Five takeaways from Kings’ first 10 games of 2022-23 NBA season

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Five takeaways from Kings’ first 10 games this season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Kings have played 10 basketball games. That’s just 12.2 percent of the regular season’s 82-game marathon, but also a big enough sample size where some trends can be separated from mirages.

The team has been far from perfect, but overall? So far, so good.

Sacramento fans sounded the alarm after a disappointing 0-4 start to the season. But the Kings have lit the Golden 1 Center victory beam four times in their last six games and sit at 4-6 through 10 contests.

It’s too early to lose sleep over the Western Conference standings. At this time, what’s most important is Sacramento competing down the stretch in nearly every game and, frankly, being entertaining to watch and follow.

Let’s get these five takeaways off the runway. As new coach Mike Brown would say, turn the f–king jets on.

All-Star Fox

De’Aaron Fox isn’t messing around. He dropped 33 points on opening night and hasn’t looked back.

Take out those nine minutes Fox played in Charlotte before leaving with an injury, and he’s averaging 27.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Fox is shooting 53.5 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from 3-point range.

Fox has poured in at least 26 points in six of nine games, and at least 33 points three times.

But his dominance is more than the simple per-game numbers.

It’s the offensive efficiency. While his usage (32.2 percent) has remained consistent compared to the rest of his career, Fox has notched a 58.8 percent effective field-goal percentage and is scoring a career-best 126.8 points per 100 possessions. (His previous best marks: 52.3 percent and 113.3 in 2020-21.)

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It’s also obvious Fox is more engaged on the defensive side of the court. He’s making stops, chasing down loose balls and affecting the flow of opposing offenses with his speed. Fox also is ranked in the 85th percentile among NBA point guards in rebounding, grabbing 14.3 percent of boards when he’s on the floor.

It’s never too early to start building Fox’s case to become the Kings’ first All-Star since 2017.

Moments like this should help the cause:

Keegan is human

Kings rookie Keegan Murray’s career got off to what felt like a perfect start. Murray tallied 19, 16, 18 and 22 points while nailing at least three 3-pointers in his first four contests.

The next four games, however, the rookie hit his first career speed bump.

The shots simply stopped falling. He struggled to find the rack and averaged 7.0 points on 31.4 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from deep in that span.

But as Murray has shown throughout his short Kings tenure, he’s able to shrug off adversity like a grizzled 10-year NBA vet.

In his ninth professional game – the Kings’ 127-120 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday — Murray got back on track with four 3-pointers and 14 points.

On the other side of the floor, Murray has been thrown into the fire. And he’s surviving. Tasked with guarding the likes of superstars Paul George, Steph Curry and his latest challenge, Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell, Murray mostly has held his own.

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“He played pretty well tonight,” Mitchell said of the rookie Wednesday night. “He took the challenge to try to guard me tonight, and I respect that. When he gets unlocked and gets more NBA experience, it’s going to take [the Kings] to a higher level.”

Red-hot Red Velvet

Kings general manager Monte McNair trading Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless and a first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks is looking like the steal of the offseason.

Huerter has proven to be much more than the advertised catch-and-shoot sniper, although his perimeter prosperity has transformed the Kings’ offense.

Huerter is shooting an incredible 50.7 percent from downtown on 7.3 attempts per game. Only five NBA players have notched more games with at least four made treys this season.

He already has put together four games with at least 20 points, nearly half of his total last season with the Hawks (10). Additionally, the Kings have a team-high improvement of plus-18.5 net rating when Huerter is on the floor.

Simply put? Sacramento is better when “Headband Huerter” is in the game.

Monk has arrived

Brought in to be a spark plug off Mike Brown’s bench, Monk took his time to get rolling.

Over the first six games of the season, Monk was averaging just 8.3 points on 34.7 percent shooting from the floor. He played 15 or fewer minutes in four of those contests.

But in the last four games, Monk has been unleashed. Seeing 27.1 minutes of action, he has notched 18.0 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.

The Kings’ depth on the roster has been lackluster at times, but their offensive attack will be feared if Monk stays hot — especially if he’s sharing the floor with an old college teammate.

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Last Two Minute Report champs

Telling the story of the first 10 games would be incomplete without mentioning Kings fans’ four least-favorite words: Last Two Minute Report.

Sacramento has been on the wrong end of two crucial missed calls in the closing seconds of two losses.

The first: Tyer Herro’s game-winning 3-pointer should have been wiped off due to a traveling violation. Kings lose in Miami, 110-107.

The second: Klay Thompson fouled Kevin Huerter on a potential game-tying triple as time expired. Kings lose to the Warriors, 116-113.

On the day after both losses, the NBA confirmed both calls should have been made, leaving Kings fans even more frustrated.

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“It hurts me to say this, but yes,” Huerter said Wednesday on Sactown Sports 1140 AM when asked if he has observed a difference in how Kings games are officiated. “Honestly. That is something that within the first [nine] games has been noticeable.

“I won’t say which teammates, but a couple of teammates that have been here said, ‘Things are different here in Sac,’ ” Huerter said. “We don’t get many calls. You’re going to realize in every game that things are different, and honestly it is something I’ve felt so far.”

In a year where the Western Conference is as competitive as ever — heck, the “tanking” Utah Jazz sit atop the standings with a 10-3 record — every win is meaningful.

Let the “ref you suck!” chants live on at Golden 1 Center.

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