SACRAMENTO -- Nine games in and the 2019-20 season feels like it’s on the brink of disaster for the Sacramento Kings. Injuries are part of the game, but the first month of the season has dealt Sacramento two game-altering blows.
Marvin Bagley continues to rehab from a broken thumb. He’s out another week and a half to two weeks at a minimum, although he’s on the court keeping in shape and should be able to step in once cleared.
The De’Aaron Fox situation is much direr. Fox is going to miss a quarter of the season, perhaps more after Monday’s injury at practice.
A Grade 3 ankle sprain is a full tear of the ankle ligament. Recovery times vary, but barring a change in the diagnosis or a miraculous recovery, Fox is likely out until after the New Year and possibly longer.
It’s not how the Kings scripted this season. Bagley and Fox are being counted on to become the cornerstones of the franchise. Bagley’s injury is a blip on the radar. Fox’s will have the 21-year-old playing plenty of Call of Duty on his couch over the next month or two.
Coach Luke Walton has options to replace Fox, but this isn’t a temporary situation. He doesn’t have another dynamic attacking threat like Fox, but neither does any other team in the league.
Walton needs to change the direction of the season by installing a player who can at least come close to matching Fox’s production on the offensive end. He has three options to mull over, but no one is a perfect fit.
Cory Joseph is the most logical choice on paper. General manager Vlade Divac invested heavily in the veteran point guard in free agency for a moment just like this. Unfortunately, Joseph is more of a defensive specialist that gives Walton a change of pace.
Throughout his nine-year NBA career, Joseph has posted just 6.9 points per game, with a high of 9.3 points per game during the 2016-17 season as a member of the Toronto Raptors. He’s a game manager that rarely makes mistakes, but he’s also scored 21 points or more just once in his career and crested the 20-point mark three times in total over 537 games.
Yogi Ferrell came into the season as the Kings’ third point guard. He’s a dynamic scorer and a fan favorite, but he’s the anti-Cory Joseph in many respects. He’s a player that might fit alongside Joseph with the second unit, but inserting into the starting lineup might be an issue. He's more or a score-first guard than a natural point and putting him next to Buddy Hield might not work at all.
A luxury to start the season, Ferrell is now needed. After averaging just five minutes over five games this season, he’ll be an instant add to the rotation and has the potential to instantly add an offensive punch. Fans should dust off their “Yo-gi ... Fer-rell” chants.
Lastly, Walton’s ace in the hole might be Bogdan Bogdanovic. The most versatile player on the Kings' roster, Bogdanovic is on a tear over his last few games. He’s played both guard positions, as well as small forward and he works well as a primary ball-handler.
Bogdanovic isn’t the defender that Joseph is and he also isn’t lightning in a bottle like Ferrell, but he’s the most balanced player the Kings have on their roster and he’s capable of not only picking up the scoring void left by Fox’s absence but also running the offense.
Losing Fox’s playmaking should be the primary focus with the starting unit and Bogdanovic gives the team the best option. He’s currently second on the team in assist percentage and he has a 3.3-to-1.4 assists-to-turnover ratio so far this season.
Bogdanovic is also one of the longest-tenured Kings players and has chemistry with Hield and Harrison Barnes, as well as Nemanja Bjelica, who he plays with during the summer with the Serbian national team.
Moving a player from the bench will also have a trickle-down effect, but this is a long term injury situation and Walton needs stability. Bogdanovic would be missed from the second unit, but some of that loss could be mitigated by Ferrell and his scoring ability.
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There is no perfect solution. Fox is extremely important to the Kings’ entire game plan and losing him is a crushing blow for a group searching for their identity.
Walton has a tough decision, but the Kings aren’t the first team to lose a star player and they certainly won’t be the last. They need more than a stop-gap. They need a solution for the next 25-plus games and perhaps longer.