Let’s get this out of the way first: Domantas Sabonis is not a bad player. In fact, he is a two-time All-Star who is currently averaging 18.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, five assists and a steal in 47 games played this season. He is a multi-skilled big man who has been effective for the pacers, and is even 11th in the NBA in win shares and 20th in win shares per 48 minutes.
The man is a nightly triple-double threat, but the problem is that in that in his two All-Star seasons, his team only had a winning record once in 2019-20.
The Kings managed to get rid of Buddy Hield’s bloated contract, but the true price that they gave up was the up and coming Tyrese Haliburton, who everyone had pegged as one of Sacramento’s keys to the future after a stellar rookie showing and a strong sophomore year this time around. He was an efficient three point shooter (41.3%) who averaged 14.3 points, 7.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game while only turning it over 2.3 times a game.
In an NBA that is becoming more and more guard-oriented, having Haliburton on his rookie-scale deal was amazing for the Kings. To many people, it felt a lot more like De’Aaron Fox would be the one traded because of Haliburton’s rise, but it looks like owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Monte McNair had other ideas.
Again, Sabonis isn’t a bad player, but the question now is how he fits into the roster. He’s not a strong three-point shooter, hitting at a 32.4% clip on 2.3 attempts per game, so he can’t really stretch out defenses to help Fox out, as the Kings’ star point guard operates bets when he’s using his speed to slash to the basket. Harrison Barnes is now the lone player on the Kings that is shooting at least 40% from three while attempting at least five triples per game. The next guy to him is guard Terence Davis, who shoots 32.9% with his five attempts. Other rotation players aren’t shooting great, as Fox makes 24.8% of his 3.7 attempts per game while rookie Davion Mitchell hits 31.6% of his 4.2 treys per game.
So now the Kings have a roster that can’t spread the floor to allow Fox to slash or allow Sabonis to operate in the post and maximize his skillset. Unless both of those guys suddenly become great midrange and three-point shooters, the offense is going to look like a mess.
With Sabonis starting, the question of what happens to Richaun Holmes is also important, because Holmes was playing as an undersized center with decent success. They can’t possibly both see extended minutes together on the floor, because Holmes relies on his tried and true push shot from the top of the key to score the majority of his points. How’s he going to have space there when Sabonis is on the low block?
For a franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2006, it’s unbelievable how they continue to make strange and short-sighted decisions. The Kings are 20-35 this season, and should have been trying to tank for a good draft pick, but instead traded away the steal of last year’s draft. This is, of course, after choosing to draft Marvin Bagley instead of Luka Doncic or Trae Young in 2018. Considering that they ended up drafting Haliburton and Mitchell (both point guards), in back-to-back years, you can’t tell me that they couldn’t have tried to make Fox and Doncic/Young work out.
Oh, and did I mention that Bagley is on an expiring rookie contract that didn’t get extended, which means he’s going to be gone for nothing if he’s not dealt by the trade deadline? The Kings clearly don’t want him long-term.
So now, Sacramento are stuck trying to probably compete for a play-in spot. I’m thinking that’s something Ranadive really wants. To do that, they’ve given up on their future and are now set to be stuck limbo even longer, unless some other magical deals happen before the deadline lapses.
I’m a Kings fan and it hurts to see this continue to happen. Haliburton’s interview last month, where he said he wanted to help fix the culture in Sacramento, hurts even more. He may have wanted to, but the Kings clearly don’t want to stop being the laughingstock of the league.
Anyways… it’s time for me to order my Ja Morant jersey. Enough is enough. The Kangz are always gonna Kangz.