Can Jeffries provide defensive spark struggling Kings need? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Winning cures all. Losing…well, it does something much different.
The Sacramento Kings aren’t splintering apart during their current seven game skid, but the trajectory of the team may have changed as this team leads up to the NBA’s March 25 trade deadline.
You aren’t a buyer when you fall out of playoff contention 30 games into a season. In fact, the Kings’ sudden downturn likely makes them a seller.
With their seventh straight loss, a 128-115 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, it might be time to make some honest assessments about who is a long term fit for this franchise and react accordingly on the open market.
If the Kings blow it up and even if they don’t, one of the players that might be able to pick up some of the slack is DaQuan Jeffries. The former Tulsa star missed the first 24 games of the season but is now healthy and making an impact.
The 23-year-old is a player on a budget salary that is starting to show that he might be able to hold down a larger role if the team decides it’s time to tear down the roster. If nothing else, he is proving something the Kings desperately need — a defender that can slow someone down.
“We definitely miss Quan,” Richaun Holmes said. “We understand what he brings to this team — toughness on the defensive side or the ball is definitely something he brings. He’s a vital part of this team and I’m glad to have him back.”
For a team like the Kings, who have plenty of offensive weapons, Jeffries might be a perfect role player to move forward with. He is showing that he is capable of potentially starting or at least coming off the bench as an early sub. He’s also on an affordable two-year contract that pays $1.4 million this season with a team option at $1.7 million next year.
At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Jeffries is a no nonsense, positionless player that can defend four spots on the court. During his time recovering from injury, he concentrated on cleaning up his 3-point stroke and now he looks like the type of 3-and-D wing the Kings have been searching for.
Against the Bucks, Jeffries was asked to defend both Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The numbers tell one story, but despite the Kings giving up a combined 70 to the duo, Jeffries held his own.
“He just plays with an edge and a toughness that we saw last year and we were kinda excited to get back this year,” coach Luke Walton said. “He had a very challenging night. We had him on Middleton who’s an All-Star and Giannis, who’s the MVP, and you see him, he doesn’t back down.”
Jeffries finished with career-highs across the board, including minutes played (40), points (18) and rebounds (six). Like the rest of the rotation, Jeffries played major minutes against the Bulls the night before, but that didn’t stop Walton from just leaving him out there.
“These last few games, I felt a lot more comfortable out there,” Jeffries said. “It just comes from watching film.”
It’s no secret that the Kings are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They’ve allowed 118 points or more in each of their seven straight losses and they need someone to step up and put a body on a man.
There isn’t some magic pill that will fix Sacramento’s defensive woes, but Jeffries would likely help some of the issues. He can stay in front of his man and at least reduce the volume of straight line drives that continue to plague the Kings and get their big men in foul trouble.
With the recent struggles of the team and the uncertainty with the roster moving forward, Jeffries is the type of versatile player the Kings need. He has the ability to switch onto multiple positions and plays with a toughness, physicality and mentality the Kings are currently lacking.
During his time as the coach of the Kings, Walton has shown that he isn’t afraid to mix things up and try something new. Turning to Jeffries on a more permanent basis might seem like a stretch for an undrafted second-year player with 19 career games under his belt, but if he can take some of the pressure off of De’Aaron Fox on the defensive end and allow Walton to better balance his rotation, then it might be worth a shot.
It should be an interesting stretch for the Kings. They still have time to turn their season around, but they have started to show signs of letting go of the rope. If nothing else, it’s time to start exploring some of the players hiding on the bench that might have something more to offer. Jeffries is different than any other player the Kings have and it might be time to see what he can do.