Debunking the Idea That The Sacramento Kings Can’t Make the Playoffs


For years, the Sacramento Kings have been considered one of the worst teams in the NBA. Fans of all magnitudes, ranging from casual fan to NBA analysts have not given the Kings a legitimate chance to make the playoffs in quite some time; and by no means are they in the wrong. The team hasn’t seen the playoffs since the 2005-06 playoffs, and only have one NBA championships to their name. They have been towards the bottom in most statistical categories and has gone through a rebuild of sorts involving many lottery picks.

The problem is, is that the Kings have had a very solid offseason and they are in a position to succeed. Most people will continue to believe that the Kings don’t have a chance, “because they’re the Kings”, but that ideal isn’t fair to the team and their fans. Yes, the Kings have been terrible in the past, but that is the past. Teams adjust and improve, and the NBA and entire sports world is an always changing.

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Looking at other sports, one can look at the Houston Astros to prove that sports are ever-changing. The Astros were a bottom dweller for years, and have not made the playoffs since 2005. Yet through all that adversity, the team is only 0.5 games back in the AL West, and is one of the two teams in a Wild Card spot. Yes, it took a massive rebuild, but in due time, the Astros are competitors.

That is exactly how, not only Kings’ fans should be feeling, but NBA fans in general. No one is going to give the Kings any credit when it comes to playoff possibilities, but looking at the core the team had in place and then the pieces they have added so far via the draft and free agency, this team could be a real threat in the West. Now, this isn’t stating that the Sacramento Kings are your next NBA champions, but after a poor stretch, it may be finally time for fans to start believing that the Kings can be a playoff team.

Looking at the team’s core before free agency and the draft, it contained solid pieces in Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, Darren Collison, and of course, the epicenter of the entire franchise in DeMarcus Cousins. Looking at each player individually gives you better view of their respective importance to the team.

Gay is the second option in the offense. Behind Cousins, Gay is the go-to man. He provides the Kings with a proven scorer and a player with positional versatility, being able to play either small forward or power forward. Gay has also been pretty durable, playing in no less than 54 games in his nine-year career; with a career average of 35.9 minutes per game, staying healthy is quite impressive. He also averages 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, proving that he will continue to be an offensive focal point on the Kings.

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McLemore is still young at just 22 years old by the end of next season. He has somewhat disappointed since being drafted seventh overall in 2013. Looking at his stats, he improved mightily from his rookie to sophomore year, and assuming he continues his improvement he could turn into the dominant scorer at the two-guard the Kings hoped they were drafting.

In his sophomore season, McLemore averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.7 three pointers per game on 35.8 three-point percentage and 43.7 field goal percentage. All of those totals were higher than his rookie numbers. More importantly he played all 82 and started all 82 games. Assuming McLemore continues to improve, he can become an offensive force.

Collison performed well during his first year with the Kings. He averaged 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals and shot 37.3 percent from three, making 1.3 threes per game. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to injury and he only appeared in 45 games, starting all of them.

The team added Rajon Rondo in free agency, so it’ll be hard for Collison to find anything more than backup minutes. He would be one of the better backups in the league with those averages, so if the team keeps him, he would be a solid leader in the second unit.

And of course, there’s the face of the franchise, Boogie Cousins. He provides the team with arguably the best young big man in the NBA. The offense and defense run through him, and he has proven he can handle it. His career averages of 18.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting .463 is extremely impressive. Cousins was voted to his first All-Star game last season, and there will undoubtedly be many more. Wherever Cousins goes, he will most likely be the best player on the team. His presence is must for the Kings.

It is evident that the team had a solid core going into the draft and free agency. Team  vice president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac didn’t stop there, as he made four key moves to bolster the Kings roster.

He started with the draft, adding former Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings struggled on defense in 2014-15. Defensively, the team ranked 27th in the league in points allowed with 105.0 per night. They also finished 24th in the league with only 12.5 forced turnovers per game.

Cauley-Stein provides an element of defense to a team that needs it. His defensive rating was 80.0 for the 2014-15 season, and his career 87.0 defensive rating ranks as the highest amongst players in the SEC since the 2009-2010 season. It is yet to be seen if Cauley-Stein will start at power forward or come off the bench as a backup center, but regardless, he will be a defensive force for the Kings.

Divac then took his talents to the free agency market, and while he struck out on the likes of Wesley Matthews, Monta Ellis, and even Andrea Bargnani, he was able to bring in three players who should make a difference right away.

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  • The crown jewel of Kings’ free agency would be the signing of former Mavs’ point guard Rondo. Signed to a one year/$10 million contract, Rondo brings the ability to be a floor general and should be a good pairing with Cousins. That pairing will be key as Cousins can make shots for himself, but having a player of Rondo’s assisting caliber will be key to Cousins’ output.

    Rondo brings career averages of 10.8 points, 8.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 47 percent. His passing will be key as he will be a vocal leader on the floor. This was a good signing for the Kings, although the only one year is puzzling. He forms somewhat of a “Big Three” with Gay and Cousins.

    Divac then signed two veterans who will likely come off the bench, but provide good minutes in Marco Belinelli and Kosta Koufos.

    Belinelli provides the team with a proven three-point shooter. For his career Belinelli has made 1.3 threes per game at a 39.2 percent rate. We saw how important three pointers are in the NBA when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA title. While Belinelli is no Splash Brother, he does provide the Kings with an improved three-point shooter, a player the team desperately needed. The Kings made 34.1 percent of their three pointers, but they only attempted 16.5 per game (28th in the league), and only made 5.6 per game (also 28th in the league). Belinelli will likely be the team’s sixth man, and will provide the Kings with a capable three-point shooter.

    As for Koufos, he provides the team with an all-around solid backup. If the team decides to start Cauley-Stein at power forward, then Koufos would be the first backup. If they play Cauley-Stein at center, Koufos can be used as the backup so Cauley-Stein can improve. For his career, Koufos is averaging 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 52.8 percent in just over 15 minutes a game. Those numbers aren’t flashy, but they aren’t supposed to be. Koufos is one of the better backup centers in the league and provides the Kings with yet another solid piece in their second unit.

    Looking at just the players alone gives one a good look at how this team has the ability to succeed. They have a solid core and an improved bench mixed with youngsters and veterans and it may be the year the team breaks the postseason slump.

    One factor that has been untouched is that of the relationship between coach George Karl and Cousins. It has been reported multiple times that the two have a rocky relationship and that Karl actually wanted Cousins traded. It is key that the coach-best player relationship is smooth, as evident by Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy’s beef in Orlando, and more recently, LeBron James and David Blatt’s postseason tiff. While Karl and Cousin’s relationship isn’t perfect, the pair shared a handshake in a Summer League. The gesture may seem like nothing, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and time heals all wounds. Karl and Cousins will get over their unhappiness, especially if the team succeeds.

    Not many people are going to give the Kings any chance of making the playoffs in 2015-16. But with the team’s core and solid bench they are truly one of the sleeper team’s in the Western Conference. They won’t be shooting for the moon, but an eighth seed seems entirely possible. When you and your friends read this article and think it is an outrageous claim that the Kings could make the playoffs, just remember you read it here first when they do.

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