The Sacramento Kings have been the laughingstock of the NBA for nearly two decades. With their last playoff appearance coming in the 2005-06 season, Kings fans have had little to celebrate over the last 16 seasons. That narrative is changing this season.
Sacramento is finally an exciting franchise. Combined with the league’s top-scoring offense, the Kings are third in offensive rating, third in assists, first in two-point percentage, third in field goal percentage, and top-ten in three-point percentage, makes, and attempts. Long story short, the Kings put up efficient points in a hurry.
Unfortunately, Sacramento does not possess a top-tier defense to go along with their league-best offense. The Kings are 25th in defensive rating, 24th in scoring defense, 28th in opponent field goal percentage, 21st in steals, and 29th in blocks. This means that the Kings have one game plan: they want every game to be a shoot-out. While this is an exciting way to win games in the regular season, one should ask Mike D’Antoni if this strategy is successful in the playoffs.
Last season, the Kings made a controversial trade. With the crux of the trade being Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield heading to Indiana and Domantas Sabonis coming to Sacramento, many skewed the trade in the Pacers’ favor. Now it is looking like a win-win for both sides. Haliburton is flourishing in Indiana, and Sabonis has led the Kings to the four seed in the West. In a move that initially looked suspect, Sactown may have found the piece they have been missing to make a playoff push.
Sabonis has been a man on a mission this season. Despite the Kings ranking 25th in total rebounds this season, Sabonis is leading the NBA in rebounds per game. His 18.9 points per game, 12.6 rebounds per game, and 7.1 assists per game should be more than enough to earn him a third All-Star nod.
The Kings’ complementary piece to Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, has been playing at an All-Star level as well. Hitting an astonishing 57.1 percent of his two-point field goals, Fox has bumped his scoring to 23.8 points per game this season. Although his defensive numbers have dipped below his career averages, Fox’s efficient play cannot go unnoticed. His career field goal percentage (46.7 percent), free throw percentage (73.3 percent), and effective field goal percentage (50.5 percent) have increased to 50.5 percent, 80 percent, and 55.2 percent, respectively. With the Kings sitting in the fourth spot in the Western Conference, it would not be far-fetched to see two Sacramento All-Stars in Utah this February.
There is still a long way to go in the season, but the Kings are looking like the real deal. With only six games separating the three seeds from the 13th seed in the West, anything can happen in the second half of the season. The Kings, however, have a young core and a knack for putting up points, which is a surefire way of winning regular season games. Bold prediction: this is the year Sacramento makes the playoffs.