1. Hitting the wall
The Kings’ surprising start to the season was due to their young core finally beginning to contribute. De’Aaron Fox averaged 17.3 points (on improved shooting percentages) and 7.3 assists per game, both notably higher than in his rookie season. Buddy Hield broke out as the team’s leading scorer, surpassing the 20-point threshold with an impressive 58.7 true shooting percentage.
Nemanja Bjelica finally began to show his value by recording career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and both 3-pointers attempted and 3-pointers made. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein both showed improvement as well.
From October to December, the Kings were the hottest they’ve been in years. That started slowing down with the new year. Here’s how some Kings dropped off this season from 2018 to 2019:
- 2018: 18.3 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 47.4 FG%, 39.1 3P%
- 2019: 16.5 PPG, 7.0 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 44.6 FG%, 35.2 3P%
- 2018: 13.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 54.4 FG%
- 2019: 10.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 57.1 FG%
- 2018: 15.6 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.3 RPG, 44.1 FG%, 37.0 3P%
- 2019: 13.4 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, 40.6 FG%, 35.4 3P%
- 2018: 11.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.9 BPG, 50.8 FG%, 44.9 3P%
- 2019: 8.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.6 BPG, 45.0 FG%, 35.4 3P%
Kind of jarring numbers. It’s interesting that the majority of the Kings’ core (aside from Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III) all regressed beginning in January.
Bjelica played a very valuable role for the team in the first three months of the season, but dropped off significantly afterward. Fox was the leader of the team, but took more of a second option role behind Hield in 2019. Willie Cauley-Stein was one of the more improved players in the league to start the year, but as you can see, it didn’t last.
If the Kings plan to right the ship and make a playoff push next year, they cannot allow themselves all to drop off like this at the same time again.