We asked our staff to make their case as to why the Sacramento Kings will (or won’t) make the playoffs this year.
Why they will: This is the season that the Sacramento Kings will end their 15 year playoff drought.
More than ever before, this team is knocking on the screen door of playoff contention. Heading into the third season that will feature the play-in tournament, a March Madness-esque opportunity can arise for the 9th and 10th seed in each conference. And as stacked as this Western Conference is, we learned last season that it is also in fact wide, wide open.
With that in mind, there’s every reason to believe Sacramento can take the leap, but the bottom line in continuing on their successful preseason is contingent on one thing: Sacramento getting out of its own way.
From a player perspective, it certainly feels like morale is high with his tromp, and producing a winning season of basketball is the resounding expectation. Trending in the right direction at the helm of De’Aaron Fox with Harrison Barnes, Tyrese Haliburton and Richaun Holmes, a core of stability and consistency will be key for a playoff berth, but development will also be at the forefront of everything they do.
Fox will need to continue to ascend. Entering his fifth season, the missing link in his production — and frankly the team’s success at large — has come on the defensive end of the floor.
Rookie Davion Mitchell has already flipped Sacramento’s defensive identity on its head, but there will need to be significant changes from every man on the roster in order to improve to the point of play-in opportunity. Holmes and new additions Tristan Thompson and Alex Len should bring size and an edge off the glass that this three-guard lineup need in order to succeed.
A big-time trade feels inevitably looming over this team at some point in the season, as does a coaching change should Luke Walton’s squad come out with a less-than-hot start. As we’ve seen in seasons past, the culture (or lack thereof) has defined Sacramento’s success. Where things can easily de-rail I’m taking the high road that should the script flip in mid-season, the Kings are able to come out with a sense of resiliency.
This training camp has revealed that Sacramento believes in themselves. Although we come with a notorious past of disappointment and wrong choices, coming into this season there is a different, palatable sense of promise in the air.
I could eat my words in weeks. It wouldn’t be at all surprising for Sacramento to fumble another season and continue their losing brand of basketball. But from the flashes we’ve seen in the preseason and the praises surrounding the team, there is significant reason to buy in stock in Sacramento playoff hope.
Why they won’t: Something feels a little different in Sacramento this time of year. It feels like little more than just the typical preseason optimism that comes every year in training camp in Sacramento and around the league.
Finally, the Kings have several promising young players at the same time that seem like pretty sure bets to succeed. The team has a young star in its backcourt in De’Aaron Fox and what looks like the perfect running mate next to him in Tyrese Haliburton, plus more roster depth than we’ve seen in recent years.
Also, the team now has a competent general manager who has yet to royally screw things up during his little more than a year on the job.
It feels like FINALLY the team is on the cusp of breaking a playoff drought that started in the Bush administration and will hopefully end during the current one.
Even with all this being said, the Kings aren’t ending their 15-year playoff drought this season.
Ultimately, the Kings still have a below-average coach, no wing depth, and a lack of top-end talent in general outside of Fox.
I like Davion Mitchell a lot, but is adding a bench guard plus some internal development from few players really going to help the Kings to an extra 10 or 12 wins this season?
Sure, a Ben Simmons trade or another trade for a difference-maker could vault the Kings into a new tier, but it’s hard to count on that actually happening. Plus, in any trade like that, the Kings are going to have to send out talent to receive talent.
I feel confident saying the Kings have improved, but given a lot of their west competitors did as well, does it matter?
Let’s pose this question: Who in the West are the Kings clearly better than?
Only the Thunder, Rockets, and the Spurs are teams I feel confident in saying the Kings will have a better record than at the end of the season.
Teams like the Timberwolves and Pelicans have a similar amount of talent along with questions as the Kings do, so it’s hard to see the Kings as clearly better than either.
Teams like the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Blazers may be passable this season depending on a few variables, but expecting the Kings to be better than teams that have actually made the playoffs recently is a hard thing to expect.
There are just too many things that have to fall in place for the Kings. And if we’ve learned anything from the last 15 years, things don’t usually fall into place for this franchise.
Ultimately, I think the Kings are going to compete for the play-in, and either get that 10 spot or fall a little short of it, a familiar spot in the standings.
P.S.: Making the play-in tournament does NOT count as ending the playoff drought.