The Western Conference of the National Basketball Association is a tough place. Among all these talented teams, a new upstart stands out as the current number two seed in the conference.
The Sacramento Kings, a franchise that has struggled since the early aughts and all those losses to the Kobe/Shaq Lakers, sit at 38-26 with less than twenty games to go in the regular season.
The Kings are on pace to break the longest playoff drought in American sports. It’s been sixteen years since the Sacramento Kings made the playoffs. What’s different this year?
New Direction in the Front Office
The Sacramento Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. Much of that had to do with decisions made in the front office. Between drafting, free agency, and trades, there’s a reason that the Sacramento Kings became a euphemism in insider circles for a wayward NBA franchise.
After trying the age-old trope of bringing back an old player to help build a new team, Vlade Divac’s tenure as vice president of basketball operations from 2015-2020 ended. The organization commissioned a long search for a replacement. The Kings’ ownership settled on Monte McNair, who had worked under Daryl Morey for thirteen seasons in Houston.
In January 2023, McNair announced a three-year contract extension with the Kings. In that time, he’s turned around the roster to where the team is now.
He made big trades, like trading first-round draft pick Tyrese Halliburton for Domantas Sabonis. McNair also made smaller, lower-profile trades that turned out equally as valuable. Trading for sharpshooter Kevin Huerter comes to mind. He drafted players like Davion Mitchell and Keegan Murray. McNair has been spectacular in all the different parts of building a basketball team.
New Coach and Talent Blossoming
In addition to a complete roster turnover, the Kings fired interim Alvin Gentry from the 2021 season and brought in Warriors assistant and NBA veteran Mike Brown to coach the Kings.
Brown was just named the NBA’s Coach of the Month in February. In that time, the Kings went 8-4. Brown’s experience and championship pedigree have brought credibility to a team that needed positive reinforcement.
Brown’s new offense has led to the Kings becoming one of the best offensive teams in the league. The Kings are 2nd in the league in scoring and first in offensive rating.
Unfortunately, there are two parts of the game in basketball – offense and defense. On defense, the Kings are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The Kings’ offense has carried them this year. Playoff basketball slows down. The Kings could struggle against teams built for the slower pace.
It will be interesting to see how far the Sacramento Kings go in the playoffs. They will likely make the playoffs and end the longest playoff drought in professional sports. They may be capable of winning the right first-round matchup, but it seems unlikely that the team will be able to go past the second round.
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