In the 13 years since they last made the playoffs, the Sacramento Kings have built a reputation as a team which basks in a constant state of incompetence, drama, and tragicomedy. With years of bad picks, worse trades, relocation sagas, and an inability to attract even middling free agent targets, the Kings have not instilled confidence in the fans, the media, and the league since they took a chance on an embattled Ron Artest back in 2006. Now, things are appearing to change for the better.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Kings are establishing a brand new culture. Their young core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley III turned a team who many thought would compete for a top lottery spot on a pick they do not own into a playoff contender. However, while the team came up short in the end, all is not lost.
Despite missing the playoffs for the 13th season in a row, there’s finally a buzz around the team, and with the proper moves by Divac, ownership, and the players themselves, there are several ways that the Sacramento Kings could end this playoff drought and begin a new, happier chapter in team history.
1. Let the backcourt take the wheel
In their second and third years, De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield became the faces of this new, exciting Kings squad. The lightning-quick duo left defenses perplexed with the combination of Fox’s skills and playmaking ability and Hield’s limitless range.
Going forward, the team needs to take advantage of this and let their backcourt thrive together. Both have shown the ability to take over games at the drop of a hat, and both tended to fall into the background after stints of dominance.
The Kings’ future largely depends on these two players, and if they can hone the killer instinct that the fans have seen glimpses of, the rest of the team should fall into place.
2. Start Giles and Bagley
Although neither secured consistent starting spots, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles developed a reputation among Kings fans as an exciting frontcourt duo who could match the excitement of Fox and Hield.
Giles, who missed what should have been his rookie year due to injuries which hurt his draft stock, and Bagley, who was largely viewed before the season as the player drafted before Luka Doncic, played with chips on their shoulders. Their raw, powerful, and relentless play made them a favorite among those who watched them.
With Willie Cauley-Stein becoming a restricted free agent this offseason, it is time for the Kings to let him move on and hand the keys to the frontcourt over to their two up-and-coming stars.
3. Keep coach Dave Joerger
Despite some early drama in the season involving coach Dave Joerger and the Kings’ front office, Joerger gave Sacramento its best season in over a decade. Even with this success, however, this possible drama has been in the background of the entire season and left many worried about what Joerger’s future is like with the team.
Last time the Kings fired a coach who had the Kings trending in the right direction, they were ridiculed and reverted back into the team that everyone mocked for years. That coach, Mike Malone, is currently a favorite to win Coach of the Year, while his replacements, Ty Corbin and George Karl, lasted one month and a little more than one season respectively. Should the Kings repeat the same mistake and fire Joerger, a similar downfall could quickly follow.
Unfortunately for Kings fans, they hardly had time to clean the locker room before they sent Joerger packing.
4. Adding depth
With the excitement of the Kings’ young core, many of their problems could be chalked up to their lack of depth. Until Harrison Barnes came over at the trade deadline, the Kings did not have a traditional wing at small forward, and while Barnes fits many needs of the team, more depth is necessary.
Going into the Kings’ offseason, the front office needs to look at all the close games, big leads, and disastrous quarters that the team had throughout the year and pinpoint why they happened. Many can be attributed to a roster which was not cut out to give consistent 48-minute effort on a given night.
Although Nemanja Bjelica, Yogi Ferrell, and the other role players proved valuable to the Kings, they should look for high-energy, defense-oriented, hungry players to fill out their bench and let the young core rest for prolonged times without worrying about the team blowing its lead.
5. Natural development
Perhaps the easiest way the Kings can get better is by improving what they already have. With a young roster, one good offseason where the young guys add the necessary tools can be worth many games in the win column.
Whether it is Fox working on his jump shot, Hield working on his defense and his ability to take over, Bogdan Bogdanovic adjusting to his 6th man role, or Bagley and Giles building off of the promise that they showed throughout their rookie seasons, the Kings are in a prime place to improve with just the pieces that they already have.
The Sacramento Kings were one of the surprises of the 2019 season, but there are many ways that they can still get better. Should they treat this offseason correctly, by this time next year they won’t be a what-if any longer, but a what-is.