The Sacramento Kings ended the longest active playoff drought in US major league sports last season when they stunned the league with a third-place finish in the Western Conference.
That incredible campaign saw Mike Brown win Coach of the Year in his first season in Sacramento. Brown led the Kings in a thrilling series against the Golden State Warriors, losing Game 7 at home after an excellent win in San Francisco.
Going into the new season, there’s a lot of optimism around the Kings, who are largely running it back with last season’s roster in the hope of a deeper playoff run.
|2022/23 Sacramento Kings
|Result: Lost to Golden State Warriors in West First Round
|To win 2023/24 NBA Championship
|To win 2023/24 Western Conference
Last season was truly a breakout year for De’Aaron Fox, who had been the star of a terrible team before their turnaround. With the Kings on the up, Fox took his game to another level and made his first All-Star Game alongside appearing in the All-NBA Third Team.
Fox has always been a scoring and creative threat, but his efficiency took a jump on a much better organized Kings offense. He built upon that great season in his first-ever postseason appearance, where he was the star of the show against a Warriors side packed full of legendary names.
Fox averaged 27.4 points per game and chimed in with 7.7 assists in the series against the Warriors. He also managed 2.1 steals per game, justifying his Swipa nickname. The point guard racked up 38 points in Game 4 with a fractured finger and then inspired the Kings to a famous Game 6 win at Golden State with 26 points and 11 assists.
Fox has long been a box office player, but he’s now thriving in an impressive Kings side and he can scale even greater heights in 2023/24.
Sabonis has come to represent the turning point for the Kings, as their controversial decision to trade Tyrese Haliburton for the center paid off. That looked like the latest odd move for a franchise which kept finding a way to underachieve, but pairing Sabonis up with Brown was a masterstroke.
Last season, the Kings played through Sabonis more frequently and that resulted in him posting a career-high average of 7.3 assists per game. Not only did he maintain his scoring presence, but the Lithuanian led the league in rebounds with 12.3 per night.
That saw Sabonis rank seventh in MVP voting, while he earned All-NBA honours alongside a return to the All-Star game. The center is a vital cog in the Kings’ machine and his displays will be key to them competing at the top of the West again.
|Drafted (Round 2, Pick 38)
The Kings open up against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 25 and then face a rematch with the Golden State Warriors in their first home game of the season the following Friday.
The Kings’ have home and away games against the Warriors within their opening four and host the Los Angeles Lakers in their third game. That should be a good measure of where they stand for the new season.
From there, the Kings head on a run where they meet Western Conference outsiders the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder across their next four.
After shooting up the standings last term, the pressure will be on the Kings - and reigning Coach of the Year Award winner Mike Brown - to prove that wasn’t a one-off.
The Kings are competing in a stacked Western Conference, and their over/under for total regular season wins is set at 44.5.
Sacramento made some positive moves around the edges of last year’s roster. They signed reigning EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov, whose scoring (17.6 points per game with a 66 percent field goal percentage and a 38 percent three-point percentage) makes him a great alternative to sharp-shooting 2022 draft pick Keegan Murray.
They’ve added rim protection in three-time champion JaVale McGee, while Chris Duarte gives them another good perimeter shooter to go with Murray, Vezenkov, and Kevin Huerter.
With a bench unit led by Malik Monk, who has the fourth-shortest odds to win 6th Man of the Year at +1200, and potentially featuring Duarte, Trey Lyles, Davion Mitchell, and Vezenkov, the depth is there for Sacramento to make a run and surprise higher-profile teams in the process.
The Kings’ season will likely be judged on their playoff run, but in the shorter term, they’ve added depth to a proven roster and are an outsider for top seed in the West at +2000.