Among the surprises of the NBA’s regular season has been the premature success of the Sacramento Kings. Very few picked the Kings to be above .500 on the regular season, nor fighting for the playoffs. Leading their unprecedented success has been the play of their backcourt for the future.
Sacramento Kings Have Their Future Backcourt
The NBA has shifted towards the importance of pace and the growing reliance on the three-point shot. Therefore, it’s become imperative to build a core group of player that can satisfy those needs. The Sacramento Kings look to have found their own blueprint with their young backcourt.
After much notoriety for being a franchise in disarray, the Kings successfully hit their mark via trades and the draft. In February 2017 the Kings traded away DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package of players that included shooting guard Buddy Hield. Just a few months later in June, Sacramento took De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky with the fifth overall selection.
Vlade Divac and the front office believed they had the foundation, but they couldn’t predict just how quickly they’d co-exist. With only a game out of a playoff spot, the Kings’ young backcourt has the franchise ahead of schedule.
Fastest in the NBA?
Per NBA.com/stats, the Sacramento Kings are second in the league in pace. For a team as young as Sacramento there comes advantages and growing pains along the way. With little experience, it’s easy to understand that this team mostly struggles in half-court situations. To counter this weakness? The Kings look to get defensive rebounds, run the fastbreak, and score in transition while tiring their opponents out simultaneously.
Leading the pace is Fox, who declared this season that he was the fastest in the NBA. He has a number of worthy competitors aiming for that label, but it’s hard to argue with that statement. Fox uses his speed to tire defenders and lead the fast break for his teammates.
The results speak for themselves: Fox is averaging 17.6 ppg and 7.3 apg, increases from his rookie year. Unlike in his rookie season, Fox is learning how to use his speed for the betterment of his teammates.
Buddy Buckets: Most Improved Player?
Among the names that must be considered for Most Improved Player is number 24 for the Kings: Buddy Hield. Though he was taken sixth overall in 2016, Hield never played to his expectations in his rookie season. This season, however, that has all changed.
Hield is averaging 20.5 ppg while shooting close to 46 percent from beyond the arc. A significant increase from his 13.5 ppg last season, it’s safe to say that Hield is having a breakout year. As the league is becoming more and more infatuated with the three-point shot, “Buddy Buckets” is living up the name for the Sacramento Kings.
Owner Vivek Ranadive was once critiqued for hinting that Hield could be the “Steph Curry” type of foundation for Sacramento, but so far this season it looks to be Ranadive having the last laugh. Hield is slowly on the path towards becoming a star in his own right, and it should start with worthy consideration of being this season’s Most Improved Player.
Looking Towards the Second Half
As the standings currently sit, the Kings are well within the range of fighting for that coveted eighth and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. They’ll need some help along the way, but realistically in the second half of the season, a playoff berth can be a goal for Sacramento.
The Kings do not have their first-round draft pick in 2019, but they’ll likely have plenty of cap space available for free agency. With a young core established, Sacramento needs to build a confident and respectable reputation to attract free agents that could prove to be the missing pieces. A playoff berth could do just that.
Fox and Hield, as the leading co-stars of the backcourt, should capitalize on their breakthrough year to give these Kings the extra push in this second half of the season. Thanks to their backcourt of the future, Sacramento looks to be ahead of schedule, but make no mistake that the journey is not over yet.
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