Final Grades: Sacramento’s Bench

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 13: Malik Monk #0, Trey Lyles #41, and Chimezie Metu #7 of the Sacramento Kings look on during the game against the Houston Rockets on January 13, 2023 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in a while, the assessment of this past Kings season feels permeated by positive feelings. A significant reason why had to do with the overall depth of the roster, which led to big contributions from the bench.

Just as was done for the five members of the starting lineup, here are the final grades for all of Sacramento’s reserves. 

As noted before, these grades are based on each player’s specific role and individual expectations, not on overall value or rating. Taking into account both the grades for the pre-all star break period as well as a grade for the “second half” (i.e. the post-all star/playoff segment), an overall one can then be assigned.

Here are the final grades for the bench.

Davion Mitchell’s final grade: B

Season: 5.6 PPG (.454/.320/.806) 1.3 RPG 2.3 APG in 80 games (18.1 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 5.8 PPG (.475/.323/.833) 1.1 RPG 2.8 APG in 24 games (18.7 minutes per)

Playoffs: 7.1 PPG (.413/.259/.833) 1.3 RPG 1.7 APG in 7 games (20.0 minutes per)

First half grade: C

Second half/playoffs grade: A-

Davion Mitchell’s first half seemed to be encapsulated in his spot start in early February in Indiana where his offensive passivity was glaring. He had just 5 field goal attempts, 4 of which came from deep, with just a single assist.

A lack of aggression not only meant that Mitchell was unable to score, but it also translated to an inability to be a complementary part of the offense in other ways. Thinking about assist totals, a lot of that may have been ceded to Malik Monk, complementing that by utilizing quick drives to the basket led to even better half court pace and ball movement.

Whatever inhibited the former NCAA champ throughout the first part of the season seemed to dissipate past the all star break as he looked far more comfortable in his role as a backup point guard. His defense continued to be elite, but with a stronger predisposition to recognize his own offensive strengths, Mitchell was able to up his assist total (2.1 to 2.8) and offensive rating (112.2 to 119.4) in the period following the break.

He always played excellent defense and took the open three’s that fell in his lap, but his increased propensity to drive and be aggressive—again, not just for himself, but for his teammates—translated to a Davion Mitchell who appeared to be thriving in his specific role.

And in the playoffs, he earned wide recognition for his defense as he made a discernible impact on the series and on Steph Curry, and to such a satisfactory degree that the fact he played just 8 minutes in game seven likely still boggles minds.

At the end of the day, Davion Mitchell overcame the indecision seen earlier in the season to have a really nice “second half” that should set him up for a more complete year three, especially if he can improve his shooting, which is a major priority for him.

Malik Monk’s final grade: A-

Season: 13.5 PPG (.448/.359/.889) 2.6 RPG 3.9 APG in 77 games (22.3 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 13.7 PPG (.462/.427/.841) 2.7 RPG 3.9 APG in 23 games (21.8 minutes per)

Playoffs: 19.0 PPG (.409/.333/.898) 5.4 RPG 3.6 APG in 7 games (29.3 minutes per)

First half grade: B

Second half/playoffs grade: A-

To start the year, it was clear that Malik Monk was Sacramento’s sixth man. More than scoring, he exhibited excellent facilitation abilities and demonstrated that he was not a chump on the defensive end. Even still, there were some issues of consistency, especially in the offensive department, which is viewed as his specialty.

His 3.9 assists per game remained consistent and he continued to buy into Mike Brown’s defense, but the second half featured stark contrasts in his field goal percentage (44.3% to 46.2%) and three-point percentage (32.8% to 42.7%). Plus, his turnovers per game fell below 2.0 after sitting at that threshold in the “first half.” Really, the only drop off was in his free throw percentage.

Perhaps it was due to the fact the post-break period is significantly shorter than that leading up to the break, but Monk was far more consistent. And in the playoffs, his impact made him the second best Kings player in the series, and one of the best out of the two teams.

From his historic debut where he scored 32 points to his difference-making impact as a playmaker (especially when the floor opened up) painted a nice effort in that seven game series. His game three—like many on the Kings—was not good and at times he did fish for calls at various points, particularly in game five, but overall his playoff showing was a pleasant sight. 

The “second half” continued to show how great Malik Monk is as well as how much better he can be next year if the consistency factor is better.

Trey Lyles’ final grade: A-

Season: 7.6 PPG (.458/.363/.815) 4.1 RPG 0.9 APG in 74 games (16.9 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 8.4 PPG (.441/.360/.800) 5.0 RPG 1.0 APG in 23 games (13.7 minutes per)

Playoffs: 6.6 PPG (.425/.333/.600) 5.7 RPG 0.7 APG in 7 games (16.8 minutes per)

First half grade: A-

Second half/playoffs grade: A-

Looking at the roster, Trey Lyles is not the best offensive player off the bench, nor is he the best defender, but as a plus contributor on both ends of the floor, he was the most consistent bench player all season for Mike Brown.

He continued being a great rebounder who always gets his body on someone to box them out and he kept up his strong team defense. In spite of a shoulder injury that sidelined him momentarily in March, he continued shooting from beyond the arc and at a consistent rate, remaining above the 36% threshold.

More than anything, he kept showing how high of a basketball IQ he has, always finding a way to make a positive impact without forcing things.

In the playoffs, he started things off with an excellent game one showing off the bench and his versatility as a small ball 5—as it did at a few points in the regular season—made a massive difference in game six, putting the team in a solid position to win the series.

Trey Lyles, start to finish, simply put together a great year, proving to be one of the most reliable reserves on the team, and as a result, many are clamoring for him to be back next season, something the player himself wishes for as well.

Kessler Edwards’ final grade: A-

Season: 3.9 PPG (.435/.349/.769) 2.1 RPG 1.0 APG in 22 games w/ SAC (13.9 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 4.0 PPG (.441/.357/.769) 2.2 RPG 0.9 APG in 21 games (14.1 minutes per)

Playoffs: 1.2 minutes per in 6 appearances

First half grade: Incomplete

Second half/playoffs grade: A-

When Sacramento’s only trade deadline move was acquiring Kessler Edwards, those around the league and even Kings fans saw it as a dangerously resigned approach from the front office. 

Fast forward to the end of the regular season and not only did the Kings maintain their place behind Denver and Memphis in the West, but Kessler Edwards established himself as a rotational player for Mike Brown. The low risk, high reward nature of the Edwards acquisition appeared to fully manifest itself.

In the final game before the all star break, Edwards made his first appearance for the Kings against the Suns. Even as Sac lost that contest, Edwards’ 10 minutes was a sign that he may be seen more in the “second half” as a defensive asset. 

After the break, he saw just 3 minutes in the first five games, but then, against the Timberwolves, he got a chance, and from there, Mike Brown never looked back. Edwards provided exactly what coach Brown was looking for in terms of guarding players like Anthony Edwards, and as a result, the newcomer was a staple in the rotation for the remainder of the regular season.

In that time, he continued being an admirable defensive presence, one that could be thrown at some of the best offensive players in the league. On offense, he fit in, understanding his role and the importance of spacing, and he also hit just under 36% of his looks from deep.

Edwards was not used in a meaningful or extensive manner in the payoffs, but his close to the season solidified the likelihood that he can be a rotational contributor next year as a nice complement to a strong core. In no way is it likely that the Kings don’t pick up the club option on his contract.

Terence Davis’ final grade: B

Season: 6.7 PPG (.423/.366/.791) 2.2 RPG 1.0 APG in 64 games (13.1 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 5.9 PPG (.383/.377/.538) 1.6 RPG 0.6 APG in 20 games (11.7 minutes per)

Playoffs: 6.0 PPG (.400/.353/1.000) 2.3 RPG 1.5 APG in 4 games (14.4 minutes per)

First half grade: B+

Second half/playoffs grade: B-

In the final nine games before entering the all star break, Terence Davis played in all of them, averaging 9.7 points on 42.5% from three in 17.9 minutes per. He continued making a similar impact in the first few contests following the week-plus intermission.

However, with Kessler Edwards making a much needed difference that slid him into the rotation, the opportunities were not as voluminous for Davis as he averaged under 7 minutes in appearances he did make throughout the first part of March.

Then an opportunity arose with a minor injury to Kevin Huerter. With that, it became important for Davis not only to stay ready—something he ended up doing at so many different moments this season—but also to persevere. In the absence of Huerter, Davis typically got the spot start, but this time it went to Edwards for the follow up game in Washington, yet that did not stop the offensive-minded guard from putting up a 21-point game.

Still, his place in the rotation was not strong, but in the playoffs, he played a considerable part in game six because of his floor-stretching abilities as the Kings decided to go small. On top of that, he provided a gritty defensive effort to try and bother Curry. 

In game seven, Brown went with him again, which, as noted, kept Davion Mitchell off the floor. His impact was not as strong and thus did not do a good job of disguising the fact Mitchell saw just 8 minutes of play time, but Davis nonetheless relished the opportunity, putting forth an admirable effort.

Even if fans didn’t want to see him as much in game seven, Davis’ job is to give it his all whenever he’s out there, and he did that.

Sitting behind Huerter and Malik Monk on the depth chart of shooting guards not only made Davis a surplus value, it also made it harder for him to stand out. Still, he always remained ready, bringing good energy and attitude to the court whenever the opportunity arose. He did about as well as anyone could have asked.

With his two-year contract coming to an end, it’s likely some other team with less depth at guard will recognize his value and give him a chance as a free agent to be an impactful rotational piece.

Alex Len’s final grade: A-

Season: 1.7 PPG (.533/.000/.688) 2.3 RPG 0.5 APG in 26 games (6.2 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 2.3 PPG (.550/.000/.667) 3.5 RPG 0.5 APG in 13 games (8.9 minutes per)

Playoffs: 2.7 PPG (.778/.000/.833) 2.9 RPG 0.1 APG in 7 games (7.8 minutes per)

First half grade: D+ (removed from permanent record)

Second half/playoffs grade: A

At the all star break, Alex Len had barely seen the floor and he certainly never had a chance to hold the backup center role. The impression was that the coaching staff did not see him as a playable asset, which earned him a D+. However, that’s since been thrown out.

In the final 8 games of the regular season, Len finally got a shot at the job, and he was great. Though 8 games seems minute in the shadow of an 82-game season, it was by far the best and most consistent stretch of time for anyone that assumed that job.

Len provided size without being a clunky caboose. His combination of physical assets and mobility made him a great defender (he recorded a 92.6 rating on that end in those final 8), a valuable rebounder, and a worthy roll-man or dump off target on offense. He embraced the role, doing as his head coach wanted in providing high effort and energy in the short amount of time per half that was necessary to relieve Sabonis.

Up until going small was the adjustment in the playoffs, Len was also pretty solid in those first couple contests against Golden State in spite of questions as to whether he’d matchup well.

Simply put, in the short time he had it, Alex Len was the best backup 5 all season, which was a role that carried with it a lot of questions throughout the year. Whether or not they bring the soon to be 30-year old back next season remains unclear, but his close to 2022-23 gave the front office—both of Sacramento and perhaps others around the league—something to chew on.

Matthew Dellavedova’s final grade: A

Season: 1.5 PPG (.340/.333/.571) 0.4 RPG 1.3 APG in 32 games (6.6 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 1.8 PPG (.278/.250/.500) 0.6 RPG 1.0 APG in 8 games (8.4 minutes per)

Playoffs: DNP (injured)

First half grade: B+

Second half/playoffs grade: A-

Only 8 games played and a broken finger don’t usually paint the picture of an A- grade, but Matthew Dellavedova is a special case. 

With the fortunate health of De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, Dellavedova’s play was hardly necessary to close the season. He definitely would have gotten some tread later on had it not been for the injury he sustained the night Sacramento clinched a playoff spot, but throughout the season, one of his impacts has been as an extension of the coaching staff. He’s always vocal, always encouraging, and always talking to different coaches and players.

The story of how he spoke to Terence Davis on the team plane while flying to Washington DC amid a stretch where Davis was not seeing the floor a whole lot and who had just seen a total of 8 minutes in a game where Kevin Huerter went down early with a leg injury. 

Following that conversation up, Davis went off for 21 points on 5 of 7 from three against the Wizards off the bench. 

Adding to the essence of Dellavedova’s impact, in what typically would have been a spot start with Huerter’s absence, Kessler Edwards—who’d, as noted, gained considerable favorability in February and March—got the start. Having that kind of game in light of all that was a sign of major confidence, and a champ like Matthew Dellavedova played a noteworthy role in that.

Overall, being what essentially amounts to a uniformed coach, he deserves an A overall, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll assume that role again next season on another minimum deal or just fill in a spot on the coaching staff. 

Chimezie Metu’s final grade: C

Season: 4.9 PPG (.589/.237/.740) 3.0 RPG 0.6 APG in 66 games (10.4 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 4.6 PPG (.551/.143/.667) 3.0 RPG 0.4 APG in 22 games (9.7 minutes per)

Playoffs: 2.0 minutes per in 3 games

First half grade: C+

Second half/playoffs grade: C-

Alex Len was the best backup center featured all season, but Chimezie Metu was behind him. While that really doesn’t say a whole lot, it is important to remember what the expectations for Metu coming into this season as a guy seemingly buried on the depth chart. In the face of that, his contributions were surprising, earning him that C+ grade in the first half.

After losing the job in December, Metu regained it a few weeks later in January and entered the all star break as an inconsistent backup 5 that was, to his credit, sometimes very valuable as a small, athletic center. But he lost the job after 16 games that featured a fair amount of overly ambitious play from Metu. In the final 7 of that 16 game period, Metu was hitting just 50% of his looks from the field, well below the league average for centers and far too poor for a guy who gets most of his points from alley-oop’s, cuts, and dump offs.

Worse, he was mixing it up with the wrong kind of hesitancy. To end last season, Metu closed out the year shooting above 38% from deep in the final 10 games. It was thought that if he could establish that stretch-big factor, he’d earn his spot in this league, but not only did he fail to hit three’s this season, he began to shy away from even the most open opportunities.

Mike Brown notes “no hesi’s” as a prominent offensive principle. It means no hesitation. Or often one will hear him say “let that thing fly.” But Metu completely avoided that step, putting forth an odd combination of too much confidence mixed with a deficiency in confidence.

If the Kings bring him back next season to round out the back end of the roster, it’ll be imperative that Chimezie Metu get his mind right as to who he is and who he needs to be in this league; he’s shown flashes of adequate play, but that does not include his time down the stretch this season, something that kept him off the floor in the postseason.

Richaun Holmes’ final grade: Incomplete

Season: 3.1 PPG (.618/.625/.789) 1.9 RPG 0.2 APG in 42 games (8.3 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 2.3 PPG (.400/.500/.750) 1.0 RPG 0.4 APG in 9 games (5.1 minutes per)

Playoffs: DNP

First half grade: D-

Second half/playoffs grade: Incomplete

Richaun Holmes’ D- for the first half stands as he was a major let down as a backup center as a guy who never looked at all convincing in that role. However, with that being said, it’s becoming clear that this is just a lost season for the former starter, earning him an incomplete for the second half—where he played just 46 minutes—and thus for the season overall.

The main factor is the off-court issues. After Holmes had a double-double in a January spot start in LA, Brown highlighted the matters in his personal life as a considerable burden, which was the first such instance all season. 

Amid a quiet second half minutes-wise for Holmes, it was reported in early March that Holmes was filing a defamation lawsuit against The Sacramento Bee and the opinion writer who penned a few pieces upholding what ended up being unsubstantiated claims by Holmes’ ex-wife.

In all, the season just seemed entirely lost after a certain point as it pertained to Richaun Holmes and it’s hard to assign him any grade at all.

Still, it won’t be a cake walk to move the center’s contract this offseason, which is a vital task for the Kings. Also, it’s currently unclear what he’ll provide for a team next season due to the past one-plus seasons being lost ones. 

PJ Dozier’s final grade: C

Season: 1.4 PPG (.303/.125/.000) 0.9 RPG 0.6 APG in 16 games (5.0 minutes per)

Post-All Star: 1.4 PPG (.267/.071/.000) 1.0 RPG 0.8 APG in 12 games (5.8 minutes per)

Playoffs: 2.0 minutes per in 3 games

First half grade: none

Second half/playoffs grade: C

Pretty much the forgotten man, PJ Dozier signed an official deal to become a member of the Kings shortly after the team returned from the all star break and following the conclusion of KZ Okpala’s time on the team. He’d had a pair of 10-day deals in January.

Prior to Kessler Edwards’ ascendance, Dozier actually had the first go at potentially filling the role that Edwards ended up assuming. In a game up in Minnesota in early March, Dozier’s number was called first as an “in-game adjustment” to counter both Sacramento’s lack of ball pressure and the play of Anthony Edwards.

However, Dozier took some poor shots, both of which he missed, earning him an early hook. Though his length and defense is there, after that—and moreover, after Kessler Edwards began to shine—there was little expectation that Dozier would be seen again in any significant role, and he wasn’t. 

While it may not be worth much, in light of Dellavedova’s injury, Dozier had to step into point guard duties in games number-81 and 82 where the primary rotation guys either rested or went out on the floor for a slight amount of time. And in those games—as meaningless as they were with the third seed locked up—he looked okay, at least as a facilitator, but his shots still didn’t fall.

Dozier has a non-guranteed deal for next season, what the Kings choose to do remains to be seen.

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