The Sacramento Kings are looking at the 2022-23 NBA season as a year of potentially ending their long playoff drought, or at the very least being a serious contender for one of the Western Conference play-in game spots. The Sacramento Kings last made the postseason in 2006, and 39 victories (2018-19) are their most since that time.
While Sacramento didn’t make many significant moves in the offseason, they do have a new coach in Mike Brown. The Sacramento Kings also traded for Kevin Huerter and signed Malik Monk along with KZ Okapola as free agents. Their best move was taking Keegan Murray with the No. 4 overall pick.
Sacramento began the preseason in relatively impressive fashion with a 105-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. The Sacramento Kings were excellent on the defensive end and did a bang-up job protecting the ball and creating turnovers. However, it was just one preseason victory, and they still have three more before their regular season commences on October 19 at home versus Portland.
Two Starting Jobs Up For Grabs
The Sacramento Kings know that De’Aaron Fox will start at point guard, while Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes will also be among the first five at the center and small forward, respectively. However, the starting shooting guard and power forward jobs are currently “up in the air,” according to Brown.
It appears the shooting guard job is between Huerter and Monk. Huerter, acquired from Atlanta early in the offseason, started at the two for the team in the preseason opener. Huerter finished with five points on 2 of 5 shooting from the field, including 1 of 3 from beyond the arc, to go along with three rebounds (two offensive) and two assists in 14 minutes.
Monk was highly aggressive in 15 minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-3 combo guard finished with eight points – on 3 of 11 shooting, including 1 of 5 from the 3-point line – to go along with six rebounds, two assists, and one steal.
Meanwhile, KZ Okpala started at power forward against the Lakers, with first-round draft pick Keegan Murray coming off the bench. Okpala didn’t do much in his 10 minutes of action finishing with two points, on 1 of 3 shooting, including 0 of 2 from long distance, to go along with two rebounds, one assist, and one steal.
On the other hand, Murray – the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League – was very impressive. The first-round selection compiled 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field, including 2 of 4 from deep, six rebounds, and two steals.
Richaun Holmes also looked good, totaling 10 points and six boards in 16 minutes of action. Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu could also be candidates for the starting spot.
So, who will earn the other two starting spots? It is too early in the preseason to tell, but I will break down the candidates.
Battle For Starting Shooting Guard
I believe the battle between Huerter and Monk will come down to the last training day.
Huerter and Monk are very similar as both are versatile players who are dangerous from beyond the arc while also being defensive liabilities.
The biggest difference is that Huerter is more of a catch-and-shoot player capable of putting the ball on the floor for maybe one or two dribbles and shooting a mid-range pull-up.
If Monk doesn’t shoot it from the 3-point line, he is capable of creating for himself and others. Monk can also get past defenders off the bounce and finish with a flush, driving layup, or another type of finish (floater, fadeaway, transition, Rondo, etc.).
Final word: There is not much difference between the two players. It depends on what the Sacramento Kings want. I would probably start Huerter if I were Brown due to his proficiency from the corner, which is the shortest 3-point shot in the league.
Huerter is also probably a better “fit” to play with Fox, Sabonis, and Barnes as he will sit in the corner waiting for the kick out, whether off of penetration from Fox or a post kick out from Sabonis or Barnes.
On the other hand, Monk complements Fox well as he can be the facilitator dissing out to Fox, Sabonis, or Barnes to launch from deep. No matter who starts, I expect Huerter and Monk to each play 25-to-30 minutes a game.
Four Players May Be In Contention For the Final Frontcourt Starting Spot
The starting power forward spot is a little more interesting because four players could conceivably begin the season in the starting lineup. Make no mistake whether Murray, who appears to be the real deal, starts or comes off the bench, he will see plenty of time on the floor this season.
So, if that is the case, why not just start Murray from the beginning? Well, there could be a few reasons, with the first being that he is a rookie and is not used to the speed and grind of the NBA.
The second could be that the Sacramento Kings like Murray starting with the second unit where he would be the “go-to guy” on offense. Rather than having to “fight” for shots with Barnes, Sabonis, and Fox in the second unit. Plus, there are questions about Murray’s defense, and the Sacramento Kings were among the worst teams in the league a season ago.
So, if not Murray, who will start at power forward? Okpala is athletic and has shown some defensive ability in his first three seasons. Okpala has played better as a starter in his limited opportunities than when he came off the bench, but his potential is minimal, and the 23-year-old will likely see less than 20 minutes a game if he does start.
Holmes could get the starting nod. If Holmes is in the starting lineup, he will likely start at the five; therefore, Sabonis would move to the four.
Holmes has been more effective as a starter throughout his career. However, health is an issue as the 29-year-old has not played more than 70 games in his career. So, for continuity, the Sacramento Kings may feel better if he comes off the bench.
Plus, the Sacramento Kings may not want Sabonis and Holmes on the court together too often. Holmes is very limited on the offensive end, which could hurt Sabonis’ effectiveness by shrinking the floor. More than likely, Holmes will serve as Sabonis’ backup.
Metu makes a lot of sense to be the starter if the Sacramento Kings don’t go with Murray. The 25-year-old is experienced and coming off a career season last year. He is a terrific defensive rebounder and can hold his own on the defensive end.
Plus, Metu has improved his range throughout his career and is semi-reliable from the perimeter. But he is arguably better when coming off the bench.
The best option for the Sacramento Kings may be to start Lyles. The 26-year-old is coming off a career year last season and was effective in his 24 games, including 20 starts with the Sacramento Kings. Lyles is a good defensive rebounder and has the ability to stretch the floor though he is not great defensively.
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