The Beam Team has two preseason games under their belt now so we got a few of our writers together to give their early thoughts since wins and losses don’t matter just yet.
What have you been most interested in seeing from the Kings this preseason?
Akis: My big interest has mostly been in the new guys, namely Chris Duarte, Sasha Vezenkov and Colby Jones. I’m not too worried about any of the returning players but am interested to see how Keegan Murray and Davion Mitchell have improved coming in.
Duarte looked pretty bad in the first preseason game against the Raptors, and didn’t get off to a great start in the game against the Lakers either, but he warmed up as the game went along. He definitely did better playing with the starters than he did as part of the bench unit so maybe he just plays better in a supporting rather than primary role?
Sasha has been just as advertised, an excellent shooter and cutter but someone who is going to be a work in progress on defense. The Kings are going to have an interesting conundrum with where to slot him in the rotation, because he and Trey Lyles seem to fit a similar role and Lyles is much better on defense. Against the Lakers, Vezenkov took the Keegan Murray role but looked a bit hesitant and was not able to guard L.A.’s quicker perimeter defenders.
Colby Jones hasn’t played much yet but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him in his limited minutes. He plays hard on both ends of the floor, but does need to be a more consistent shooter (but then again, everyone has struggled from outside through the first two games).
Keegan missed the second game, but in the first one it was nice to see him have several confident drives to the basket. His evolution will come from being more than just a catch and shoot player and he’s clearly been working on that side of his game. Davion however, needs to be a more efficient shooter and he hasn’t shown that yet.
Tony: The Kings remained shockingly healthy last season and had incredible starting lineup / rotation consistency because of it. With most of the roster returning in 2023-24, I’m far more interested in seeing what guys like Sasha Vezenkov, Chris Duarte, JaVale McGee, Kessler Edwards, Jordan Ford, and Colby Jones can bring to the table. Through two games, none of the new players have really made an outsized impact, but it’s very early.
Outside of individual new player performances, I would love to see an uptick in defensive awareness and intensity. Through two games, I’ve seen almost none of that. The preseason isn’t known for its defensive intensity, so I don’t how concerned we should be just yet. All I can say is that what we’ve seen so far has been disappointing.
Tim: The new fellas are certainly the draw for me in preseason. We know what De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis can do, and we’re pretty sure what Keegan Murray will eventually be able to do, but Sasha Vezenkov and Chris Duarte are much more mysterious figures. Thus far, they’ve both shown some strengths in their game, but they’ve also both shown some pretty glaring weaknesses. Suffice it to say that I don’t believe any Kings starter feels their minutes being threatened by either of those guys at the moment.
What’s something that’s stood out over the first two games?
Akis: It really seems that JaVale McGee is going to be Sacramento’s primary backup big man, and he’s developing a decent two man game already with Malik Monk. McGee also is definitely acting as more than just a roll man, initiating some high and mid post offense at times, which he noted at media day was one of the reasons he chose to come to Sacramento. Sabonis’ backup was one of the more inconsistent part of Sacramento’s rotation last season and right now it seems like McGee is the favorite to land the role.
Tony: Not much. The mini-drama around Sasha Vezenkov’s role is the closest thing to a compelling training camp storyline, but his on court performance through two games hasn’t given Mike Brown a significant reason to play him over anybody else. It was nice to see Chris Duarte bounce back after a rough outing vs. Toronto to 10 points on perfect 4-4 shooting vs. the Lakers on Wednesday. I thought his defensive effort was pretty good, too.
I suppose I’ll name drop two more players who have barely played, but I’m intrigued enough that I’d like to see more: Kessler Edwards and Colby Jones. Edwards wasn’t aggressive enough last season, but he came out firing against the Lakers and hit a couple of difficult shots with confidence. Jones hasn’t been efficient offensively, but I thought his energy has stood out on a team that has looked pretty lethargic defensively.
Tim: The Kings still don’t have a reliable backup wing on the roster. Kessler Edwards doesn’t seem ready, Chris Duarte is slightly on the small side and hasn’t shown enough, and Sasha Vezenkov and Trey Lyles, bless their hearts, are much, much too slow to see any real minutes at the backup three spot. The bench small forward position has been a source of frustration among Kings fans for many years, and it seems as though that frustration will continue in the short term.
What has been the biggest disappointment through two games?
Akis: Aside from the fact that the Kings haven’t been able to hit the broadside of a barn yet (the Kings are an abominable 25/95 from three in two preseason games, or just 26.3%), I’m most disappointed that the defense still doesn’t look all that great, especially among the starting group. Against the Lakers especially, Sacramento’s starters were getting outworked by the Lakers B-Team, allowing easy access to the paint with minimal resistance.
Tony: Besides more of the same old defensive complaints, Kevin Huerter. Red Velvet shot 20% from three in the playoffs last season, and he’s opened preseason 1-6 from three through two games. He has 5 total points in 33 minutes. Like Akis mentioned, shooting has been a problem for most of the roster, but Huerter’s struggles have stood out more to this amateur scout.
Tim: I’ll roll with Akis here and agree about the defense. Preseason isn’t necessarily the time to bust out all of the amazing new defensive schemes developed in the preseason, but akin to the backup wing problem, the Kings also didn’t add any defensive presences over the summer. There’s both a lack of commitment and a lack of skill on that end of the floor that will likely haunt this roster in the coming months. Does this mean the Kings should go all out for Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby? Of course!
What would you like to see in the final three preseason games?
Akis: I’d like to see the Kings attack the paint a bit more. 95 three point attempts over two games is an insane amount, especially when they haven’t even been hitting a third of them. Part of that is due to Fox and Sabonis only playing limited minutes as those are our biggest paint threats, but the team as a whole has been a bit trigger happy. I’d like to see more forays into the paint to create better looks instead of just settling for a three. There were several possessions against the Lakers where the ball never even crossed the three point line before a shot was up.
I’d also like to see a lot more Keegan Murray. He missed the game against the Lakers, but hopefully should be able to play in the final few games. Keegan’s growth could determine the ceiling of this Kings team.
Tony: Despite my negative slant through two games, I just don’t put a lot of stock into preseason results (unless they are positive and support my positions, then they mean the world to me). With that being said, I’m just watching to see where Mike Brown lands on some of these end-of-rotation position battles. It appears like Sasha is the 11th man and Duarte is the primary backup wing right now. How much of that will change before opening night? I don’t know, and that’s why I’ll be watching.
Tim: A trade for a backup wing.