struggles.
“I was always up and down,” Duarte said. “I came back too soon, trying to help the team, trying to play, but that’s just who I am. I’m a competitor, so if I feel like I can go out there and play, I’m going to do that even though I don’t feel 100 percent.”
Through 46 games played in 2022-23, Duarte averaged 7.9 points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three. Now, the wing is healthy and ready to leave last season’s injuries behind him.
“I’m over it with that. That’s in the past,” Duarte said at media day. “We’re in the present right now. That’s in the past, and, to me, it’s just not to think about that, not to talk about that. I’m healthy now, and right now, I’m just focusing on going out there and helping my team and my teammates somehow.”
Duarte projects as a rotational wing that can impact the ball on both ends. The Kings, who ranked 24th in defensive rating last season, are emphasizing finding ways to progress in that aspect. He can potentially contain ball-handlers at 6’5 with a 6’7 wingspan at multiple positions.
“Chris is somebody we’ve been tracking since the draft. We really liked him in the draft,” general manager Monte McNair said. “I think, for Chris, he’s one of the guys we talked about. He’s a two-way guy. He can defend. He can hit shots, and obviously, he’s played with Domas and has great synergy with him. He also just brings incredible tenacity to us and we need a little more of that edge.”
After Mitchell and Kessler Edwards, the Kings could benefit from more plus defenders for opposing guards and wings. When asked what he can provide defensively in Sacramento, Duarte responded, “A lot.” He explained how Dana Altman, his head coach at Oregon, taught him the value of consistency as a defender. “Every day you won’t shoot the ball well, but you can bring it on the defensive side. Defense travels.”
While defensive improvement is a priority, players must find ways to contribute to the Kings’ high-paced, elite offense. His pre-existing chemistry with Sabonis bodes well with their dribble-handoff-heavy offense. Chris Duarte has converted 34.7 percent of his 4.2 three-point attempts per game through two seasons.
33.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes went down last season, compared to 40.4 percent in his rookie campaign. The pressure that Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox provide should help create simple looks for Duarte, but he’s got to convert.
The aforementioned health concerns should be noted, but his left ankle issues will hopefully remain in the rearview. While not technically a weakness, keep in mind that Chris Duarte spent four years in college and is already 26. He’s older than Fox, Malik Monk, and Kevin Huerter.
Offensively, Duarte is guilty of disrupting the flow at times. In his rookie season, 34 percent of his shot attempts came from the mid-range, per Cleaning the Glass. For reference, 22 percent of Monk’s look came from the same range last season. Sacramento is not a team that despises those types of looks, but it’s got to be the right player attempting it at the right time. It will be interesting to see the type of leash he is granted under Coach Brown.
We’ve yet to see him successfully carve out his role in the NBA. Indiana saw notable change during his time there and injuries didn’t help. If he can remain on the floor with the Kings, we could see his career grow heading into year three.
What to expect from Chris Duarte in 2023-24
Duarte could slide into the Terence Davis role. Davis participated in 64 games last season and finished ninth in total minutes (841). Duarte could earn a larger opportunity, but it seems like a fair starting point.
The starters are expected to remain the same, but Duarte could be in some closing lineups. If he’s in an offensive rhythm, the coaching staff could elect to keep him out there. Huerter and Monk have their defensive shortcomings, and there could be nights when Duarte steps up to impact the opposition.
A closing lineup of Fox, Duarte, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, and Domantas Sabonis does not have a significant weak point.
For Chris Duarte, it will be about how he can impact the game defensively and how quickly he can mesh in the high-paced dribble-handoff offense. If he can stay healthy, his preexisting synergy with Sabonis could pay dividends.