SACRAMENTO -- Something was missing. The Kings drifted through the first half of the season playing some of the worst defense in NBA history, but it was more than that. They lacked the depth and versatility they needed to compete on a nightly basis.
General manager Monte McNair addressed some of those issues at the trade deadline, making three separate deals to bring in Moe Harkless, Terence Davis and Delon Wright. After an adjustment period, all three have been the story of the Kings’ late season surge.
Not only are the three making impactful plays for the team as they’ve won six of their last seven games, but they’ve clearly formed a bond as a small group of outsiders trying to fit in.
“It’s natural when guys get traded and are coming in together, to kinda immediately click like that,” Harkless said following the Kings’ 122-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “We were all on a plane together, so we were chopping it up before we got here. And when we got here, it was just us, so we kinda turned to each other.”
The off-the-court relationship has turned into chemistry on the court, with each of the three filling a valuable role for the Kings, especially with De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Tyrese Haliburton on the shelf.
“For me, being a young guy, it was major,” Davis said of Harkless and Wright. “I got two vets in Moe and Delon, just talking to me, making sure we’re on the same page. These last few games, we’ve been clicking on a different level, not just the new guys, but guys who have been here.”
On his 28th birthday, Harkless got it going early for Sacramento. Known more for his defense than his offensive prowess, Harkless dropped in 15 points on the Thunder, including a pair of highlight reel dunks.
Harkless added three blocks, making sure everyone in the build understood that he still has plenty left in the tank.
With Harkless attacking from the inside, Davis came off the bench to provide a tremendous spark, especially in the first half where he scored 19 of his game-high 27.
Over his last five games, Davis is averaging 19.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting from 3-point off the Kings’ bench. He’s becoming the scorer the team desperately needed off the bench.
“TD, we all love how aggressive he is,” Harkless said. “I think for us, he needs to be that way, especially right now. He’s been doing a great job. When he comes in the game, he’s providing offense, he’s providing defense, he’s playing his game on both ends of the floor and having fun.”
A restricted free agent this summer, Davis seemed more than happy about sticking around Sacramento long term.
“This is definitely, definitely looking like that,” Davis said. “It’s looking really good for me. Obviously this is some of the best basketball I’ve played in my career, even in college, this is some of the best stretch of games I’ve played in my entire life, so no doubt.”
According to Davis, he’s felt the support of his Kings teammates, especially when he first got to the team and struggled with his shot.
“Everyone believes in everyone here,” Davis said. “There was a couple of times I was hesitating to take shots and guys were like, ‘shoot the ball bro, we believe in you.’ These guys, they’re unselfish here, that’s the way you want to play the game.”
Harkless and Davis have each found their niche. Harkless is the versatile defender and Davis is the spark plug off the bench. Wright has been the guy who is starring for the Kings.
Against the Thunder, Wright dropped in a quiet 21-point, eight-assist, four-rebound, four-steal performance. Since taking over as the starter five games ago, he’s averaging 17.8 points, 7.2 assists, seven rebounds and 3.2 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
If the Kings had these three players to start the season, there is no telling where they might be with three games left. All three fill a void in Sacramento’s rotation and they are carrying the team down the stretch.
Harkless is an unrestricted free agent and has done plenty to prove his worth, not only for the Kings, but to 29 other NBA teams. Davis’ restricted free agency likely means he’ll be back long term in Sacramento and Wright is under contract next season at $8.5 million next season.
Changes to the roster are necessary if the team hopes to snap their playoff drought, but McNair could do a lot worse than bring Harkless, Davis and Wright back for another tour of duty, especially if he can make an upgrade or two with the rest of the rotation.