The Sacramento Kings have hit a bump in their road to relevance

NBA Sacramento Kings Marvin Bagley III, De'Aaron Fox, and Buddy Hield (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NBA Sacramento Kings Marvin Bagley III, De'Aaron Fox, and Buddy Hield (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings have turned from a promising team on the come-up into one of the more disappointing stories in the league

Fast. Young. Electric. Those were the words that many used to describe the Sacramento Kings surprise success last season, transforming from a Western Conference bottom-feeder into a fringe playoff team that barely missed the cut in a tight race for the eighth seed.

The young and exciting backcourt in Sacramento had people turning their heads. The speedy De’Aaron Fox, one of the more fitting names in the NBA, and the sharpshooter Buddy Hield. What an exciting young duo. They’re gonna be a force to reckon with in the West for years to come.

Well, that really has not panned out as anticipated. In a tight race for the eighth seed in the West, the Kings are gasping for air with an 18-30 record, sitting in the 13th slot in the conference. Progression has stagnated, and a Sacramento fanbase is left exasperated in a year where they hoped a 13-year long playoff drought would finally end.

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Luke Walton was brought in to escort this team into a new era of winning. He’d had notable (though minimal) success with the pre-LeBron young Lakers team and as one of the younger coaches in today’s league; was thought by Vlade Divac to be a good fit for the emerging Kings core.

What’s different?

The Kings of last year made their money with a fast, high paced offense that overwhelmed opponents with speed. The team was third in the league in average possessions per game (103.88), first in points off of turnovers (19.3), and first in fast-break points per game (20.9) per NBA Advanced Stats.

This team was EXCITING. Watching them felt different from the lowly Kings squads of the past. This team was something different from the monotonous product that Sacramento basketball had been for previous years.

The style of play is different this year. There is a noticeable emphasis on halfcourt basketball that wasn’t as prevalent last year, given that it was not exactly a strong suit for the team. This year, the Kings have regressed in the areas that they excelled at last year.

The pace, fast-break scoring, and outrunning-and-gunning of the opponent have taken a step back from Dave Joerger’s time as head coach. The Kings currently rank 26th in possessions per game (98.52), 13th in points off of turnovers (16.9), and 20th in fast-break points (12.20) per NBA Advanced Stats.

What to expect

Even with these troubling struggles, I still personally believe in this Kings squad. They are in a confusing time right now with adjusting to a new coach, a new system and higher expectations. Not to mention the looming probability of the departure/trade of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has been a real impact scorer and facilitator for the Kings off the bench and in the absence of De’Aaron Fox.

The turmoil is always gonna come before the smoother sailing. There’s real talent on this team, especially in this backcourt, that I think can be dangerous in the near future. Fox will be an all-star in the future, potentially an All-NBA player. He’s struggled with his perimeter shot this year after a decent shooting year last year but he has the work ethic and talent to improve every area of his game.

Hield has that same mentality and confidence. His shot feels automatic when you see it go up. Marvin Bagley has been overshadowed by the fact that he was taken before Luka Doncic, but he is still a solid big with the potential and tools to be a future All-star.

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The Kings have their cornerstone pieces and now all they need is to develop them even further to greatness and surround them with the necessary role players to make a winning culture. These young talents will grow into their roles as leaders for this Kings team that I would bet on in future seasons.