Dewayne Dedmon

Kings have depth to thank for recovery after season's horrendous start

Kings have depth to thank for recovery after season's horrendous start

Depth. That was the Sacramento Kings’ claim to fame after a summer of change. 17 games into the season, that depth is the only reason that Sacramento has a fighting chance to recover from their horrendous start.

Injuries have sapped head coach Luke Walton’s rotation, leaving him to institute new schemes while adjusting to personnel. Despite back-to-back losses to the Celtics and 76ers, the Kings are still 7-5 over their last 12 games and four of those losses are by a combined 13 points.

Since it is Thanksgiving, this is a good chance to take a moment to dive into a few positives and negatives for the Kings' season with regards to depth. There are a few players stepping up, some that are being asked to do too much and a couple that aren’t living up to their billing.

  • The 3-4 week window for re-evaluation did not result in a return for De’Aaron Fox, as he’ll be out a lot longer than that. On the plus side, he was able to take his boot off and walk on his injured ankle after just five days. That is half of the time that was initially predicted and it’s a good sign. But Fox’s recovery time is closer to 6-8 weeks than it is a month. If he returns before Jan. 1, it would be a shock. Keep in mind that a bad ankle can become a chronic issue and limit a career long-term. Allowing the ligaments to heal 100 percent is a key, and even then, this could be an issue that returns down the road.
  • Buddy Hield without Fox is not the same. Hield is a great shooter and he has significantly improved at creating space and scoring off the dribble. Fox gets Hield 2-3 wide-open 3-pointers every game with his speed, which forces defenses to sag off just a little. Hield is averaging close to the 20.7 points per game he averaged last season, but after the loss to Philly, he's shooting just 38.6 percent from three. That’s still a really good clip, but it’s well below the 42.7 percent he averaged last year. On the plus side, Hield is on pace to make 318 3-pointers this season, which is 40 more than he converted a season ago.
  • Cory Joseph wasn’t supposed to play this much. It’s hard not to get frustrated with the overdribbling and poor shooting, but Joseph is being asked to anchor the defense on one end and then run the offense on the other side of the court. Since taking over as the starter eight games ago, Joseph is averaging 4.4 points, 5.8 assists and 31 minutes per contest while shooting 29.4 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range. He’s better against second-team players and as a secondary role player on offense. In a perfect world, Joseph would be playing 14-16 minutes a night as the secondary ball-handler alongside Bogdan Bogdanovic. That is not the hand that Walton or Joseph were dealt with the injury to Fox.
  • Justin James is fun. The 23-year-old rookie played just 15 minutes over five games to start the season. But with so many bodies missing, the second-round pick out of Missouri is getting some burn and brings a lot to the table. Over his last four games, James has played 20.5 minutes per contest and been a cumulative minus-3 over that span. For a player that wasn’t expected to see time at all this season, he has been able to provide energy, defense and an occasional highlight-reel play. Walton has to like what he is seeing from James so far, especially with Trevor Ariza on hiatus.
  • The Kings need Dewayne Dedmon to snap out of his funk. The veteran center posted a nice game against Philly, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes of action. That was the first time this season Dedmon had gone for more than 11 points after averaging 10.8 points per game last year in Atlanta. Walton needs the player who shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range last season, not the one that has hit just 10-of-42 (23.8 percent) from deep through 17 games. In all fairness, Dedmon was supposed to be paired with Marvin Bagley, but that ended after the opener. If he doesn't find his game now, there’s a good chance he’ll lose his spot in the rotation when Bagley is finally healthy, which could come as early as this weekend.

[RELATED: Kings fall in Philly despite breakout game from Dedmon]

  • There was a lot of chatter about Harrison Barnes and the four-year, $84 million contract he inked over the summer. Barnes has been worth every penny through the first 17 games. He’s averaging 16 points per contest, shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range and getting to the line a career-best 4.5 times per game. Barnes has been a stabilizing force for Sacramento, both on and off the court. He’ll have to reinvent his game again once the team is back to full strength, but he’s versatile and knows how to adapt to any situation.
  • The additions of Joseph, Dedmon and Ariza haven’t moved the needle, but signing Richaun Holmes to a two-year, $10 million contract is looking like a genius move for general manager Vlade Divac. Holmes took over the starting center job for Walton after just four games and he’s been very good for the Kings on both ends of the court. There is some concern as to how Holmes and Bagley will fit next to each other, but the 26-year-old has made a strong case to remain in the starting lineup. If Dedmon was averaging 11.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game as a starter like Holmes is, no one would be talking about his contract. 
  • FIBA Bogi is a thing. Bogdan Bogdanovic was a star in international play. After a shaky first couple of games, he has settled into being an indispensable player on the Kings’ second unit, and he’s on the court at the end of most games. The third year-year wing is a star role player with a penchant for hitting a big shot. Like most of the other players, he would look a lot better with a healthy Fox and Bagley, but the Kings have to love his development so far this season.
  • Nemanja Bjelica has earned a spot in the rotation long-term. It was a major question as to how Walton would manage his fleet of bigs early in the season. Bagley’s injury put the tough decisions on hold, but it won’t be long until Walton has to sit a few veterans. Ariza’s erratic play and absence from the team affords some time, and Dedmon’s struggles also create an opportunity. Bjelica looks slightly winded after playing major minutes early. His 3-point percentage has dipped, but he’s still leading the team at 41.8 percent. He’ll space the floor in a big rotation that includes Holmes and Bagley and maybe one other.

Dewayne Dedmon breaks out, but not enough for Kings in loss to 76ers

Dewayne Dedmon breaks out, but not enough for Kings in loss to 76ers

The Sacramento Kings starters looked disinterested and ready to get home for a turkey dinner when the ball tipped off Wednesday evening at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The second team came in to give the Kings a lift, but the inconsistent play lasted all night.

Joel Embiid went to work in the post and punished the Kings. Matisse Thybulle came off the bench to give the 76ers a lift on both ends of the court and the home team held on for a 97-91 victory to send the Kings home with a 1-3 road trip.

“That’s a good team and we did not play well enough to come in and get a road win,” coach Luke Walton told reporters. “I thought we started the game a little soft, a little tentative and then I think our bench did a nice job of finding that heart and passion that we play with.”

Bogdan Bogdanovic came in to stabilize the lineup, but he wasn’t the only second-teamer to step up. Rookie Justin James brought a ton of energy and after a rough start to the season, and Dewayne Dedmon put together his best game as a King.

“He hasn’t been playing as much as he was early on in the season, he stepped up big, he was huge for us,” Harrison Barnes told reporters about the seven-footer. “Depth is something we talked about at the beginning of the season and guys are staying ready.”

The veteran center has struggled at almost every aspect of the game this season, but especially from the perimeter, where he’d hit just 8-of-37 coming into the game.

Dedmon was impactful, scoring a season-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including a pair of 3-points and he chipped in six rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

“I thought he was leading out there, he was talking defensively, calling out coverages, getting to the rim, finishing when appropriate, kicking out when appropriate,” Walton said. “I thought his all-around game on both ends was really big for us.”

Before Wednesday’s game, Dedmon’s season-high in scoring was just 11 points on the season after averaging 10.8 points for the Hawks last season. The Kings desperately need the 30-year-old to find his game moving forward.

Dedmon helped keep the Kings in the game, but the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter, which was an issue early and then again late.

Sacramento hit just 9-of-34 from long range, including a 3-of-12 performance from leading scorer Buddy Hield. That’s a far cry from the 36.9 percent the team averages from distance on the season.

“We’ve got to knock down shots when we get em’,” Walton said. “We had a lot of open looks tonight that we didn’t knockdown.”

Hield wasn’t the only one to struggle. Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica each shot 1-of-4 from long distance and Yogi Ferrell missed his only two opportunities.

[RELATED: What we learned in Kings' hard-fought road loss to 76ers]

The Kings’ offense is predicated on the team hitting the long ball, especially with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley sidelined. Unfortunately, the team has been hit or miss on the four-game road trip, which is a big reason they finished 1-3 on the eastern swing.

Sacramento flew home after the game and will have a two-day break to take in the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. Bagley is inching closer to a return after missing all but the opening night game with a broken right thumb, but there is no early word on his availability.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 97-91 hard-fought loss vs. 76ers


Kings takeaways: What we learned in 97-91 hard-fought loss vs. 76ers

The Sacramento Kings couldn’t get a shot to fall early Wednesday evening in Philadelphia and somehow survived the first half. They fell behind big with their typical third-quarter swoon, but then rallied to make it a game. 

In the end, the Kings’ inconsistency in play and their inability to hit the 3-ball caught up with them in as they fell to the 76ers by a final of 97-91.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings struggled with the get-away game and fell to 7-10 on the season.  

Trouble with the triple

Sacramento has shooters at every position, but there have been a few games this season when the shots from perimeter just don’t fall.

Philly is one of the better teams in the league at defending the three, but the Kings also threw up some bricks on wide-open looks.

You can’t shoot 9-for-34 from long range and expect to win in the NBA. That’s either too many threes or too many misses. 

Dewayne Dedmon sighting

The Kings inked Dewayne Dedmon to a 3-year deal in a large part due to his ability to knock down the 3-ball. Through the first 16 games, Dedmon had hit just 8-of-37 from long range, which is a major problem.

Against the Sixers, Dedmon missed his first two triples and then started moving without the ball. He got a couple of bunnies to fall in the key and then finally hit a 3-pointer, which was just his fourth make from distance in nine games.

Dedmon continued to play solid defense against Joel Embiid and came away with his best offensive output of the season with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting to go with six rebounds.

This is the Dedmon the Kings need on a nightly basis.

Too much Embiid

After going scoreless in 32 minutes against the Raptors last time out, Embiid ran the Kings over. 

The All-Star big man was focused from the opening tip, scoring four points in the first 45 seconds of the game. He didn’t stop there. 

[RELATED: Kings' Guy uses tattoos to reinforce devotion to faith]

Embiid tormented the Kings all night long, finishing with 33 points and 16 rebounds in just 31 minutes of action.

Sacramento doesn’t have a big physical presence in the post to deal with a player like Embiid, but there are very few players like him left in the league.