When the Kings traded Marvin Bagley III to the Detroit Pistons in February of 2022, it was ostensibly made so the Kings could acquire Donte DiVincenzo. They also received Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles in the deal for salary matching purposes. A little more than a year later and it seems the real prize from the trade has been Trey Lyles, who served an important bench role for the Kings as they made their best run in 16 years. Lyles averaged 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 16.9 minutes a game off the bench.
One of the few questions and disappointments the Kings faced this season was their backup big rotation behind Domantas Sabonis. Coach Mike Brown tried many different lineups and rotations, even through the end of the season and the playoffs, to try to find something that consistently worked. Players fell in and out of favor as Brown experimented, but nobody was more consistent in their effort and production than Lyles.
One reason Lyles fit in so well in Sacramento’s offense was that he was the one Kings big man who was able to consistently stretch the floor, shooting 36.3% from distance on about 3 attempts a game. While that’s not a particularly exciting percentage, it was good enough to keep the floor spaced, and also offered him opportunities to attack the basket when opponents closed in quickly. 58.8% of Lyles FGA came from three, with another 27.9% coming at the rim. He was one of the better Kings at getting to the line as well, where he hit 81.5% of his attempts.
Lyles also was one of the few Kings players who made the team better defensively. According to Basketball-Reference, the Kings were 2.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Lyles on the floor than off, while the offense was still on par.
Lyles best game of the season came in a blowout win against the Memphis Grizzlies in January where he totaled 24 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals.
After the game, Coach Mike Brown had this to say on Trey’s performance.
“He’s got a tremendous feel [for the game]. His team defensive instincts within our scheme can help us get to the next level,” Brown said. “He’s going to bust his behind, he’s going to use his length, he’s not afraid to get hit in the nose, he’ll try to rebound and he’s going to get out and run and all of those things get contagious and so we need his presence because he’s not afraid, because he has a great feel, because he’s going to play so hard, because he’s going to try to finish the play with a rebound.”
While Lyles spent most of the season as a backup Power Forward, the Kings had success at times utilizing him as a small ball center. A mid-season overtime win against the Minnesota Timberwolves stands out in particular. The Timberwolves gave the Kings fits all season with their size and length, and in this specific instance, Domantas Sabonis fouled out before overtime. Instead of trying to match size with size, Coach Brown inserted Lyles in Sabonis’ place. Lyles ability to stretch the floor drew Rudy Gobert out of the paint and changed the momentum of the game to be in Sacramento’s favor. Lyles ended up scoring 8 of his 11 points in the ensuing overtime period to help carry the Kings to victory.
Aside from Malik Monk, no Sacramento Kings bench player was more effective this season than Trey Lyles. In fact, the better Lyles did, the better the Kings did. In the 29 games in which Lyles scored 10 or more points, the Kings went 22-7. That success carried over into the playoffs as well, as the Kings won both games in which Lyles scored double digits (16 in Game 1 and 12 in Game 6).
Lyles is a free agent this summer and it’s no guarantee that he returns to the Kings. His play this past season has earned him a pay bump from his $2.6 million salary and he’ll definitely have some offers on the open market from teams that need solid bench depth. The Sasha Vezenkov decision will also promise to be a factor, as both Vezenkov and Lyles would likely be competing for the same minutes and role. But for Sacramento, it might make sense to retain a 27 year old who knows and fits in the system, and it likely won’t break the bank either. For his part, Trey wants to be back too.
Trey Lyles says he “100%” wants to be back with the Kings next year 🙌 pic.twitter.com/oElWfr1dlv
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) April 30, 2023
This will be an important summer for the Kings, and bringing Lyles back or not figures to be one of the bigger decisions for this front office.