Kings' veteran frontcourt buoying struggling young guards

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Kings' veteran frontcourt buoying struggling young guards originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Three of the Kings' past four lottery draft picks have been spent on guards, and the backcourt was expected to be the backbone of Sacramento's roster this season. Through the first few weeks, however, it has been the veterans in the frontcourt who have kept the Kings afloat.

The potential of a three-guard lineup with De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell was one of the main storylines of camp. With Fox entering Year 5, Haliburton coming off a very strong rookie season and Mitchell looking to be one of the most NBA-ready rookies, the possibilities were tantalizing for coach Luke Walton.

But as Fox continues to struggle and Mitchell learns the intricacies of an NBA system, it has been Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes who have shined over the first six games.

Barnes was thought of as a potential trade candidate for a contending team going into the 2021-22 campaign but instead is off to the best start of his 10-year NBA career.

The 29-year-old is averaging 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range, all of which would be career-highs over a full season.

Barnes also has been clutch, drilling this buzzer-beater to beat the reigning Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns on the road.

Although it was not in a winning effort, Barnes' defense on MVP candidate Luka Doncic in the Kings' loss to the Dallas Mavericks also stood out. In just over five minutes covering Doncic 1-on-1, the young star was just 1-for-7 from the field, and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. Luka did have five assists, but he also turned the ball over three times.

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Holmes has been the real star for the Kings through six games. The big man has an outstanding 29.4 PER, and ranks sixth in the NBA with a 73.2 effective field goal percentage.

Holmes is averaging a career-high 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds so far, and has helped tremendously with the Kings' interior defense that struggled to stop anyone a season ago.

Holmes and Haliburton spoke about their "special" connection after the win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and that has been on display throughout the past two seasons they have shared a sideline. 

Coach Walton also shouted out Tristan Thompson and Alex Len for their contributions off the bench, as the two big men have played valuable minutes in the frontcourt when Holmes needs a breather.

No one doubts that Fox will find his groove and Mitchell will round out his offensive skill set and translate his talents to the NBA on that end, but Walton has to appreciate how well Barnes and Holmes have played as the team's veteran starters.

If the guards can play to the level the Kings expect and the frontcourt continues to perform the way it has, a long-awaited playoff berth is far from out of the question.