Are the Kings doomed for NBA purgatory?

Are the Kings doomed for NBA purgatory?

Cowbell Kingdom

Are the Kings doomed for NBA purgatory?

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The NBA trade deadline came and went and the Sacramento Kings were one of many teams that decided against making a move. The summer ahead is one of uncertainty. With the salary cap set to rise from $70 million to potentially $90 million next season (ESPN.com), players and front offices alike seem content to wait until free agency to make their moves.

Compared to last season’s deadline which saw names like Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight, Isaiah Thomas, and Reggie Jackson all switch teams, this one was relatively a B-List with Tobias Harris being the biggest name dealt (Basketball-Reference.com).

Though the only team to significantly change its roster was Detroit, there were many teams out there that faced a fork-in-the-road ahead and yet failed to choose one direction or the other.

That fork? Make a push for the playoffs or liquidate talent to acquire draft picks, project players, and salary cap relief.

There was perhaps no team that faced that decision more than the Sacramento Kings, whose whirlwind over the past few seasons has continued on into this one. After it was reported by Marc Stein that Coach George Karl would be fired, the Kings apparently decided against it – at least for the time being.

Something had to change though, right?

The Kings lost eight of their last 10 games heading into the All-Star break. Prior to that, they seemed posed for the post-season. After it, they seemed liked a beached whale helpless to push themselves back into the running.

With the deadline nearing, the Kings thirsted for a change. Something. Anything.

And yet, nothing happened. The Kings came out of the All-Star break the same way they entered it – talented, but ultimately not good enough.

To their credit, they won their first game after the break against the Denver Nuggets. It was a good win but they now face tougher opponents ahead in the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

With only 28 games remaining, the Kings face a four-game deficit to reach the playoffs. It’s a challenge that is not alleviated with the crowded field of fellow playoff hopefuls like the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.

The path to the playoffs seems to be a daunting one for the Kings. They didn’t help their cause by staying pat at the deadline. However, they didn’t raise the white flag either.

The quiet courage to stay the course is commendable, but one also has to wonder if the Kings have locked themselves in NBA purgatory with a low draft pick and yet, low playoff positioning (if any).

The draft is set up to balloon teams back towards the top of the league with high draft picks. This has been the case in Cleveland (LeBron James and Kyrie Irving), Golden State (Stephen Curry), San Antonio (Tim Duncan), Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), and the Los Angeles Clippers (Blake Griffin).

Those who do not receive a high pick have to hope for a surprise player like Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, or Marc Gasol. That requires a stroke of luck and its science is fairly limited.

The other route to climbing the NBA ladder is free agency. Teams like the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets have been recent subscribers to this vehicle. That is however, also an imperfect science as some teams excel while others fall flat on their face.

Finally, a team can improve itself with trades. There are often big names to be had at fairly low costs or high costs. Recent examples would include the Cavaliers’ acquisition of Kevin Love, the Clippers getting Chris Paul, or even the Knick’s nabbing Carmelo Anthony.

In short, there are numerous paths up the NBA food chain: draft, free agency, and trades.

However, the Kings seem to be in a bind where they struggle to land major free agents, have failed to make any major moves via trade, and yet, are too average and unlucky to get a high draft pick.

For many, this binding middle ground is considered to be the worst place in the NBA. After letting the trade deadline come and go, the Kings seem firmly planted in their mediocrity with a murky future on the horizon. There are ways out of it, but when you let those opportunities pass you by, the league has a way of passing you by in return.

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