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Kings arrive in Brooklyn for matinee with Nets

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Sacramento Kings v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Happy Martin Luther King Day. Honor his memory today!

I think, at this point, we can declare the 2018-19 Brooklyn Nets a Good Basketball Team. Not streaky, not bad, not OK, not just hot for a minute (although they’re scorching right now). No. They’re good. They won’t play this well all season, I mean they did have to squeak out a win against the Orlando Magic, but it is generally expected around the NBA that the Nets will make the playoffs in some capacity. And that, my friends, is awesome.

“I think we’re finally playing Brooklyn Nets basketball,” DeMarre Carroll said Sunday after practice. “The unselfish basketball, helping one another, not caring who gets the glory type of basketball. That’s what [general manager] Sean Marks built this team on, and I think that’s what we’re doing. A lot of guys don’t care who gets the glory. Everybody just wants to win, and that’s the ultimate goal.”

Another surprisingly fun team, the Sacramento Kings, are coming to Brooklyn on Monday for the first matchup of the season. The Kings are 24-22 compared to the Nets 24-23, but Sacramento is on the outside looking in at the playoff picture right now since they’re in the that Western Conference. Regardless, this should be a fun matchup between two young upstart teams just beginning to make names for themselves throughout the league. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN have this one early at 3:30 pm, ET. Got it? 3:30 p.m., in the afternoon.

Injuries

Caris LeVert (foot), Jared Dudley (hamstring), Allen Crabbe (knee) and Dzanan Musa (shoulder) are still hurt, but Kenny Atkinson gave somewhat of an optimistic outlook.

And of course, Kenneth Faried has been waived. That would mean, counting the Nets two-way players, only 12 players will be available Monday.

The Kings are healthy.

The Game

I guess we gotta talk about D’Angelo Russell first, right? The guy went from being cast out of L.A. to being waylaid by injuries in his first year in Brooklyn to becoming an All Star this season. His performance against Orlando was a masterclass in taking over a game. 40 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover. Crazy.

And of course, it isn’t just one game. For the month of January —nine games— DLo is averaging 23.2 points and 7.4 assists while piling up his shooting averages. For the month, he reached the 50/40/90 goal of every shooter. Specifically, he was 50.3 percent overall, 43.8 percent from three and 92.9 percent from the free throw line, which admittedly is rare. I’ve been sort of needling DLo and Spencer Dinwiddie this season for not being able to perform well on the same night, but in Orlando they were able to finally shut me up and work together as the tandem they’re going to need to be if this team wants to make noise the rest of the season and potentially into the playoffs. Dinwiddie dropped 20 and both of the Nets point guards hit dagger threes at the end of the game. Marvelous performance, and on the road no less!

Sacramento has a great young point guard of their own in De’Aaron Fox, who is breaking out this year to the tune of 17.6 points and 7.3 assists per game with 1.8 steals and 46% shooting from the floor. He might be the fastest player in the league with the ball in his hands, and he creates shots for his teammates running downhill towards the basket at lightning speed, collapsing the opposing defense. Around him are perimeter shooters Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica, Iman Shumpert, and Justin Jackson, all of whom make over one three per game on average.

If De’Aaron Fox is their D’Angelo Russell comparison, then Buddy Hield can be their Caris LeVert. A little older because he stayed in college, Hield took a minute to develop first with the Pelicans and then with the Kings after he came over in the Boogie trade. This season he seems to have figured it out which isn’t very surprising considering his skill set always seemed like it would translate to the NBA. Plus, he just seems to be a hardworking kid. Talent and hardwork are a dangerous combination, just ask Sean Marks or Kenny Atkinson who have built their team on that combination.

Hield is putting up 20.5 points per game while shooting a really great 45% from three which is good for 4th in the league, just one spot behind Joe Harris. He gets a ton of space to shoot in their offense and has the green light to let it fly, he takes 7.4 threes per game.

The Kings are 6th in the league in scoring with 114 points per game but they have the 21st ranked Net Rating largely due to their defensive inefficiencies. They’re very similar to Brooklyn in this regard, who has the 13th best Offensive Rating but the 21st ranked Defensive Rating. The Nets are just a tick better at defense though, allowing 112 points per game compared to the Kings 115.1 mark.

The Kings are going to run a lot and shoot a lot and if they get hot. The Nets are going to have to counter with a three-point barrage of their own, which shouldn’t be too difficult considering at this point almost every single rotation player is some sort of three point shooter. With Jared Dudley out and Rondae playing limited minutes until he’s fully healthy, the only other guys who play and aren’t generally considered to be perimeter shooters are Ed Davis and Jarrett Allen. Everyone else like DeMarre Carroll, Shabazz Napier, Rodions Kurucs, Treveon Graham, and Joe Harris, are all at least threats from the outside and I can’t imagine Kenny is too upset having all of those tools to work with.

Player To Watch

A little while ago I promised this section would be about Marvin Bagley III and guess what, I’m following through on that promise. The Kings, who always seem to be just a little bit more confused than the rest of the teams in the league, went ahead and chose Marvin Bagley III with the second pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Why? Probably because they thought or think that he’ll be really good and worth the pick. Were they right? Maybe, who knows. Should they have taken Luka instead? Yes, absolutely. I’ve been driving this point home all season because Luka was a slam dunk in every single category you could ever want as a prospect in a draft that didn’t have that clear of a No. 1 pick and even less obvious from 2 through 5 choices. The problem was that he was European and front offices likely didn’t trust their evaluations of him in a league where they might be less familiar than college basketball.

Bagley, who is fine, is averaging 12.5 points in 23.1 minutes per game, and is pulling down 6.3 boards in his limited action this season. He missed some due to injury, so we don’t entirely know what he’s really like as an NBA player yet, but he can hit a three every once in a while and has a shot at being a pretty good big man in the league. He’s also a lefty which is always kind of fun. He is, however, not Luka.

From The Vault

Hope everyone has a great start to their week! January is cold and dark and one of our less-fun months. Here’s something to brighten your day.

Enjoy.

For that different perspective you crave, head on over to Sactown Royalty, our Kings sister site on SB Nation.