On Saturday night, the Sacramento Kings have a chance to hit 40 wins for the first time since 2005-06 — also the last time they made the playoffs — and fulfill the prophecy from the superfans in this summer's viral video:
Tonight the Sacramento Kings go for 40 wins 👀 pic.twitter.com/OgvlPN1MeC— Cameron Salerno (@cameronsalerno1) March 11, 2023
The Kings are the feel-good team of the NBA season. De'Aaron Fox deserves the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award. Domantas Sabonis has silenced doubts about last year's blockbuster trade. Sacramento has the top scoring offense in the league, and the best team True Shooting percentage in league history.
As a team, the Sacramento Kings boast a 61.4 True Shooting percentage.— BasketballNews.com (@basketbllnews) March 11, 2023
That would go down as the highest True Shooting percentage of any team in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/dEW1GaPAZa
Fox and Sabonis seem to finally be receiving appropriate national recognition. Impact rookie Keegan Murray and Sixth-Man-of-the-Year dark horse Malik Monk still deserve more praise. But I'd like to spotlight two low-usage wings who have flown particularly under the radar in the Kings' 39-26 season. Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles might not create highlights at the same rate as Sacramento's stars, but they have each enjoyed a career-year and been critical to the franchise's 7-1 surge since the All-Star break.
Barnes is registering the lowest three-point percentage (37.1%) of his five seasons in Sacramento, yet he's still a key cog in the offense. Since the break, he's slumped to 34.4% from distance but is making an impressive 59.1% of his twos. His 55.9% two-point clip this season is the second-best of his NBA career.
With guys like Fox, Sabonis, Monk and Kevin Huerter doing most of the table-setting, Barnes' buckets are getting a bit easier. Approximately 71.7% of his made shots are coming via an assist, which is the highest since his 2015-16 season as a role-player on the Golden State Warriors.
According to PBP Stats, Barnes in on pace to approach his career-high of 206 paint touches in a season (he's at 170 right now). This year, he's crushing it with those touches, averaging over one point per paint touch for the first time in his career.
Harrison Barnes with the slam!#BeamTeam #NBApic.twitter.com/MotBc69u6U— NBA Highlights (@NBATransaction7) March 7, 2023
Plays like this catch-and-drive highlight Barnes' syngergy with Sabonis, who can draw in defenses and make the right kick-out plays. It's important that Barnes can use his length, long strides and touch to then attack space instead of settling because it often leads to higher-quality shots or extra-pass opportunities.
This cutting score is largely a lapse by the Los Angeles Clippers' defense, but it still shows how Barnes has the freedom and wherewithal to attack space without the ball. He knows Sabonis can see the court and make these high-low feeds to cutters, so it gives Barnes confidence to move with purpose.
Barnes has also picked up a sneaky skill in the last two seasons: getting calls. He's been fouled on over 19% of his shot attempts in back-to-back seaons, placing him among the top 3% of all forwards, per Cleaning the Glass. Those additional free throws are a nice boost since, historically, Barnes has been reliable at the charity stripe.
Eventually, the 6-foot-8 wing will return to the upper echelon of perimeter threats too. He's making just 36.7% of his catch-and-shoot threes this year after shooting over 42% in the prior two seasons. With Sacramento's arsenal of creators and playmakers, Barnes will keep getting open looks to cash.