Lots of Offense, But Which Kings Two Guard Steps Up Defensively?

The Kings are entering the season with three very good offensive shooting guards. The acquisitions of Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk along with the presence of Terence Davis creates a wealth of scoring depth, especially from the perimeter.

Huerter is a career 37.9% three-point shooter who, after starting 60 of 74 games played last year, projects to be the starter in the backcourt alongside De’Aaron Fox. Last year, he averaged 12.1 points on 38.9% from deep, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.

Despite being Fox’s teammate in college and joining the Kings because of that Kentucky connection, Monk looks like he’ll be the focal point of off-the-bench scoring as he did so well in Los Angeles last season. With the Lakers, he averaged 13.8 points on 39.1% shooting from beyond the arc, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.

Often forgotten about—maybe more so than even Richaun Holmes—is the three-year pro Terence Davis, who really relished the coaching change last season when Alvin Gentry made him a staple in the rotation. The 36.6% career three-point shooter’s season was cut short due to a wrist injury in January, and in just 30 games played, he averaged 10.4 points on 32.9% from deep, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. Davis’ numbers would have likely improved had he not gotten hurt. In the final 16 games before his injury, Davis was getting it going, averaging 14.3 points on 40.6% from three, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists while getting the starting nod in half of those contests.

There is a lot to like about these three being on the roster and being able to spread the floor for Fox and Domantas Sabonis. All of them are employed primarily as spot up threats whose field goal attempts are from deep more than half the time.

Given the emphasis on perimeter shooting, there should be plenty of scenarios where Sacramento plays three guard lineups that will include one or two of these guys. Huerter’s height at 6’7″ and Davis’ length (6’9″ wingspan)—as well as the lack of proven depth behind Harrison Barnes—make it more than feasible.

Offensively, they are all threats from deep. Huerter has the most dependability through four seasons with his lowest long range clip being 36.3% in 2020-21. 

Not far behind is Malik Monk. While it took Monk until his fourth season to shoot over 35% from deep in a year, these last two seasons—his last with Charlotte and lone year in LA—Monk has been close to lethal at 39.4% from three. 

And for Davis—a guy who hit threes at a 38.3% clip his rookie season—the fact he’s shot just 35% in his time in Sacramento does not paint the full picture of his ability. After being traded to the Kings two seasons ago, he shot 37.2% from deep, and his last 16 games prior to injury were signs of improvement.

Still, Davis has to prove he’s up there with the other two in terms of outside shooting. Statistics and analytics site Crafted NBA gave both Huerter and Monk a value of 69 out of 100 for shooting quality, which is roughly in the 84th percentile, while Davis was given a value of 56, good for 62nd percentile.

Another reason Huerter is probably going to be the starter is he has the best two-way skillset of the these three.

Just to get it out of the way, Malik Monk is one of the worst defenders in the league. He was undeniably one of the most effective and efficient offensive players in the NBA last year, not just from outside, but on the inside. Plus, he was arguably the Lakers’ best player, but his defense is just not very good. Crafted NBA ranks him in the 8th percentile in their Crafted Defensive Plus Minus statistic. McNair called him “defensively underrated,” but to be fair, he was speaking of both Monk and Huerter.

Huerter, while not a great defender, is pretty good. Although he has nice height at 6’7″, his wingspan happens to be just 6’7″ as well, which limits his defensive capability due to lack of length. Last year with Trae Young, the two posted a combined defensive rating of 117.1, which was more than three points higher than the team’s average.

More than anything, though, Huerter has good instincts and can play passing lanes pretty well. His height still provides versatility and he can be a solid team defender, but he’s more on the underwhelming side of two-way players unless he shows growth. 

Of course, he has shown glimpses of really good defense, most notably in postseason action where his intensity seems to swell. Despite a career defensive rating of 116, his rating in the playoffs is an above average 112.5 in 23 games. Maybe Mike Brown’s defensive scheme and philosophy will draw a more playoff-esque urgency from Huerter on the defensive end, but maybe not. Still, there’s a good chance he can show improvement in that aspect of his game.

Overall, Huerter has the best two-way package, but that’s mainly riding on his offensive production. On the other hand, Davis may not quite be in the same league as Huerter and Monk offensively, but he could arguably be the best defender of the three.

Though Davis may not be exceptional, his career defensive rating is a solid 111 (with a 108.3 rating through 6 career playoff games for reference). He has a strong frame, and despite being 6’4″, that 6’9″ wingspan of his adds to his defensive capability. 

Simply put, Davis is a quality and versatile defender. He guards small forwards at a similar rate as Huerter, yet his defensive versatility rating is valued at 63 (63rd percentile) compared to Red Velvet’s value of 39 (38th percentile).

As a whole, the Kings have exceptional offensive value in their depth at the two guard. All three of these guys are real assets on that end of the floor, and such depth could bring the best out of each of them. Huerter and Monk in particular should be integral to the offense, and Davis could very well earn more time.

But defense matters and it makes things interesting. Huerter is equipped with solid abilities and has a chance to take steps forward. Though he has more work to do, Monk has the same chance, especially if the team can tie it together on that end and have near universal engagement. 

That’s where Davis shows he’s not deserving of being forgotten. If he is really showing up offensively and proving he really is the best defender of these three, then he could earn considerable favorability among the guys on the roster. Even still, it’s hard to imagine Huerter or Monk ever falling out of the rotation due to their reliability beyond the arc. 

The talent at shooting guard makes this group of personnel one of the more interesting to keep an eye on as they could end up being one of the most exciting.

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