The NBA regular season has officially come to an end for your Sacramento Kings and 12 consecutive seasons without a playoff birth, now the longest post-season drought in the NBA after the Minnesota Timberwolves successfully broke their drought going into this year’s playoffs.
Expectations were low to begin this past season as the trade of DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in February of 2017 signaled a youth movement and full-blown rebuild here in Sacramento.
The Kings finishing the season at 27-55 was expected as management made it known that this rebuild would take time and for fans to be patient as they continue to work to improve this young and inexperienced roster.
The clock is ticking as both General Manager Vlade Divac and Head Coach Dave Joerger vowed to have this franchise competitive in a 3-year window of development and improvement.
While the season didn’t finish how fans had hoped for there are 10 silver linings we can look to that shows definitive promise going into next year.
1: This Kings team does not quit regardless of the score or situation. While at times this team has been cited for slow starts or not putting a complete game together from beginning to end, they do not quit.
Even being down 15 points with five minutes left in the game on countless occasions this team doesn’t let off the gas and continues to pressure opposing teams making them earn their wins through 48 minutes of action.
With high character guys dispersed all over this roster it’s encouraging to see them never give up in games and organically shows that they believe and trust in one another to help scrap out a victory in any situation thrown at them.
2: The youth are improving and growing together. While it’s not ideal to have expectations going into any season that you are not going to make the playoffs, it’s a beautiful thing to watch young NBA talent mold, mesh and struggle together as a team.
Through the vigor’s of an 82 game season these young Kings have won and lost together, learning what it takes to close games out and trusting in one another to do their part.
The emergence of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere as this team’s core going forward has been encouraging as all have shown huge signs of improvement both in their individual games as well as their overall team play.
It’s a process and with every game and more time playing side by side with one another, learning each other’s playing styles and strengths/weaknesses the game is beginning to come to them rather than forcing it.
3: A high draft pick awaits them in next year’s NBA draft. The Sacramento Kings will have the 7th best odds to land the 1st pick in the NBA draft after the NBA recently drew a tiebreaker with the Chicago Bulls to decide who would have the 6th and 7th best odds for the NBA lottery.
The Kings look to have a 5.3% chance for that No. 1 overall pick and 18.3% chance for a top-3 pick overall.
Regardless of what happens after the NBA draft lottery, some notable names the Kings will be keeping an eye on going into the summer includes DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, Michael Porter, and Trae Young.
4: Harry Giles will be making his professional debut next year. The 20th overall pick out of last year’s NBA draft will finally be making his long awaited NBA debut after rehabbing from his major leg injuries he received in high school and college.
While the Kings continue to work with Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein and their development as the young big men on this team, the Kings look forward to finally having Giles be a part of that unit after being extremely patient with when Giles would actually be available to play.
Before Giles’ injuries, once considered a sure-fire number one overall draft pick, but as leg injuries began to add up, his draft stock began to plummet resulting in him falling to the Sacramento Kings at 20, after one year with the Duke Blue Devils.
Harry’s potential and overall talent is scary, the passing, the shooting, the quickness, the explosion, the basketball IQ, it’s all there if only he’s able to remain healthy through a lengthy 82-game season.
5: There is a plan in place and management is sticking to it. Vlade Divac and his team have been very transparent on their vision and plans to improve this team going forward.
As in past years, there isn’t a new hiring and firing of the head coach or change in style or identity as Kings’ fans have become so accustomed to. Making known that this process would take more than just one season to fix.
Management has slowly begun to change the culture here in Sacramento starting first through the draft with the young Kings’ core mentioned above along with the high character, veteran signings of Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter bringing over 30 years of experience to these younger guys still trying to find their way in this league.
Consistency has been key for Divac’s team and by avoiding the turnover as most good teams try and do, they are hoping year to year they continue to see those expectations get surpassed.
6: No drama with this team even with all the losing. If you would have walked into that locker room during the year not knowing what the Kings’ record was you would think this was a winning ball club.
The entire team is filled with high character guys and to see how close all of these players were with one another even with all the losing was an amazing thing.
This tells us that the team has bought into management’s vision and Dave Joerger’s plans for the way the team will play. There hasn’t been any complaining, questioning of methods or playing time. Just heads down grinding, grinding, grinding, no questions asked.
This team seems to understand the bigger picture and the time it will take for them to finally see a winning product here in Sacramento.
7: The veterans Zach Randolph, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, and Vince Carter have been consummate professionals helping the young guys with their wealth of knowledge and experience in the NBA.
What better way to speed up the learning curve of this young Kings roster than by signing 4 high character player/coaches with countless experiences and tips of knowledge that this team can utilize as role models to the inexperienced part of the roster.
Temple, when asked about his role with the team going forward said, “It wasn’t just about what I could do on the court, it was about what I could bring to the locker room. I hope I’ve been able to do that for them and I will continue to try to do that.”
Whether it’s Temple providing tips on how to be a better defender, Randolph teaching the young bigs how to fight down low in the post, Koufos providing tips on successfully boxing out a player for that defensive rebound, or Vince Carter working with Labissiere on the proper fade away 15 foot jump shot.
To have that ability to not only shed valuable knowledge coaching and explaining certain situations to the younger core of this team in practices or on the bench in-games has been a huge help but to have these veterans back their talk up by playing alongside these first and second year players has been more invaluable than anything else.
It’s all a direct result of the one common goal the team has in mind which is to bring a winning basketball team back to Sacramento regardless of your role or time spent in the league.
8: Money to spend if necessary. The team has money to spend with historically bad contract deals expiring and trades made during the season to help free up guaranteed salaries hitting the cap.
With just over $20 million in cap space going into next year’s regular season the Sacramento Kings will have some decisions to make on which free agents to pursue.
Depending on fit, need, and desire of free agents to come play in Sacramento look for the Kings to focus their time on the small forward position to help sure up a position that has needed help longer the team would like to admit.
Look to Aaron Gordon or Jabari Parker for potential fits the Kings will look for as they assess their team needs before the upcoming NBA draft.
9: De’Aaron Fox is an end-game closer even as a rookie. At just 20 years old, Fox has shown why the Kings took him with their 5th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
While mechanically he is still working to improve his long-range game, his ability to get to the basket with his un-guardable speed, and explosion to the rim opens his game up for opportunities to capitalize late in 4th quarters.
Time after time we have seen how his metrics change within the last 5 minutes of a game, the man does not like to lose.
Six times this year Fox accounted for either a game-tying buzzer beater leading to an eventual win or game winning shot or dunk in the final seconds. Something the Kings have not had or seen on a regular basis since the Mike Bibby glory days of the early 2000’s.
A welcoming site indeed as Fox, at just 20 years old, has many more years ahead of him to hone in on that clutch skillset and live up to his John Wall comparison coming out of college.
10: The 3-ball is their secret weapon. Many times last year the Kings found themselves down big in games whether it was because they couldn’t find a rhythm or that sense of urgency was non-existent.
Suddenly they would find their way back in these games because of their ability to score from beyond the arc. At season’s end the team finished 3rd in the NBA in overall 3-point field goal percentage only behind the Celtics and Warriors at 37.5%.
Having both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield on the team has been a direct result of this as both hovered right around 40% from three consistently throughout the year.
While the Kings did find success in that department the issue they kept running into was finding ways to put up more three pointers on a nightly basis.
Averaging only 24 three point attempts a game which was good for 28th best in the league is something the Kings will look to when they reassess what worked and didn’t work going into next year.
All of these items of note give way to a promising future for this franchise and a fan base starved for some playoff basketball after more than a decade and counting.
As we go into the off-season with higher hopes and expectations the hot seat will continue to get warmer for both Vlade Divac and Dave Joerger if improvement slows down going forward.