The Kings have done it again. Made everyone who was praising them for having a better rebuild than the Lakers, Suns and Knicks shake their head. Their best season since Rick Adelman and they go and fire their coach. Also their assistant GM. It’s always two steps forwards, five steps back for Sacramento.
But let’s dwell on the reasons a coach would want this job. De’Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield. Harrison Barnes. Bogdan Bogdanovic. Marvin Bagley. Willie Cauley-Stein. Six scorers in double figures.
2018-19 Strengths: 2nd Field Goal Attempts. 4th 3-Point Percentage. 5th Pace. 9th Offensive Rebounding, Points Scored. 10th steals, 12th 3-Point Defense.
Unfortunately, the defense was atrocious. 26th in points allowed and 20th in field goal percentage. Whoever they get to coach the Kings has to establish a defensive identity. No one on the Kings made any kind of effort of trying to stop anyone.
Juwan Howard is credited for the Heat defense which has been a top-10 defensive team and would be a great get for this young team. We know they can score. They don’t have deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball other than their half court sets needs a try. They play very fast and to actually get a playoff spot instead of just contend for an 8th seed they are going to have to run some half court pick and roll sets. Portland threw a zone at them and they were confused big time. But it is their missing defense that kept the Kings out of the playoffs.
The criticism of Dave Joerger is pretty basic. Vlade wanted to play the young guys more. The Kings aren’t worried about making the playoffs, not yet. They want to develop the young talent they have and that helps them attract quality free agents. But bad guy Joerger wanted to win. It is the forever push and pull in the NBA. Win now or develop. Coaches jobs are on the line when they don’t win and so they are compelled to put the most skilled offense and defense out on the floor.
As for the Kings summer.
Harrison Barnes has a player option. The free agents are Alec Burks, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley Stein and Corey Brewer. Cauley-Stein is the most important of those players to keep. Harrison Barnes is set to make $25 million if he opts-in. It’s more than he’s worth but it’s a contract the Kings will grit and bear because it is just one year.
The Kings were very successful this season at reversing the narrative. They were a fun watch. De’Aaron Fox is one of the reasons Magic Johnson is out of a job. Magic could never get out from under the you drafted Lonzo instead of De’Aaron Fox bulldozer.
Buddy Hield has made everyone who doubted him on draft day eat their words. He is a 20 point scorer but not very versatile. Marvin Bagley had a good first year and helped erase the negativity that all Duke players bring into the league. The Kings had great chemistry. They were unselfish and played for one another which is hard to day with a young team. There were a lot of bright moments.
Firing Dave Joerger wasn’t one of them. But coaches are meant to be fired. The Kings talent will overcome Valde’s impulsiveness but only if he hits it out the ballpark with the next coach. He has a lot of experienced coaches to choose from. Ty Lue. Stan Van Gundy. Mark Jackson. Jason Kidd. But the more experience they have, the more winning is option A.
So we might be back here again sooner than we think.