Sacramento Kings: Here we go again… again
July 20 by Alessio Conte
From the franchise-defining highs of some Summer League wins to the constant regular-season woes, resident Kings fan Alessio Conte asks: what the heck are we doing here?
The Sacramento Kings are, again, trying to make a push for the playoffs. Can they do it this season? (Sean Carroll illustration)
With another offseason in the books, Sacramento Kings fans across the world seem to be in quite a strange place. On one hand, there is cause to be cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances in the upcoming season. On the other, the harrowing inevitability of immense failure that is sure to strike the roster down within the first month of the season.
Admittedly, I am actually rather impressed by how the offseason is going so far, factoring in how low the bar is.
The one-two punch of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis requires a slew of versatile defenders and accurate shooters to make up for the stars’ glaring deficiencies, some of which have been accounted for so far.
The All-Star potential of both players has yet to be seen in Sacramento due to some minor injuries derailing the end of last season’s campaign, so a lot of the discussions for the fit of this roster are purely theoretical.
General manager, Monte McNair, has done a decent job at acquiring some compatible players, all for relatively good value.
Number four overall pick, Keegan Murray, has flashed some serious potential to become an impactful role player in his first season as a King, with the possibility to become more in the near future. Boasting an NBA-ready body, three-level shot-making skills and positive defensive numbers *in college*, Murray looks like the correct pick for a team that desperately needed it.
McNair traded Mo Harkless, Justin Holiday and a lottery-protected 2024 first-round pick for Atlanta Hawks misfit Kevin Huerter, which will provide the gifted young guard with an opportunity to shine in his new home. Huerter was naturally the player that had to go after the Hawks traded for stud point guard, Dejounte Murray, from San Antonio.
Fox’s best-friend, Malik Monk, provides a further bolstering to the offensive prowess of this Kings roster, as well as a much needed morale boost to the young star who I imagine is not happy with the constant losing that has plagued his career.
All three additions provide much needed three-point shooting, general offensive versatility and lineup opportunities for new head coach Mike Brown.
There is a level of offensive synergy to this roster that has not been seen in the past few seasons. In a league where both talent and system rule, it is refreshing to see some direction for an oft-directionless franchise.
Listing all of these positives without any cynical quips begs the question, what gives?
Unfortunately, a lot.
A lot gives.
Coming off two seasons where the Kings rated 30th and 29th in the league on defence respectively, continued neglect of that side of the court is, at best, worrying.
As previously mentioned, Fox and Sabonis are both lacking defensively, even despite Fox’s incredible physical gifts. Pairing Fox with net-negative defenders in Huerter and Monk does not provide much to be optimistic about.
It should be noted that Davion Mitchell seems like as much of a defensive pitbull as he was when he was drafted, even if he is only 6’0” tall. That’s nice I guess?
The addition of a big wing like Murray is a sight for sore-eyes, and his pairing with Harrison Barnes should provide at least average defence. The bench depth at the forward positions, however, continues to be lacking.
Quite possibly the most talented roster in recent franchise history will now be led by their 13th coach since the 2006 season, the aforementioned Mike Brown. Brown is the second former-Golden State Warriors assistant that the Kings have poached, after the car crash that was Luke Walton’s run at the helm ended with Walton’s firing halfway through last season.
Brown’s career to this date has been marred by being chewed up and spit out by the NBA media due to the almost unfair expectations of coaching LeBron James and Kobe Bryant teams over ten years ago. He has done his due diligence since then, riding the bench as an assistant coach of several good NBA rosters to get back to where he is now.
His supposed talent is his ability to coach defence, the thing this roster is not built to do. Pairing an offensive roster with a defensive coach makes sense on paper to a child. In practice, with adults? It often leaves a lot to be desired.
You start to see how the Kings’ synergy begins to dissipate as we delve further into the overall structure of the roster and franchise.
The slew of win-now moves, seemingly positive decisions with most likely negative outcomes, only tell half of the story.
With the league deeper with talent than it has ever been, the Kings, year after year, continue to feel like the odd one out.
The return of injured stars for the Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Clippers will bolster their already superior rosters over the Kings. The Timberwolves have created what should be a regular season juggernaut with their addition of Rudy Gobert, and the Lakers should win more games than they did last season because LeBron James still feels as inevitable as the Kings’ chances for failure.
With only the Jazz and Spurs looking to lose a few more games, the Kings’ outlook still looks like it is peaking as the tenth seed in the Western Conference, squeezing into the play-in and getting knocked out by a more deserving franchise.
This is all without mentioning the more feisty and talented Eastern Conference teams that can steal much needed wins from the Kings.
So we return to the initial question: what the heck are we doing here?
Year upon year, it becomes increasingly difficult to support a franchise that shoots itself in the foot at every step of the process.
Tying all of your assets to a roster that will peak in the play-in tournament is as stupid to type into Microsoft Word as it is to do in practice, but here we are.
Any semblance of positivity is swiftly shot down by a new story in the media about the mismanagement by ownership, disagreement in the front office or a peculiar side-hustle from an otherwise likeable player.
What we are doing here is sitting through a vicious cycle of pain to say we stuck by a team for the sake of sticking by them, the silly tradition of a loyal sports fan.
With not even a ray of light at the end of the tunnel, I am beginning to wonder more and more why the heck we are doing this at all.