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30Q: Is the play-in enough?

Would a play-in appearance be enough of a step forward to make you happy?
By | 62 Comments | Sep 18, 2022

Mar 23, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu (7) and center Damian Jones (30) celebrate the game winning basket in the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As the Kings continue their never-ending playoff drought, our eyes remain focused on that simply-yet-evasive goal of simply being the 8th seed. But the Kings have a habit of taking one step forward and two steps back. Even when the Kings are on the cusp, they find a way to move backwards.

Last season was yet another step back. The Kings finished with just 30 wins, their lowest win total since Dave Joerger’s second season in Sacramento. But Dave Joerger followed up a 27-win season with a 39-win season (followed by one of those aforementioned steps backwards, but we digress). That 39-win season, the season of The Scores, was one of the more fun seasons of the entire drought. It felt like there was a direction and forward momentum. We spent the final days of the season tracking every scenario, and weighing every possible set out of outcomes and whether they could land us in the playoffs. It was fun, even if the Kings fell short.

Had the play-in existed at that time, the Kings would have been in it as the 9th seed, and would have had a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

I’m not a fan of moving goalposts, and I think the Kings should be squarely focused on making the real, actual playoffs. But what if the Kings make the play-in, give us a fun season along the way, but lose out in the play-in games? Would that be enough? Would we be happy and optimistic, or just crushed again in a new way?

A lot of it probably depends on how the Kings did it. If the Kings are the 7th or 8th seed going into the play-in and lose, that would be devastating. But, for example, if the Kings were the 10th seed, won their first game, and gave it a real run int he second game, I suspect we might feel better. There are so many ways it could play out, it’s impossible to know exactly how we’d feel, but I bet we’d enjoy the hell out of the play-in.

So is the play-in enough? I suspect no. It might be fun along the way but it would still be disappointing to be so close and yet still extend the playoff drought. But signs of real growth, a big jump in win total, and progress towards looking like a competent team…is all of that enough?

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Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
September 18, 2022 10:20 am

No.

Next question.

Jack
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September 18, 2022 11:02 am
Reply to  Adamsite

If the Kings goal is only to make the play-ins then I would be very disappointed. Their goal should be yo make the playoffs. Only then would be happy.

RikSmits
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September 18, 2022 11:34 am
Reply to  Jack

Didn’t Monte claim that there’s no playoffs mandate?
Technically a bit different from a no playoffs goal, but still.

Jack
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September 18, 2022 12:52 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

He might have that as a mandate. I don’t.

Kosta
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September 18, 2022 10:09 pm
Reply to  Jack

I say their goal should be a championship.
.
.
.
And I will be disappointed if they only win 30 games.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kosta
Jack
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September 19, 2022 9:42 am
Reply to  Kosta

I agree.

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
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September 18, 2022 10:39 am

Not really for me. But I know Vivek would be popping the champagne bottles if the Kings made the play-in.

Henry
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September 18, 2022 10:43 am

I think you said it Greg with “direction and forward momentum”. Where they land exactly – lottery, play-in, playoffs – doesn’t matter to me as much as seeing the building blocks of a contending team and the potential for future success. On the other hand, the play-in would be hollow if this looks like a core whose ceilng was a fringe playoff team.

Jack
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September 18, 2022 11:06 am
Reply to  Henry

Monty’ goal and I agree is to get to the playoffs and stay there. The ultimate goal is to win a championship. Making the play-in just doesn’t do it.

RikSmits
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September 18, 2022 10:34 pm
Reply to  Henry

The problem is that you have to view that forward momentum relative to the rest of the league, or at least the rest of the West.

The Lakers usually become good again relatively fast, several teams are tanking deliberately for a generational talent and a few teamns are in a development phase but with plenty of draft capital and young assets.

I know that some people here are thinking that Fox has much defensive potential and Davion is only getting started, but given Fox’s so-so defense in the past and Davion’s age and somehwat limiting length and wingspan, it seems to me that the main source for further growth is Murray.

I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see a viable path for the Kings towards becoming a top 3 team in the West in the next 3-5 years.

FlorenceLunderburke
September 19, 2022 6:16 am
Reply to  RikSmits

What it is with Fox’s D? It can be really abominable. That said he has the speed and length to be effective at disrupting passing lanes and igniting fastbreaks with tipped passes. I have been watching Euroleague here in Berlin and there are guys playing fantastic d largely through effort and good positional movement – the latter which is learnable, the former is a larger question mark. None of them has the acceleration or length of Swipa. Surely Davion could give him a crash course….there I go again dreaming about him just getting started.

Kingsguru21
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September 19, 2022 7:46 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I know that some people here are thinking that Fox has much defensive potential and Davion is only getting started

I think the two real areas of growth for De’Aaron are on the defensive end and his FT shooting. Improvement is necessary, not optional. I think it’s possible he does, but I’m wanting to see it. I’m not betting the house on it.

Davion’s value changes depending on how well he develops the catch and shoot aspect as well as the ability to play off the ball. His defense needs a few areas of clean up, but that’s where most of his value is. If his offense comes anywhere near neutral value, that’s an extremely valuable role player.

Overall, I think this roster is being built around Sabonis than Fox. Not because Sabonis is more talented, necessarily, but you need to add specific things around Domas to be successful. He’s the floor raiser of this team, not Fox. Fox is the ceiling raiser of this team, ultimately.

I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see a viable path for the Kings towards becoming a top 3 team in the West in the next 3-5 years.

I think the hope is that Fox, Sabonis and Murray get you there. You can argue it’s unlikely, but I think it’s more important to be consistently successful at this stage than worry about titles at this juncture. If tgis team wins 50 games 2 years in a row, then that’s a conversation I think you have. Until then, you’re just tilting at windmills like that Don Quijote feller IMO.

RikSmits
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September 19, 2022 12:14 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Wasn’t the whole discussion that you need to put specific players around him to be succesful?

They require similar players, roughly. Shooters to space the floor who are good enough to mask the defensive deficiencies of both.

Not sure we’re there yet.

I don’t see this core reaching 50 wins in the near future, let alone multiple times, unless Murray is insanely good.

Henry
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September 19, 2022 4:15 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Agree on both fronts. Any sober assessment of forward momententum would need to be relative to the competition. And, barring any lopsided trades in our favor, or amazing lottery luck, a lot will hinge on Keegan’s development.

That said, I can squint and see some path towards being a top 3-4 team in the west in a couple years if you throw in the additional factors of Fox starting to playing consistently at an allstar level, and defensive improvement under coach Brown. But even with everything breaking their way, like you said, unless Keegan somehow turns out to be DuncanxMiddleton, I would not put money on this core ever going as far as the Western Conference Finals.

Kingsguru21
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September 18, 2022 11:42 am

No, I’m not expecting a 45 win team necessarily, but that’s my bar for a successful season.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
murraytant
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September 18, 2022 1:17 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

agree. That is success. Less than that is “potential” or disappointment.

ArcoThunder
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September 18, 2022 5:19 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

i think this is where it’s at. 45 wins, no matter what happens after that is a bonus. They’re likely at least competing in play in games if they make it to 45. If they make it to 45 wins and lose in the play in tournament I would still be ok calling it a successful season. I think

Kosta
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September 18, 2022 10:11 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

With inflation, I’m thinking they have to win 50 games.

markdog333
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September 19, 2022 9:42 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

42 is my number

UpgradedToQuestionable
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September 18, 2022 11:52 am

A play-in only appearance is Lipstick on a Pig.

The playoff drought would continue and should Vivek portray this as success he is a bigger fool than he already appears to be. The sound of one hand clapping.

The clichés would be endless (though I would look forward to the cleverness of RobHessing, Kosta and the rest of the community’s responses- that would likely ease the pain)

Play-In Ain’t Playoffs. Simple as that

Last edited 1 year ago by UpgradedToQuestionable
FlorenceLunderburke
September 19, 2022 6:20 am

Indeed a lipsticked pig. But I would, it must be confessed, be mildy excited about watching that lipsticked pig while drinking a brew. And the theoretical possibility of being excited for a Kings game in the late spring….in such conditions I just might be able to squint hard, drink a fifth Sierra Nevada and take a shine to that little porker.

Kingsguru21
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September 19, 2022 7:55 am

Wait. You can get Sierra Nevada in Berlin? I’m not a big fan or anything, but jeez. Those things are everywhere.

FlorenceLunderburke
September 20, 2022 3:48 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Select stores, and it costs a pretty penny. But yeah they do get around.

JackassCentral916
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September 19, 2022 3:29 pm

I’d have a hard time not being at least a little excited for that game, at least.

FlorenceLunderburke
September 20, 2022 3:57 am

the kings have a way of always keeping their fans (at least this one) locked into a very abusive relationship laden with suffering. but then they/we (is this division still useful?) do something that pulls me back in, like drafting Hali.

BestHyperboleEver
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September 18, 2022 11:59 am

I learned long ago not to let the Kings successes or failures impact my happiness.

Additionally, they should get rid of the play-in. It’s a ridiculous money grab that does nothing but celebrate mediocrity. The NBA already let too many teams into the playoffs before the play-in was instituted.

Last edited 1 year ago by BestHyperboleEver
murraytant
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September 18, 2022 1:18 pm

yes but……………………………..wait until Kings win 6 in a row- you will be happy.

RikSmits
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September 18, 2022 1:18 pm

Isn’t being a Kings fan all about celebrating mediocrity, though?

murraytant
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September 18, 2022 1:19 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

that is what it has evolved to.

Jack
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September 18, 2022 4:25 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Not for me.

BestHyperboleEver
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September 18, 2022 5:56 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I don’t know. It’s been so long since we’ve achieved that level it’s hard to remember.

sacm3bill
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September 18, 2022 6:42 pm

Yep, we’ve been *aspiring* to mediocrity for some time. Not much has been celebratory. 🙂

markdog333
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September 19, 2022 9:45 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Even if that is the case, we would still have nothing to celebrate.

RikSmits
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September 19, 2022 12:17 pm
Reply to  markdog333

That’s why we celebrate chunks of seasons and very specific “accomplishments”!

”In the 12 games Sabonis and Fox played together, Fox was insane.”

FlorenceLunderburke
September 20, 2022 4:13 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I understand our fandom as a self-help group for battle-weary nihilists, who want to return to the greener pastures of pessimism or better still the rolling hills of apathy.

catterj
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September 18, 2022 12:13 pm

I think if they get a 9th or 10th seed, I will be satisfied considering I have pretty low expectations for the 2022-23 team.

After listening to Sam Vecenie’s Game Theory pod in which he read the records of the 10th seeds for the past few years, I looked up the win totals of the 9th and 10 seed for the last 5 years. 2021 and 2020 are adjusted to reflect 82 games.

2022: 36 and 34
2021: 44 and 38
2020: 38 and 38
2019: 39 and 37
2018: 46 and 42

The Kings didn’t really tank last year unless you think they were intentionally sitting Fox and Sabonis. They tried hard to win at least most of the season and managed to win only 30 games. If they improve by 7-10 wins this season, I would count that as enough with their lack of defensive talent, even though I would not attempt the approach they are taking.

catterj
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September 18, 2022 9:05 pm
Reply to  Greg

The Kings were eliminated from play-in contention after their April 3 game against GSW leaving 3 games in the season. Fox started missing games on March 18. Sabonis started missing on March 23. So yeah, I couldn’t track down what their injuries were, but by the time they recovered from them, there was probably 0 point in risking re-injury.

My main point is they didn’t tank, as evidenced by only playing Queta after they were eliminated (unless one subscribes to the far-fetched belief that not playing Queta was a stealth tank move). The Kings were putting out the best lineup they could until they couldn’t possibly make the playoffs; they were not at all leaning into improved lottery positioning.

Injuries will happen this season – my Captain Obvious statement of the offseason. We’ll see if we’re so much better that we can weather them, play to win, and still improve the record by 7-10 wins.

Kingsguru21
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September 19, 2022 4:36 am
Reply to  catterj

My main point is they didn’t tank

I disagree they didn’t tank the season, but it really started when they reinserted Bagley in the lineup in November when Walton was the HC.

Injuries will happen this season – my Captain Obvious statement of the offseason. We’ll see if we’re so much better that we can weather them, play to win, and still improve the record by 7-10 wins.

Games will be missed, no doubt. But do we know this is a 30 win team? It’s not like they were playing to win all year, and it’s not like Sabonis and Fox were together the entire time either.

I’m not sure what the baseline is for this group, but it feels like they are working off a mid to high 30s baseline as opposed to the 30 wins this team ‘had’ last season.

I get it, though, optimism is in short supply around here. But I haven’t seen anything remotely approaching sufficient evidence this is a 30 win team heading into this season.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
BestHyperboleEver
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September 19, 2022 6:30 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

There obviously isn’t sufficient evidence since this is a pretty significantly different rotation with Monk, Heurter and Murray all presumably taking up key roles. But in the 13 games Fox and Sabonis played together they put up a 31.5 win pace. The samples are comically small, but if you were to go prognosticating, that’s probably the place to start. Then figure out how many wins you think those additions add. Personally, I’d say around 5 or 6. Which puts us at about 37ish wins. Then plus or minus about 5 wins due to normal variance. A high end of 42 with a low of 32 looks about right to me.

Kingsguru21
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September 19, 2022 9:43 am

But in the 13 games Fox and Sabonis played together they put up a 31.5 win pace. The samples are comically small, but if you were to go prognosticating, that’s probably the place to start.

Sure, I get this. It’s also my point: The schedule was also a tough part of the schedule and they played the majority of games on the road at that.

They played 5 games at home together. They were 2-3 in those games (a loss to Denver, New York and Milwaukee; they beat Minnesota and Chicago). They played 8 games on the road (won @Washington, @OKC, @San Antonio; lost to @Brooklyn, @Chicago, @Denver, @New Orleans and @Dallas).

But, and I think this is important: You didn’t have a roster around Sabonis built for him. Gentry was an interim tag HC AND they had little practice time. I don’t see how you can reasonably project that as the likely baseline.

It’s a good thing the games start in a month. It would be nice to discuss those. I think we can all agree on that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
FlorenceLunderburke
September 20, 2022 4:15 am
Reply to  Greg

The NBA should fine them for benching an aspiring All-Star and a former All-Star. Lottery Load Management.

murraytant
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September 18, 2022 1:15 pm

not really but it might have to be.
West is tough but the margin is tight. Memphis exploded last couped of years but are they tat better? Ja passed Fox but at one point, were both considered equal.
Confidence + other worldly seasons from a couple may make the playoff- the real ones a possibility

Back to earth- maybe 9 or 10. Likely 11.

Mike120
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September 18, 2022 1:53 pm

Kings fans been eating poop sandwiches for 16 years and get a chance to get a soggy cheese quesadilla? Of course that sounds pretty good. Not the steak and lobster we’d like but it beats what had been served.

aplumley
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September 18, 2022 2:05 pm

It depends on too much. I think 39 wins, play in with the Lakers not making the play in, would feel pretty good. Losing to the Lakers in the play-in would feel terrible. Yes I hate the Lakers. A late season push to the play in would likely feel better than if they were say sitting at 6 and then collapsed to 10 at the end of the season.

I really just want to see a competitive team on a regular basis and have someone break out as a clear all-star on this team. I’d love for that someone to have a name that begins with a K and rhymes with leegan.

AmateurNerd
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September 18, 2022 4:07 pm

“Make the play-in!” is a lame goal that just invites poor effort and focus from everybody– front office, coaches, players, even fans. The goal is the playoffs, not the Not-Playoffs.
That said, I don’t think McNair’s job should depend on making either the play-in or the playoffs. He’s shown himself to be the first competent GM the team has has since Petrie. That’s a very low bar, but in Sacramento, competence should be rewarded after so many years of ineptitude, not cast aside in the hopes of something better magically coming along. (See: Malone, Michael; Joerger, Dave.)

Dan Houlder
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September 18, 2022 6:07 pm

I just want it to be fun to watch the Kings again.

In light of the Kings’ greatest-show-on-court history, that might be a higher bar than reaching the playoffs.

HongKongKingsFan
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September 18, 2022 6:07 pm

No.

So, the team better get 3rd – 6th seed in order to secure the Playoff spot.

sacm3bill
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September 18, 2022 6:35 pm

If the Kings are the 7th or 8th seed going into the play-in and lose, that would be devastating. But, for example, if the Kings were the 10th seed, won their first game, and gave it a real run int he second game, I suspect we might feel better.

Actually I feel the opposite, since the 7th or 8th seed would indicate massive progress, and subsequently getting bumped in the play-ins because they played poorly in one or two games wouldn’t be a big deal to me. It would be disappointing only because we’d have got screwed out of the playoffs by this stupid play-in situation the league has now, but at least we’d have hope and pride from having reached the 7th/8th seed.

Conversely, the scenario of 9th/10th seed + losing in the play-ins results in the same situation as the above (still no playoffs), but the lower seed means less progress. Even if they got into the play*offs* as a 9/10 seed, I’d be less happy than if they got bumped from the playoffs as a 7/8. (Since we’re not likely to do too well against the 1 or 2 seed regardless – so those things being equal I’d prefer having come out of the regular season with a higher seed.)

All that said, I’d just be happy with at least a handful more wins next year, regardless of what seed we end up with.

catterj
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September 18, 2022 8:53 pm
Reply to  sacm3bill

Well said.

Klam
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September 19, 2022 11:36 am
Reply to  sacm3bill

Agreed.

jwalker1395
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September 18, 2022 7:14 pm

My prediction is Blazers will be sellers at the trade deadline, Clips could have a redo of last year, and Fakers will be injured and/or bad.

I know we’re the Kangz and one mustn’t get too excited, but we just seem to have everything going for us, right? Nobody in the core rotation has a serious injury history, we have two All-Star caliber talents going into their primes together, we have a competent GM/Head Coach tandem that’s aligned with each other, and we got a host of young role players with upside. Not to get too excited, but that’s kinda the type of headwinds that carried the Grizzlies last season from playoff hopefuls to a legit future contender.

I don’t think the Kings will be #2 this season, but I think we’re the type of team that outperforms where others fail. But then again …we’re the god damn Sacramento Kings.

NowLoveThemOnceAgain
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September 18, 2022 9:37 pm

0.500 would be a huge leap forward, regardless of where that lands in the playoff picture.

ScottyPop
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September 19, 2022 7:59 am

That’s a no for me, dog.

TerzoM
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September 19, 2022 8:09 am

I like McGenius and PIT should mean extension
comment image

RobHessing
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September 19, 2022 11:30 am

I don’t know if “happy” would be an apt description, and the play-in is not a real benchmark for me, as it could be achieved with as little as a 3-4 game improvement.

An improvement of (say) 8 games and a 5 point reduction in team point differential would satisfy me enough to extend the front office, as I would see those improvements as tangible enough to pitch the notion that the organization has some forward momentum. Anything short of that would be pretty disappointing, in my opinion.

BabalooMagoo
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September 19, 2022 12:36 pm

The “play-in” concept is bullshit. That’s all I got.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
September 19, 2022 12:54 pm

OT: If the Kings wanted a defender on the wing, Jae would be a good get. Barnes for Crowder?

Jack
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September 19, 2022 2:13 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I also like the trade Barnes for Dorian Finley Smith and Gosh Green. Barnes is a lot better offensively than Smith but Smith is an all star defensive small forward. It isn’t so much as which is better but the fit Smith gives us as a small forward is better. His contract is not that bad and although Green hasn’t improved since he has gotten to the NBA he was an 18th pick and I am sure he has potential He is already a very good defensive player.

Jack
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September 19, 2022 2:59 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

money doesn’t work.

Gregoryl
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September 19, 2022 3:12 pm

My expectations are not nearly as high as others for this team. Defense with this roster is still a problem, Fox has shown me very little to think this season that he can be a leader, and Keegan is an unknown at this point. Quite honestly, I’m just hoping this team is competitive, plays hard, tries on defense and shows improvement. If the West is as strong as it appears, I would consider the Play-In enough for this team.

alec26
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September 20, 2022 11:34 pm

” if the Kings were the 10th seed, won their first game, and gave it a real run int he second game, I suspect we might feel better.”

The above would be great but if the Kings finish .500 or better, I’d call it a good season regardless of the playoff picture. They haven’t had a winning season since the last playoff run in 2006 and no Sacramento Kings coach other than Rick Adelman ever did have a winning season with this team.

The Kings were so close to a winning season in 2019 and then they derailed. 41 or 42 wins is a disappointment for the Lakers but would be a landmark for this team. What happens in ’23=’24? Hopefully building on this year’s good season and not regression to 33 or so wins.

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