Awards Should be Aplenty for The Sacramento Kings
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The Sacramento Kings have snapped their historic 16-year playoff drought with a bang.
Basketball-Reference’s playoff odds report gives the Kings an 87.4% chance to keep their No. 3 seed with an 11.8% chance to overtake the Grizzlies for the No. 2.
After this stellar campaign, the Kings are top contenders to win multiple year-end awards such as Coach of the Year, Executive of the Year and the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year.
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Coach of the Year
Mike Brown unequivocally deserves coach of the year honors.
The preseason over/under in the Kings’ win total was 33.5. Brown led his team to its 34th victory in February in a double-overtime victory against the Clippers in what is now the second-highest scoring game in league history.
The Kings also find themselves playing their best basketball outside of the Golden 1 Center. With a West-best road record of 24-14, Brown has the Kings playing inspired basketball when facing opposing crowds.
After the hire, GM Monte McNair called Brown “One of the premier defensive minds in the league,” hoping Brown would transform this team into a defensive juggernaut.
This has not happened. Instead, they have found their team identity – offense. The Kings lead the NBA in Offensive Rating at a 119.0 clip. Outside of stellar efforts from All-Stars Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, Brown is maximizing the potential of the rest of the roster. Using Princeton’s scheme and relying on the roster’s collective passing and shooting prowess, Brown has created a high-scoring and efficient offense.
The high-flying attack is giving the team great looks at all levels. The Kings are converting a league-leading 58.9% of their attempts from inside the arc. From a distance, Brown has given the team the green light. His system thrives on off-ball movement and screens to create quality looks. Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter lead the offense in this regard, both shooting over 40% from deep.
Executive of the Year
Monte McNair should be the frontrunner for Executive of the Year. McNair’s moves since last year’s trade deadline have made the team the contender it is today. The bold move to trade Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield for Domantas Sabonis was risky, but it worked.
Despite Sabonis becoming the debatable MVP of this team, however, it’s McNair’s other moves that have been most impressive. Over the past year, the Kings have acquired Trey Lyles, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray and Malik Monk.
The much-maligned Marvin Bagley trade for Trey Lyles has turned into a positive for the Kings. Lyles has become the second most important player in the rotation and the best offensive player off the bench. His defensive attitude and efficient scoring has been crucial in the important games of this season.
Lyle’s Place in the Roll of Kings No Longer in Limbo
Adding Malik Monk in free agency was a big move this offseason. While his stats are down from last year, Monk is having his most impactful season as a pro. Reuniting in the backfield with his Kentucky teammate De’Aaron Fox has proven to be a formidable force with the ability to take over games. While Monk’s scoring efficiency is down from last season, he has emerged as a bottom 6 player of the year candidate, largely behind his career highs in assists and usage.
Draft pick Keegan Murray has also turned out great. Murray has turned into exactly what McNair hoped for – a versatile forward who could play confidently off the ball. With Sabonis and Fox playing for the ball for large parts of the game, Murray has slotted in nicely next to them. With just a 15.6% usage rate, Murray is likely to break the rookie three-point record. He is shooting 41% from long range on 6.2 shots per game.
McNair’s deal for Kevin Huerter was perhaps his most impressive move to date. The Kings took advantage of the Hawks’ trade for Dejounte Murray and the subsequent position it created to land them Kevin Huerter. In exchange for Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless and a protected first-round pick, the Kings acquired one of the best three-point shooters in the league.
Clutch Player of the Year
De’Aaron Fox should be the runaway candidate for the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award.
Fox has been sensational in tight end games. He leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring while shooting 53.9% from the field and is the leader in field goals made in the final two minutes of games. Additionally, he sits second in the NBA in steals during the clutch as well.
Beyond the stats, however, Fox’s game in the clutch has been simply incredible to witness. His ability to push the ball, penetrate, absorb contact, finish and hit his patented mid-range jumper is brilliant.
The Kings are back in action Tuesday night in New Orleans.
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