9. Sacramento Kings
After emerging as a big surprise team last season, there were many who suspected the Sacramento Kings would take a bit of a step back heading into this year in the Western Conference. However, that doesn't appear to be the case. Instead of taking a step back, the Kings have emerged as a real dark horse contender.
Quietly, the Kings find themselves right back in the mix in the Western Conference standings. And that's without a big upgrade during the offseason. There's a reason to believe that if Sacramento is able to make a substantial move at the trade deadline, this is a team that could make a deep run in the postseason. The Kings had a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors last season. But that experience could prove to be valuable this year.
If the Kings are able to navigate themselves toward a top-4 finish in the Western Conference standings heading into the playoffs, this is a team that, depending on how the bracket falls, could make a run to the Western Conference Finals. They're certainly a team to keep an eye on heading into the second half of the season.