Kings

With De'Aaron Fox out long term, who should Luke Walton start at point?

With De'Aaron Fox out long term, who should Luke Walton start at point?

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.

[RELATED: What Fox's injury means for Kings]

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.

Five moments to remember from Kings' buzzer-beating win over Rockets

Five moments to remember from Kings' buzzer-beating win over Rockets

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Kings’ victory over the Houston Rockets from Dec. 9, 2019 today at 3 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

The NBA has closed its doors indefinitely, but we have been able to dig into the archives and come away with some of the best games from the last few seasons for your viewing pleasure.

In our sixth installment, we go back to earlier this season, when the Kings went toe-to-toe with the Houston Rockets and came away with a huge game-winner from Nemanja Bjelica.

While we know the final outcome of the game, sometimes the details become murky over time. Here are five things to watch from the Kings’ 119-118 buzzer-beating win over the Rockets at the Toyota Center.

“F--k it, we deserved this win.”

Bjelica usually is quiet and stays away from the media when he’s given the choice. After drilling a 32-footer as time expired to give his team a huge win, Bjelica stopped by to speak with the Kings’ broadcasting team of Grant Napear and Doug Christie and he let loose with an F-bomb that has since been made into t-shirts.

The veteran stretch four has been very good for the Kings since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2018. He has hit plenty of long range 3-pointers, but none was bigger than the dagger against Houston.

“Game over. Game over.”

Star point guard Russell Westbrook put up 34 points and eight assists against the Kings in this game, including nine of the Rockets' final 12 points in regulation. With one second remaining on the clock, he put in a layup to give the Rockets a 118-116 lead and wouldn’t stop talking.

Westbrook's shot was huge, but Bjelica outdid him with the buzzer-beater. Sometimes it’s best to wait until the clock strikes zero before proclaiming victory.

Buddy Buckets

Where would the Kings be without Buddy Hield and his ability to knockdown the triple?

While Bjelica gets the fanfare in this one, Hield’s 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining tied the game and gave the Kings a shot. 

Hield scored a team-high 26 points in this game, including 6-of-13 shooting from long range. In a hostile environment, he came up huge for Sacramento.

It’s raining 3s

Hield tied the game late with a 3-pointer and Bjelica hit the game-winner while wading in the Gulf of Mexico, but these shots were part of a larger trend in this game.

Sacramento went a stunning 20-for-45 from behind the arch, outscoring the high-powered Rockets 60-51 from deep. Only eight players stepped on the court for coach Luke Walton in this game and seven of them knocked down a 3-ball.

Back-to-back

The Kings got off to a rough start to the 2019-20 season, dropping their first five games. They bounced back, but came into this stretch in dire need of some wins.

[RELATED: Sleep Train Arena could be converted into COVID-19 hospital]

They dropped the first two games of the road trip in Portland and San Antonio, and then had to finish the trip with a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks and Rockets on Sunday and Monday.

Sacramento almost blew an eight-point lead in the final three minutes in Dallas, but held on for a 110-106 victory. With the win in Houston, the Kings returned home with a .500 trip and then beat the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center for their third win in four days against high-level teams.

Why Hawks trading for Dewayne Dedmon made no sense to Kings' Alex Len

Why Hawks trading for Dewayne Dedmon made no sense to Kings' Alex Len

The Atlanta Hawks had a chance to re-sign center Dewayne Dedmon last summer.

Atlanta passed on the opportunity and let Dedmon leave in free agency, where he eventually signed a three-year, $40 million contract with the Kings.

But in an odd twist, the Hawks brought Dedmon back in a Feb. 5 trade with the Kings.

One of the two players the Kings acquired, Alex Len, recently spoke to The Athletic about his time in Atlanta and the trade that landed him in Sacramento.

“They didn’t want to pay him in the first place, so it didn’t make sense to me,” Len told Chris Kirschner. “If they wanted him, they could have just paid him. So they get him as a backup now and end up paying him anyway."

Len was taken No. 5 overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft and signed with the Hawks as a free agent in 2017. He was hoping to be part of the group that returned Atlanta to prominence, and told The Athletic he didn't want to be traded.

“One-hundred percent -- I wanted to stay,” Len said. “I like the coaching staff. I liked my teammates. Everyone was cool. It really had a family feel to it. Last year, you could see the trajectory was going up. Everyone was getting better towards the end of the season. The way we started this season -- I think the mistake we had was we had too many young guys. I didn’t think we had enough veterans and leadership on the team. This season didn’t work out as planned, so they had to make changes. It’s a business, so I understood they had to do it.”

The Hawks appeared to be making progress last season. With Lloyd Pierce in his first season as coach and Trae Young bursting onto the season, Atlanta finished with a 29-53 record. Expectations were high entering the 2019-20 campaign.

[RELATED: Len pleasantly surprised by Kings trade]

But when the NBA suspended the season due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Hawks were in possession of a 20-47 record, the second-worst in the Eastern Conference.

Len wanted to stay in Atlanta, but he entered an NBA playoff race when he joined the Kings.

In nine appearances with the Kings, all off the bench, Len is averaging 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 16.7 minutes.