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This Isn’t Tanking

The Sacramento Kings aren’t tanking. They’re just a really bad basketball team, and it’s time for them to treat themselves as one.

The Sacramento Kings are in a familiar and disappointing spot: basketball limbo. They’re once again bad enough to be on the outside looking in, even after the NBA extended the Play-in Tournament as a participation trophy meant to discourage purposely losing late season games.

Sacramento is three games back of the Portland Trail Blazers for the 10th seed, and it’s hard to imagine that the Kings squad that lost by 53 to the .500 Boston Celtics squad will ever show the fight needed to get that 10th seed, let alone win the Play-In Tournament. They’ve lost 8 of their last 10 games and are 29th in points allowed per game. As much as Vivek Ranadivé and Monte McNair may want a single big-name trade to fix this team, there’s no salvaging this roster with any one move.

But make no mistake; the Sacramento Kings aren’t tanking. They’re not purposely losing these games. They just stink, and they’re stinking with a roster of veterans, so-called win-now players who have all either checked out or are broken by basketball hell. Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Richaun Holmes have all regressed this season for one reason or another. De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton have shown bright spots, but are not transcendent players who can take a bad team to greatness. This is a $130 million roster with no heart or competence. This isn’t tanking - this is losing, without style or purpose.

Tanking has become a hot button term across the NBA fandom. The term got cemented in fans minds as “purposefully losing for a long time” thanks to the Process Sixers - who, in reality, only took three seasons (2013-14 through 2015-16) to rebound once Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons got rolling. The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently the tank masters, in their second year of their rebuild and are unlikely to pull up anytime soon. Given those two squads, I can’t blame any Kings fan so sick of the last 16 years of ineptitude that the concept of “tanking” again isn’t appealing. But that’s what the Kings should do; trade all the veterans for whatever combination of youth and picks they can get in return, switch to developmental mode, and analyze the team again come this summer. We don’t need to call that tanking, if the term has been too corrupted to imply the actual meaning - just don’t behave like this team is a move or two away from success.

The issue for Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought isn’t that the team tanked or didn’t tank during that time, although they only capital-T Tanked twice - once in 2008-09 (a league low 17-65, earning them Tyreke Evans) and after trading DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline in 2017. That last “tank” started so late in the year that the Kings sat at 8th in the 2017 draft lottery, but then they jumped up to #3, had to swap back to #5, and eventually drafted De’Aaron Fox. Those were arguably the only two times the Kings traded veterans for youth and bottomed out, and one of them only worked because of lady luck.

The real issue for Sacramento is that every rebuild in the last decade has been interrupted midway through by the team’s desire to skip steps and just get back to the fun stuff. Vlade’s Super Team, Just Young was surrounded in 2017 and 2018 by veterans, from George Hill to Harrison Barnes to Garrett Temple to Iman Shumpert to Dewayne Dedmon to Cory Joseph, all hoping they’d gel into something meaningful. That all failed when Marvin Bagley didn’t pan out, when neither a tough coach or a player's coach could get Buddy Hield to be efficient, when Fox wasn’t great enough to drag an expensive, below-average roster to success.

The bright side of this sad state of affairs is that, depending on how you feel about De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, this reset may not take that long. Smart fans have pointed out that even the quickest rebuilds in recent memory - the Memphis Grizzlies (from 2017-18 to 2019-20), Atlanta Hawks (from 2017-18 to 2019-20) and Dallas Mavericks (from 2016-17 to 2018-19) all had rebuilding phases that left them with three seasons of no playoffs. But none of those teams had young players anywhere near as talented as Fox or Haliburton.

It’s a gamble on lottery luck, and the evaluation chops of Monte McNair, but if the Kings ended with a top pick in this years draft, a young core of Fox, Haliburton, and one of Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr., Chet Holmgren, or Jaden Ivey is a lot better off than the Kings are now.

Indeed, that is why the so-called “gap year” of last season was so frustrating, when prominent media members sourced the team as saying they were “taking the long view” of the squad. If the team had bottomed out last year, the Kings could have had a team with Fox, Haliburton, and one of Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, or Scottie Barnes. Hell, even one more loss last year would have meant the Kings sat at pick 8 instead of pick 9, and Franz Wagner (a rumored favorite of McNair) is thriving in Orlando. Instead, McNair only sold off one veteran at the trade deadline (Cory Joseph), didn’t pick a direction, and ended at pick #9 in what could have been a franchise-altering draft. Stuck in basketball limbo.

The Sacramento Kings aren’t tanking. They’re just a really bad basketball team, and it’s time for them to finally treat themselves as one.

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RobHessing
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January 26, 2022 3:11 pm

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Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
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January 27, 2022 9:26 am
Reply to  RobHessing

LOL this is a new favorite of mine now.

RobHessing
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January 26, 2022 3:16 pm

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LLcoolRay
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January 26, 2022 3:16 pm

It’s tanking in my heart, though. This is what I need in order to justify this.

catterj
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January 26, 2022 3:19 pm

Sacramento is three games back of the Portland Trail Blazers for the 10th seed, and it’s hard to imagine that the Kings squad that lost by 53 to the .500 Boston Celtics squad will ever show the fight needed to get that 10th seed, let alone win the Play-In Tournament. 

RobHessing
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January 26, 2022 3:35 pm
Reply to  catterj

I’ll go with 22-38 at the break, 30-52 for the season, 5 games out of the 10 seed and over 30 games behind both Phoenix and Golden State.

murraytant
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January 26, 2022 3:55 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

no, Rob, they have to try harder- finish with 18 wins (would have been 19 but they cannot play themselves)

murraytant
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January 26, 2022 3:53 pm
Reply to  catterj

that’s win over half to just = the 10th seed which is play in not playoff. And only to lose a n away game and stay in purgatory.
CONCEDE
Even though 4 teams have a serious head start, trade all assets for expiring and picks ( if there are any left at all- since most of the upcoming loose change contender picks have already been gobbled up by the “Bad Four”), keep 1-2 players ( like Suns did with Booker, OKC with SGA and Bulls with LaVine) and pray to the freebies that come with ping pong balls.

SexyNapear
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January 26, 2022 3:32 pm

Great read. Perfect encapsulation of the idiotic philosophy of the worst-run franchise in NBA history.

RobHessing
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January 26, 2022 3:36 pm
Reply to  SexyNapear

I remember the chuckles I used to get out of the Sterling/Baylor Clips.

Karma’s a bitch.

Greg
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January 26, 2022 4:10 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Recently re-read an article I’d written at the old site after the Kings traded Kevin Martin. Concluded with me talking about how at least we have Geoff Petrie so we can trust that there’s a plan, and at least we aren’t the Clippers. Painful to read that now.

AmateurNerd
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January 26, 2022 3:47 pm

Ben Simmons isn’t making this team a contender, even if Fox and/or Haliburton stick around. Neither are Domantas Sabonis, Pascal Siakam, John Collins, Jerami Grant, or any of the other “star”-level players rumored in Kings-centric deals lately. That’s all just lipstick on a pig. Time to butcher the pig and see how much bacon you can get from it.

Mike120
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January 26, 2022 3:52 pm

Agree with everything in the article. Thing is, trying to win and failing is so much worse than trying to lose and succeeding due to the draft pick. We need a high pick. It’s the only way to get young, quality players on the cheap.

Gregoryl
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January 26, 2022 4:07 pm

Not enough Vivek Ranadive blame in this article. Things will not change until Vivek sells, rids himself of whatever ex-jock that Vivek is crushing on each season (ie. Dumars, Vlade, Mullin, etc.), allows the GM to do his job, stop his involvement in any basketball-related decisions etc..

Vivek is the problem.

Yakshi
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January 26, 2022 4:13 pm

It’s the Anti-Tank Tank. It’s the Kings being forced kicking and screaming into a better long-term strategy than they wanted. Hooray for failure!

Now of course let’s ruin everything by trading Haliburton and two first rounders for Ben Simmons, miss the playoffs by two games, and end up with the ninth pick in the next draft. Oh wait, no, we traded that. And Ben Simmons just retired for Kangz-related mental health reasons.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dan Houlder
Lurkdogg
January 26, 2022 4:33 pm

Sigh

2k8mjk.jpg
Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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January 26, 2022 4:38 pm

It still blows my mind that Kings brass couldn’t see this coming. I’d wager the vast majority of us on this site knew this was going to happen, and we all have other lives, careers, and priorities that don’t pay us what Kings management get.

It’s almost like they want this. They want dysfunction and fan apathy. They want a hopeless situation where folks tune out. For the life of me I can’t fathom why Vivek and management would want this, but I’m starting to think there is no other explanation. Before folks say that Kings are owned and run by idiots, I don’t buy that. These people didn’t get to where they did in life being idiots.

Gregoryl
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January 26, 2022 4:41 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I guess I prefer to think Vivek and Monte are just complete morons for all the reasons you state above, but what do they get out of doing this all on purpose to create chaos and apathy?

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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January 26, 2022 7:25 pm
Reply to  Gregoryl

I often wonder if Vivek sees the Kings as a simple monetary investment. He’s running a skeleton crew to keep the gears moving, but has little care for the on court performance. He’s already tripled his investment in the Kings. He could sell tomorrow for a significant profit, so why do any more than is absolutely necessary. Every year that goes by, his investment grows regardless of the on court performance.

Maybe we are all misreading Vivek’s supposed intent to win.

Carl
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January 26, 2022 5:35 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Just because someone has money doesn’t make them smart. I could give examples. I think Hanlon’s Razor applies to the Kings and would argue that when money and status are involved, being relentlessly amoral is more important than any level of intellect. Vivek might be good at tech (or not), but is abysmal at running a basketball team, and likely runs a fairly toxic organization that results in nearly everyone below him performing at or near their worst.

Monte McNair I can’t explain. For no good reason, I don’t believe he’s absolutely incompetent, though there aren’t really any other good explanations. He’s certainly done a terrible job (average for the KANGZ, I guess) so far, and repeatedly made himself look stupid with Baghdad Bob like public pronouncements. He’s the best only because he’s the only Vivek GM so far to not stick a fork in a light socket (Isaiah and Bagley being the worst examples). That’s about a low a bar as it’s possible to have.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carl
BigDrewbot
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January 26, 2022 5:51 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

not being in the sac’to area, are there attendance triggers that could get the kings out of their G1C lease? if so, maybe Vivek is doing a Maloof to drive the team as far into the ground as possible, destroy any lingering civic pride and then sell for big $ to somebody who will relocate to a bigger market (although, tbh, Sacramento is not some puny wilderness…it’s the 20th largest tv dma in the country)

JJJ381
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January 27, 2022 7:46 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

You’re completely right Adam. He and they are not idiots. It’s merely a billionaire having a hobby. Owning a professional sports team for Vivek Ranadive is simply a tinker toy that he figures he can do with as he pleases, all the while it satisfies his insatiable ego. Honestly, the “dismissive little chap” (RIP PW) bought an NBA team and within a short period of time started talking about playing 4 on 5. He actually believed in his own mind that this idiotic scheme of his might work. NBA 2.0 rings bell?? It’s utter insanity to me. He is detached from reality and is still under his own assumption that he is loved by all Kings Fans. He will never change. We’re doomed until he sells or gets forced out. Sorry for the rant but disgusts me to no end.

Kingsguru21
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January 26, 2022 5:13 pm

Good points Bryant. This team is in transition. Hopefully they can figure out trades and a path.

Gregoryl
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January 26, 2022 8:22 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Going from suck to suck is not a transition.

Ialmostmissthemaloofs
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January 26, 2022 6:58 pm

We currently have the 6th worst record in the NBA. Somehow the Rockets and the Thunder – two teams that were worlds above us two seasons ago are now below us in the standings and will likely pick in front of us on draft night – and then likely be worlds above us again in two more seasons.
For crying out loud, how do we not understand how to play this game by now? (of tanking I mean.) Of course, we blew the #2 pick so really there just is no hope for us at all is there?

ajonez81
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January 26, 2022 9:07 pm

This team looked like garbage coming in, took about 10 or 20 games to confirm, shoulda been tanking since then…inexcusable incompetence from Vivek…like you said, you evaluate what you have and then make smartest move, call it tanking or whatever it’s not complicated. So tired of watching veteran players get minutes on a mediocre team.

Mailbag question: Are the Sac-era Kings the worst franchise in sports history? They have to be in the conversation right?

ajonez81
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January 26, 2022 9:54 pm

Vivek is clearly broke and praying he can turn this team around and get better immediately rather than be bad and tank for awhile. Having a broke owner who refuses to step aside is this franchises’ #1 problem.

andy_sims
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January 27, 2022 9:15 am
Reply to  ajonez81

Yeah, he’s down to has last 850 million.

You should be so broke.

Inthestarz
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January 27, 2022 1:11 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Again, here you are defending Vivek, and I can only question why..

I’m not trying to be insensitive at all. Some folks like players based on their heritage. Some like GMs.. ‘Simms’ is an East Indian name..

Yes, he looks to poor to own the team and needs to be gone. either that or he thinks hes the GM, but he still needs to be gone

Last edited 8 months ago by Inthestarz
AnybodyButBagley
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January 27, 2022 1:39 pm
Reply to  Inthestarz

Defends anything that does not change this team. One move away from a dynasty…..if we keep all the talent we have now.

Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
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January 27, 2022 9:28 am

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Inthestarz
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January 27, 2022 11:18 am

Once again, there are no WHYs being quetioned as to why the team isnt tanking

If its because ownership cant afford the poor ticket sales, then just like when they forced Luke Walton to remain they are too poor to afford the team

Last edited 8 months ago by Inthestarz
TaintedMeat
January 27, 2022 6:27 pm
Reply to  Inthestarz

It’s a bit late to avoid poor ticket sales! Might as well get someone good to better ticket sales for next year!

TaintedMeat
January 27, 2022 6:24 pm

I don’t care if it’s on purpose or not. Bring on the Tank!

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