It is a NBA off-season tradition to knight a ‘dark horse’. A fashionable team with a collection of young, unproven talents eager to make their stance on the landscape of the NBA. This year it is clearly the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings suit the dark horse moniker perfectly. Outside of the ‘White Chocolate’ and Peja Stojakovic years in the late 90s and early 00s, the Kings have lived up to their reputation as the little brother of the other juggernaut California teams. And I say juggernaut LA teams for good reason. This summer, both the Clippers and the Lakers acquired superstar level talent. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard going to the Clippers. Anthony Davis joining LeBron with the Lakers. Looking over to the Bay Area, Steph Curry now has a new shooting partner with D’Angelo Russell as Steve Kerr looks to protect Golden State’s status as champions of the Western Conference.
Lost amongst this gluttony of star power and absurd basketball prowess are the Kings. Led by De’Aaron Fox, the Kings are a young and hungry team hell-bent on proving to the NBA that they can play with the big boys. Last season, the Kings played explosive basketball under head coach Dave Joerger, finishing the season with a record of 39-43 and a W/L percentage of 47%, their best since 2005-2006.
Despite achieving the franchises best win percentage in almost 15 years, David Joerger will not be the head coach of the Sacramento Kings this season, being replaced in the off-season by former Lakers head coach Luke Walton. Walton was let go by the Lakers following what many believe was an unfair shake in LA, trying to survive the nuclear fallout that was the LeBron bomb landing in the summer of 2018.
Walton comes from the coaching school of Steve Kerr. A believer in the virtues of ‘space and pace’, Walton plays attractive basketball. However, there were accusations during his time with the Lakers that Walton was detrimental to Lonzo Ball‘s development and success as a player. Whether this is true or not is hard to tell as Lonzo was constantly plagued by ankle issues during Walton’s tenure in LA. Walton also has been criticised for his teams being lacklustre on the defensively, something that plagued the Kings even when Joerger was in charge. These two factors make me have doubts about Walton’s future success with the Kings.
If Walton is to be successful in Sacramento then De’Aaron Fox must be at the centre of his game planning. De’Aaron Fox is at the core of the King’s resurgence.
The explosive point guard was drafted 5th overall in 2017, behind fellow ball-handlers Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball. Entering his third year Fox is clearly the superior player to both Fultz and Ball. Fox is averaging 17 points per game (ppg), that’s higher than Ben Simmons, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry. Along with a steady ppg total, Fox ranks 9th in the NBA in assists per game with 7.3, that ranks Fox above the likes of Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker.
Although Fox is the clear leader of this team, its not just him out there alone. Stand out rookie Marvin Bagley will be entering his second year in the NBA following an impressive rookie season which saw him get accustomed to the league and acquire a strong rapport with Fox. In Bagley and Fox, the Kings have a young and aggressive one-two punch that runs the floor faster than maybe just about anyone in the NBA.
Shooting guard Buddy Hield, small forward Bogdan Bogdanovic and centre Dewayne Dedmon round out the roster. Hield being the third part of the Kings up and coming ‘Big 3’. Averaging 2o ppg (the highest on the team), Hield is a versatile player with the ability to score pretty much anywhere on the court, however, Hield excels from range, averaging 42% from three in the 2018-19 season.
There are three franchises vying for the throne in LA, the Lakers, the Clippers and the Warriors. Whereas the Kings may not live up to their namesake this season there is plenty reason for the rest of the west to be put on notice. In this seismic power shift the league underwent this past off-season, the Sacramento Kings may just see their chance to strike.
Chances of making the playoffs: Likely