The Sacramento Kings have won all three of their preseason games thus far, and now they’ll have a chance to win their final one against the Lakers at home tonight.
All of these preseason games have provided a lot to examine and keep an eye on, but with the regular season around the corner, this one might be the most poignant.
Here are a few things to watch for tonight against Los Angeles.
A glimpse at the real rotations, the final roster
This contest will be the most legitimate indicator of what the opening night roster will look like.
Ahead of the win in Portland, Mike Brown noted that “we’ll try to get a little closer to what we’re going to do rotation wise” in this final preseason game.
Getting a glimpse at the rotations will be fascinating, and could answer questions like who the starting 4 will be, how much play time a guy like Terence Davis gets, and the like.
But there’s also the component of getting an idea of who is in danger of not making the roster. There are essentially 16 guys trying to make the final cut.
Quinn Cook and Kent Bazemore were waived Thursday. Cook has an Exhibit 10 designation that could funnel him down to Stockton, where he played 11 games last year, if another team doesn’t snag him. And Bazemore clearly has plenty more left in the tank to be a nice addition for another team.
There are also the pair of two-way contracts, so that’s 16 players. Much of the roster is pretty easy to foretell.
But keep an eye on the lineups and distribution of rotational minutes, but also keep an eye out for guys like Chimezie Metu, Sam Merrill, and Chima Moneke to see how much they play (or if they play at all).
Moneke in particular could be an intriguing guy to watch as he got to play with the starters at Thursday’s practice.
Shoring up the sloppiness
The Kings won in spite of a performance marred by sloppy play and decision making. It was the first time in the preseason where things looked really rough with such high numbers of turnovers and personal fouls.
As evidenced by the late second quarter surge, the Kings’ starters were able to figure things out and get the game close. To their credit, if it had been a regular season game where they’d play until the very end, things would have been cleaned up most likely.
As much as Mike Brown would like an unlimited number of timeouts to point out and correct glaring issues, reality has its limits.
James Ham asked De’Aaron Fox about the group being allowed to play through mistakes and figure things out on the floor and the point guard noted that there are times where timeouts have to be saved and dead balls don’t occur.
Mike Brown has had some moments where he’s expressed a high level of trust in his guys. He commended them for every little thing they’ve done well, from wanting to do the right thing to actually executing.
In fact, Brown knows that a coach has to be able to trust his guys because, as Fox described, there comes a moment where the coach can’t fix everything and it’s on the players to utilize the lessons learned in order to execute.
So making adjustments and cleaning up mistakes in-game is key. But also, avoiding such sloppy play from the start would help, too.
Either way, the players have to keep substantiating their coach’s trust in them.
Keegan Murray’s return
One can’t help wonder about the fact that the Kings’ worst performance of the preseason (which, honestly doesn’t say everything) happened to coincide with the absence of rookie Keegan Murray.
While it’s probably imprudent to say that the Kings success depends solely on whether Keegan Murray is playing or not, it’s not in any way crazy to say that Murray definitely makes his team a lot better. In fact, he may be one of the best players on this team.
In two preseason games, Murray’s looked comfortable, fitting right in wherever he is. Plus, he hit 12 of 17 field goal attempts, which includes his 7 of 10 from beyond the arc. To add to that, he’s grabbed 9 rebounds and posted 4 steals in those pair of games.
Again, maybe the Kings don’t live and die by Keegan Murray, but he’ll be a huge factor for any success this season.
Keep an eye on how he and his team looks with the rookie returning to the floor again.
Richaun Holmes after a two-game absence
The other returning player is Richaun Holmes, who missed the previous two games with an illness.
Holmes is admittedly one of the more talented players on the team and one of the better centers in the league. How well he can mesh with the other guys as the second center will be something that plays itself out, but his abilities don’t raise too much concern.
His athleticism to run the floor, move on defense, and serve as a springy roll man on offense will make him a valuable piece to the second unit and the team’s overall energy level.
However, after two missed games and following some nice moments from Alex Len, can Holmes pick up where he left off in terms of progress.
There’s no reason he shouldn’t be, but with the season right around the corner, it will be important that Holmes starts kicking his comfort level and impact into gear.
Can Malik Monk find his groove?
After practice on Thursday, De’Aaron Fox appraised his team as being “almost there” and “almost ready.” And for the most part, the point guard is correct.
One guy, however, that seems to be still working his way into finding his groove is Malik Monk.
Snagging the adept scorer was a great move by Monte McNair this offseason (as well as a nice display of recruiting by Fox), but in three preseason games Monk has not looked great. So far, he’s just 8 for 29 from the field, including shooting 3 of 17 from three range. He’s also had consistent miscues on the defensive end.
Monk’s not in danger of losing what will be an important off the bench role. It’s still ridiculously early. But if the team is “almost there,” and if this team is going to make a splash from opening night onward, having Monk playing well will make things all the more easier.
Look out to see if Monk can close out the preseason strong.