Four Takeaways: Colby Jones continues to impress in preseason

Oct 20, 2023, 11:49 AM | Updated: 2:17 pm

Colby Jones #20 of the Sacramento Kings poses for a portrait during the 2023 NBA rookie photo shoot...

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 12: Colby Jones #20 of the Sacramento Kings poses for a portrait during the 2023 NBA rookie photo shoot at UNLV on July 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings played their preseason finale Thursday night against the Utah Jazz at Golden 1 Center. With it being the second night of a back-to-back for the Kings, the team elected to rest most of their starting group, which allowed Colby Jones to continue building on his stellar start, let their deeper bench find a rhythm, and more.

Sacramento sat All-Stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis while Chris Duarte (left knee), Keegan Murray (illness), and Trey Lyles (left calf) were all unavailable as well. On Utah’s side, they were without Jordan Clarkson, John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, and Kelly Olynyk. After Wednesday’s game in Golden State, which felt like a regular season battle, the following night’s competition was more stereotypical preseason basketball.

Kings head coach Mike Brown started Davion Mitchell, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Sasha Vezenkov, and JaVale McGee. Still, their bench unit carried the way and logged most of their minutes. Here are my takeaways from their preseason finale.

1. Success with the second unit

All of Sacramento’s starters ended the game with a negative plus-minus, while their bench contributors, aside from Jalen Slawson, who played three minutes, were positives. Malik Monk ran the unit alongside rookie Colby Jones while Keon Ellis, Kessler Edwards, and Alex Len filled the frontcourt. The Kings tallied 65 bench points compared to Utah’s 29.

“Our ‘second unit’ for tonight was really good,” Coach Brown said postgame. “The way they shared the ball down the stretch, it was beautiful. If somebody was open, they passed it. If they had a layup, they shot it. If they had an open shot, they shot it. There wasn’t a lot of dribble dribble dribble, and the spacing was great. Just a fun game to watch, for me, down the stretch.”

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Monk orchestrated the offense and ended the night with 23 points, eight assists, and two rebounds on 9/19 from the field, including 3/8 from deep. On the other end, Len was quarterbacking the defense and functioned as a phenomenal backline defender, evidenced by his five blocks on the night. Simultaneously, Edwards did a bit of everything, converting his two attempts from beyond the arc and pulling down a team-high eight rebounds.

“Everybody looks at Kessler and says, ‘Well, he can’t do this, he can’t do that.’ He’s a competitor,” Brown continued. “He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s strong. The kid rebounds. He gives a thousand percent on every single play and he’s been working very, very hard on his three-point shoot. It was good to see him go two-for-two from the three-point line because, as hard as he works at it, he definitely deserves it. But, a heck of a game by Kessler on both ends of the floor, especially on the glass with eight rebounds.”

And, of course, Colby Jones has continued to look like an NBA-ready contributor in the infancy of his career.

2. Colby Jones is creating a good problem

If you didn’t know Colby Jones was a second-round pick in last year’s draft and tuned into Sacramento’s preseason games, you’d probably assume he’s a veteran with the poise he displays every possession. Brown has previously described his game as “quick, but not hurried,” which is a substantial compliment towards the rookie.

On his first second night of a back-to-back, the rookie logged 24 minutes and contributed 19 points, two assists, three rebounds, and two steals on 7/13 from the field and 5/8 from three.

“He’s making my job harder. I love it,” Brown said. “Every time we’ve thrown him out there, he just keeps getting better and better and better and better. His demeanor is the same. As you guys know, we like to cut a lot in our offense, and he’s got to be the hardest cutter on the team, and he doesn’t do it most times. He does it every frickin time it’s a hard cut. I just love watching the kid compete on both ends of the floor. He’s been really good for us, these last couple of games especially.”

After Fox and Mitchell, the third-string point guard spot seems wide open. On Thursday night, Colby Jones was allowed to play that role and excelled. His malleable, well-rounded skillset makes him an extremely intriguing two-way connector. His teammates, including Kessler Edwards, have been impressed with his composure as a first-year player.

“I think his poise is crazy for a rookie,” he said. “Just the mindset that he has, the attitude that he has towards everything, is like he’s been in the NBA for a minute. Even just off the court, his personality is kind of cool and collected like that. That’s impressive to see. I definitely wasn’t like that as a rookie, so that’s special.”

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Between Fox, Mitchell, Huerter, Monk, and Duarte, it’s hard to predict where Colby Jones could find some minutes, but that could happen sooner rather than later in the regular season.

3. A growing pick-and-roll connection off the bench

The electric pairing of Monk and McGee in the pick-and-roll was displayed in Sacramento’s preseason debut and has continued to develop as time passed. When Brown pitched Sacramento to McGee during his free agency, he highlighted Monk’s ability to play make off screens. More specifically, his comfort throwing lobs.

“[Monk] wants to throw the lob first,” Brown said. “Then I think he wants to score second, and then I think he wants to spray the ball third. And when you have a guy like JaVale diving to the rim, it makes it a little easier to throw that lob… we felt they would have the chance to be a dynamic pick-and-roll duo, and it’s starting to show a little bit. I think the more reps they get together, the better it will become.”

McGee ended the night with 12 points, seven rebounds, and three assists on 6/10 from the field. The 15-year-veteran is expected to be their primary backup to Sabonis with roughly 12 minutes a night, but he can’t commit multiple turnovers in those stretches like he did Thursday. He is still getting accustomed to the Kings’ offense that runs so much through their big, which takes time.

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Monk told him mid-game to stop faking the handoffs and trust that he would get it back. “He always tries to fake it because he’s scared somebody is going to steal it,” Monk said. “With JaVale, all you got to do is throw it up somewhere. He’s going to catch it. You just got to put it over the defender, man. It’s amazing to have somebody like that because it opens up everything else for everybody, so we’re going to continue to build this relationship.”

Lyles could still see significant minutes at the backup five, but having a reliable bench pick-and-roll duo after their instability at backup center last season could bode well.

4. Davion Mitchell setting the example

Being physical without fouling is one of Sacramento’s five core defensive staples and the most emphasized one. Nobody is a better example of that than Davion Mitchell.

“Davion’s ability to move his feet and his strength are probably second to none in this league when you’re talking about the combination of quickness, strength, and know-how while having the determination to do it,” Brown said. “That’s a superpower. And I know it’s hard, but he can make a lot of money in this league if he can ever get to a point where he’s taking that on every single time he’s on the floor.”

Mitchell hounded Talen Horton-Tucker and finished with one foul in his 32 minutes of play. Funnily enough, the lone call against him was challenged by Brown but unsuccessful in the end. Having a player on the roster to point toward as the epitome of their preachings should encourage and motivate his teammates to try and follow suit. While he has outlier strength, lateral quickness, and deceleration, so much of his defensive impact is thanks to his relentless effort that the coaching staff hopes will be infectious.

Offensively, Mitchell was confident letting it fly, attempting nine triples, which ties his regular season career-high. While I’m sure he wished to convert more than three, his confidence is apparent and much needed for his continued development. Mitchell ended the night with 12 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and one block.

Next Game

Next time, it’s for real.

The Kings will open their 2023-24 regular season on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a matchup against this same Jazz team.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Jazz coverage, beginning at 4:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Salt Lake City.

Sacramento Kings 2023-24 Regular Season Schedule

  • Wednesday, October 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6 PM PST (Season Opener)
  • Friday, October 27th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST (Home Opener)
  • Sunday, October 29th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 6 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST
  • Saturday, November 4th – Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets – 5 PM PST
  • Monday, November 6th – Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets – 5 PM PST

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Four Takeaways: Colby Jones continues to impress in preseason