3 reasons the Kings are improving after firing Luke Walton
The Sacramento Kings have not reached the playoffs since 2006 despite the presence of talented players like Kevin Martin, DeMarcus Cousins and De’Aaron Fox. Over the last few years, Luke Walton was in the middle of numerous controversies because of the subpar performance of the Kings during his tenure. Just last week, the organization let him go and assigned Alvin Gentry as their interim head coach.
In Gentry’s first game, the Kings were outscored 25-12 at the Golden 1 Center by the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers in the fourth quarter, and it felt like the same results happening all over again. However, the team has recovered and bounced back with two spectacular victories over the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. As the Kings hope to at least reach the play-in tournament, here are a few ways they’re improving under Gentry.
Aggressiveness attacking the rim
With their plethora of talented guards, the Kings must continue being assertive and aggressive because defenses would have a difficult time preventing them from reaching the paint. It starts with their franchise cornerstone in Fox because his main strength is his speed and finishing at the rim. Ever since Gentry took over, Fox has been averaging 5.3 free throw attempts per game on 87.5% shooting.
Sacramento has not been one of the league’s best teams in free throw percentage, but over this three-game stretch, they are number one in the association with 30.7 free throw attempts. Buddy Hield has been phenomenal with his shooting prowess, but he has also been converting crucial free throws as he has swished 4.3 free throws in the last three games.
As this team heavily relies on its offense, there will be nights when shots won’t fall, even further magnifying the importance of attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
Third in PPG over last three games
The Kings deploy a run-and-gun style because of the composition of their roster. There are instances when they have trouble defending, but their 120 points per game over this stretch is a welcome sign of offensive growth. One could say it was because of their triple-overtime victory over the Lakers, but they proved they could compete with one of the serious contenders for this current season.
Fox has been struggling since the start of the year, but he is trying to revitalize his success last season as he is averaging 26.0 points per game over this crucial juncture. He is improving on his decision-making in clutch situations, which opens up shots for teammates like Hield and Tyrese Haliburton as well. Moreover, Marvin Bagley III is finally receiving warranted minutes as he tries to find his groove once again and produce the numbers that are expected from him.
Unfortunately over this stretch, Richaun Holmes and Harrison Barnes incurred short-term injuries that forced some bench players into bigger roles against the Blazers and Lakers. In Sacramento’s win over Portland, Bagley and Damian Jones were part of a closing unit that ended up being effective, due in part to Bagley III’s dagger corner three with 30 seconds left in the game.
The aforementioned Lakers game reached triple overtime, but individuals like Terence Davis and Alex Len were incredible because they did not back down in competing with four future Hall-of-Famers down the stretch. If these players are able to raise their confidence and search for their rhythm on both ends of the court, the return of Barnes and Holmes to the first unit would make the Kings a more formidable threat as the season progresses.
There is no doubting the Kings’ skills and talent, but Gentry must continuously search for lineup combinations that will best utilize the abilities of his players. Sacramento’s core is still young, but its fan base has been eager to reach the playoffs and this could finally be the year for the franchise from Northern California.