Kings: What Sacramento must do to survive without De’Aaron Fox
In the wake of the news that the Sacramento Kings would be playing without star point guard De’Aaron Fox for at least the next three weeks due to an ankle sprain, the team promptly responded by knocking off the Portland Trail Blazers at home Tuesday.
Cory Joseph stepped into the starting five and logged 38 minutes as the team’s primary ball-handler, but largely did not have much of a statistical effect on the outcome; instead, it was a by-committee approach, one that Sacramento will have to embrace in order to keep their playoff hopes alive while Fox remains sidelined.
After winning 39 games in 2018-19, the most that the franchise has accumulated since it was last in the postseason in 2005-06, optimism abounded around the club during the off-season, even as former coach Dave Joerger was supplanted by now-head coach Luke Walton.
At the heart of that optimism is the team’s young core, led by Fox, who is now embarking upon his third professional season since the team selected him fifth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft out of the University of Kentucky.
Fox, whose ravishing blend of speed and athleticism has spurred him into one of the league’s rising stars, has had his year stunted after just nine games.
Let’s take a look at what Sacramento must do to survive in his absence.
Allow Joseph to run the show
The Kings raised eyebrows during the summer when they inked the veteran to a three-year, $37 million deal, despite his never having started more than 22 games in a single season.
Through his first nine games of the year, Joseph averaged just 6.4 points and 2.2 assists per game across 17.2 minutes per contest, hardly the splash that the Kings were eyeing.
Now, he’ll have a chance to shine, and if his 38 minutes Tuesday are any indication, Walton will be deploying him heavily.
Unleash Bogdan Bogdanovic
The 27-year-old Serbian got off to a slow start in 2019-20, averaging 9.4 points per game over his first seven contests, before peeling off three consecutive 20-point performances over his last three outings.
After averaging 14.1 points per game last season, Bogdanovic will provide an invaluable offensive punch to a team that will need his bench scoring more than ever.
Keep D-ing up
Through 10 games, Sacramento is allowing 110.3 points per game, which puts them at exactly the midway point in the league.
Last season, the Kings yielded 115.3 PPG, which was the fifth-worst mark in the NBA. Small sample size? It’s possible.
Walton certainly has not yet established himself as a defensive guru, but the club’s quickest path to keeping their head above water without Fox is to embrace their new roster and lock up on the defensive end of the floor.
Ultimately, the loss of Fox will hurt. But with some tweaks, they’ll be able to bide their time until he returns.
Ending their playoff drought won’t be without its challenges, but the talent exists during Walton’s first year to snap the skid.