It’s well past time for a media mea culpa on the Sacramento Kings. That means myself included. Prior to the season, The Athletic’s John Hollinger had the Kings finishing 10th in the West, FiveThirtyEight’s Jared Dubin predicted they’d finish 16 games under .500 and in 12th. DraftKings, Vegas sportsbooks — you name it — were all down on the Kings. You’d be hard-pressed to find a prognosticator who had Sacramento in the postseason or play-in tournament.
Then, the season began and all the rules were thrown out the window. In 64 games, Sacramento twisted the future. After a decade of humiliating draft miscues, Sacramento was a smoldering, second-rate franchise stuck in purgatory. Today, they’re generating more points per 100 possessions than any team in the entire league and are on pace to set the NBA record.
Franchises typically don’t get reinvigorated to this extent without terraforming their entire core in one offseason. Usually, that means drafting a franchise cornerstone, paying max money to a heliocentric free agent, or welcoming back a game-changer from an injury.
Nothing to get excited about
Sacramento’s acquisition of Domantas Sabonis in February 2022 was pilloried at the deadline because they traded the wrong point guard. De’Aaron Fox’s regression as a shooter mitigated his potency as an offensive engine. Before the 2022 Trade Deadline, Sacramento reportedly offered Fox in trade discussions for Sabonis and Ben Simmons.
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Even after Sabonis was integrated into Sacramento’s lineup, the Kings were a sub-.500 squad. Who could blame the media for overlooking Sacramento? They drafted embarrassingly and Tyrese Haliburton looked like the first time they’d actually hit on a winning lottery ticket in two decades.
Making a leap into the postseason wouldn’t have been unprecedented with Sabonis. The Western Conference is a scrambled egg. As of this writing, the gap between the 13th-place Utah Jazz and the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks is three games. Until the trade deadline, there was a sentiment that they’d eventually sink into the rest of the pack. However, on Tuesday night, Memphis’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers tied the Grizzlies with Sacramento for the Western Conference’s second-best record (38-26). The Kings are 2.5 games up on the Phoenix Suns, who recently acquired Kevin Durant.
The Kings have been a laughingstock for much of their 16-year playoff drought. They haven’t even come close. Through these last 16 years, Sacramento has compiled a 477-803 record.
Things done changed
Suddenly, Fox is the NBA’s best performer in the clutch, banging out game-winners and clutch buckets in droves. Utilizing Sabonis’ mini-Nikola Jokić playmaking has transformed the Kings’ offense. His dribble-handoffs especially involving Kevin Huerter have created an offensive vortex from which no defensive scheme can escape. Malik Monk’s career has been revived. Fourth overall pick Keegan Murray has spread the offense and become a fourth offensive playmaker in Mike Brown’s motion offense.
Sacramento’s defensive acumen is the only thing separating them from title contention. As of this writing, the Kings’ defense is currently allowing the 25th-highest defensive rating in The Association, which exemplifies how heavily Sacramento relies on its offense.
This turnaround defies logic. A year ago, Fox was an albatross on offense and Sacramento brought in a coach known for his stale offenses and defensive units to pick up a team that was 24th in defensive rating metrics. The Kings are a record-breaking offense. Say that again. You would have thought that Mike Brown’s motion offense still needed new personnel. Perhaps, the beam possesses transitive properties that we must not understand yet. Maybe every workplace needs “the beam.” It may be expensive, but Sac-Town now appears to be communing with the basketball gods because of it.
In Sacramento, productivity increased two-fold just by affixing six total Nu-Salt Laser Space Cannons requiring 1,800 watts of total power that blended together to shoot a bright purple beam into the exosphere atop the Golden 1 Center.
All hail, the beam.