Kings

Kings' De'Aaron Fox vs. Rockets' Russell Westbrook: Who wins 1-on-1?

Kings' De'Aaron Fox vs. Rockets' Russell Westbrook: Who wins 1-on-1?

With the NBA shut down for the foreseeable future, basketball junkies could use a fix. If the league isn’t going to return to full blown competition, maybe there is a chance they could run out a series of promotional one-on-one games to help wet the appetite of thirsty fans.

As chronicled in NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh latest piece, power agent Leonard Armato attempted to pull this off in 1995 with Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Shaquille O'Neal as his headliners with an undercard that included Joe Smith, Kevin Garnett, Nick Van Axel and Kenny Anderson before an injury derailed the event. Maybe it's an idea that needs more exploring now.

Who wouldn’t pay to see LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard go toe-to-toe? How about Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis in a battle of former Wildcats? Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving throwing up 35-footers? Sign me up.

For Kings fans, there are a couple of matchups that would be fun to watch. If Klay Thompson was 100-percent healthy, he and Buddy Hield would compare well in a battle of marksmen. A Montrezl Harrell vs. Richaun Holmes low post brawl would be crazy physical and likely lead to fisticuffs.

Perhaps the most intriguing of all mano-y-mano matchups would involve De’Aaron Fox vs. Russell Westbrook, who Fox says was his favorite player growing up, not his childhood hero.

Would Westbrook be able to stay in front of Fox and his lightning-quick first step? Could Fox slow the powerful bull rush of one of the most physical guards in the league?

Both listed at 6-foot-3, Westbrook would come in with a 15-pound weight advantage and an inch and a half in wingspan. Fox is nine years younger, but Westbrook has all the hardware, including nine All-Star appearances and one league MVP award.

Westbrook shoots with his right hand, but does most other things better with his left. Fox is a natural lefty.

A deep dive into the two players shows remarkable similarities. In his third NBA season, Fox was posting 20.4 points, 6.8 assists, four rebounds and 1.4 steals in 31.7 minutes per game. When the hiatus began, Fox was shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 30.7 percent from 3-point range and getting to the line 6.8 times per game.

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In Westbrook’s third year, he posted 21.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 34.7 minutes. Westbrook shot 44.2 percent from the field, 33 percent from 3-point range and 7.7 free throw attempts.

When these numbers are compared through the lens of per 36 minutes they are almost identical.

There is no way to play third-year Fox versus third-year Westbrook, but at the time at the shutdown, the difference between the two point guards wasn’t that great when adjusted for per 36.

Westbrook averaged more points per game, but Fox shot better from the perimeter, has the ability to agitate on the defensive end and is a far superior shot blocker.

[RELATED: Kings 20 questions: Will Buddy Hield trade happen this offseason?]

Fox is coming on strong, but there is a good chance that Westbrook’s experience would win out in a one-on-one setting. Given another year, the outcome might be different, especially if Fox is able to add to his 185-pound frame.

Either way, this would be a marquee matchup that plenty of NBA fans would pay good money to watch. The up and comer from Sacramento versus the veteran superstar from Houston.

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

On Jan. 22, the Sacramento Kings were absolutely embarrassed on the road by a less-than-stellar Detroit Pistons team by a final of 127-106. You could tell that changes were coming before the final horn sounded.

That was the sixth straight loss for the Kings and their season looked like it was over.

When the team came out for the next contest in Chicago, Bogdan Bogdanovic had replaced Buddy Hield in the starting lineup and Kent Bazemore became a bigger piece to the rotation.

Acquired just days earlier in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, Bazemore instantly became the high-energy catalyst off the bench the Kings hoped they were getting when they signed Trevor Ariza to a two-year, $25 million contract.

Sacramento responded to the changes in the rotation and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 13 of its final 20 games.

In 21 total games with the Kings, Bazemore, 31, averaged 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.5 minutes per game. He was a disruptive force on the defensive end and his energy on the court was contagious.

A free agent at the end of the season, Bazemore will have plenty of options on the open market. His ability to defend multiple positions and provide an offensive spark when needed earned him a massive four-year, $70 million deal in the summer of 2016.

It’s unlikely that Bazemore comes anywhere near that figure again this offseason, but he believes he has found a new home in Sacramento and this isn't the first time the veteran has voiced that opinion.

“This is definitely a place that I can see myself play for the next couple of years,” Bazemore said during a Zoom call with the media on Friday. “With a team with so much promise, I definitely want to be a part of that.”

General manager Vlade Divac has plenty of decisions to make during the upcoming offseason, but bringing Bazemore back for another tour of duty makes too much sense. He’s still young enough to play substantial minutes and his ability to play both the two and three allows coach Luke Walton to slide Harrison Barnes to power forward for long stretches.

[RELATED: Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500]

The NBA’s salary structure is bound to take a big hit with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world. Sacramento likely will have to take a wait-and-see approach to the offseason, which includes decisions on free agents Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles and Alex Len.

In just a quarter of the season, Bazemore has proven his worth and the Kings aren’t done quite yet. Sacramento has eight games remaining to try and earn a shot at the playoffs. If Bazemore hadn’t come along when he did, it’s very unlikely the Kings would be in this position.

Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record

Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record

Committed.

Harrison Barnes showed up for the latest edition of the Kings' Zoom call with the media still sporting his playoffs-or-bust beard. The Kings’ forward stopped shaving in mid-December, committing to letting it grow until the Kings reached the .500 mark.

“The beard is good, I think it’s plateaued a little bit,” Barnes said. “That’s been nice from a management perspective. But I think I’m excited to hopefully shave it off when we make the playoffs and keep going from there.”

At the time of Barnes' pledge, the Kings were 12-14 and facing a three-game road trip in Charlotte, Indiana and Memphis. Sacramento would go on to lose all three...and then five more to fall 10 games under .500 at 12-22.

[RELATED: Kings' Marvin Bagley, family stayed focused on hoops during NBA hiatus]

True to his word, Barnes let it grow, although he’s modified the rules slightly. He now has a .500 or playoffs mantra, which could possibly get him off the hook.

A .500 record would take an 8-0 stretch by the Kings in the Orlando bubble restart. Looking at their schedule, that is going to be difficult. But a 5-3 stretch might be enough to sneak into the play-in game, which couldbe grounds for a good shaving.

This decision was a bold move by Barnes. While the Kings have the most talented and deepest roster they’ve had in years, the franchise also is riding a 13-year playoff drought.

If the Kings don’t make it and Barnes stays true to his word, he might be able to near James Harden's beard length by the start of next season. Should that be the case, he really could use a Game 1 win to put the team over the .500 mark.