Next man up. It’s a common concept in the NBA, but not one that the Kings have been particularly good at this season. They are about to be tested once again.
De’Aaron Fox is out for the foreseeable future after landing in the NBA’s health and safety protocol. Due to HIPAA rules, the team isn’t allowed to give any more information than that, but the Kings’ starting point guard is out a minimum of 10-14 days.
With the team holding practice over the last few days, there was concern that there may be more than one player in the league’s protocol, but according to head coach Luke Walton, Fox is the only one who is listed as out. At least, for now.
Fox is more than just the team’s starting point guard. He is the Kings’ leading scorer at just over 25 points per game and he’s had another breakout season in Year Four. According to Walton, rookie Tyrese Haliburton will step into Fox’s starting role.
“We’ll start Tyrese, so clearly his role will grow, Delon’s [Wright] role will grow,” Walton said. “This is going to be one of those things where we’re not going to make up what De’Aaron does with just one person.”
Haliburton has started 15 games this season, so he has some experience with the opening group. But all but one of those games came with him paired with Fox in the backcourt.
A natural distributor, Haliburton is going to need to be more aggressive on the offensive end if the Kings have any shot of winning games. He’s averaging 12.6 points and 5.1 assists this season, but his shooting numbers lend you to believe he has more to offer as a scorer.
“For what De’Aaron means for us, I think we’ll see too, it’s more than just the points he scored,” Walton said. “He’s the guy for us that when he has the ball in his hands, there’s three guys in the paint. When he’s attacking the rim, there’s four to five guys in the paint, so it creates a lot of offense, a lot of scoring opportunities for others as well.”
In a little under 30 minutes per game, Haliburton is shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range. He has scoring potential, but nothing like we’ve seen from Fox, at least not yet.
Right off the bat, Haliburton will be tested in a huge way. Two-time NBA MVP and current scoring leader Steph Curry is on the docket for Sunday and Luka Doncic rolls through Sacramento on Monday. Haliburton will need to find a way to compete.
Haliburton won’t have to do it on his own, especially on the defensive end, where the Kings will send different looks at two high-powered scorers.
“It’s tough having our starting point guard go down, but it’s just one of those things where you’ve just got to come together as a team and everybody’s got to step up individually and then collectively as a team,” Moe Harkless said. “We’ve just got to step up. It’s not on one guy. It’s on everybody to do a little bit more.”
In addition to Haliburton, Wright will have an increased opportunity. He’s a capable NBA veteran that started 31 games for the Detroit Pistons this season. He’s been a little inconsistent with his scoring since joining the Kings, but his shooting numbers are up and he has the potential to take on more of a scoring load as well.
This is the reality that many teams have faced under the league's health and safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic. Sacramento has been lucky so far this season with only a handful of games missed due to the stringent rules, but losing Fox for any length of time is a tough pill to swallow.
While Fox is out, starting center Richaun Holmes is getting closer to a return. Holmes practiced for a second straight day, which is a good sign. According to a league source, the 27-year-old center is expected back in the lineup tomorrow against the Warriors barring any late setbacks.