Can Sacramento Be Saved?

This is the 12th year of Sacramento Kings apathy. The Los Angeles Clippers were never this bad. They never missed the playoffs 11 years in a row. The last time the Kings were in the playoffs, the U.S. President was named after a King- King George. The Bushes left D.C. in 2008 and have lived in quiet obscurity. Not so for the Sacramento Kings who have been terrible and loud and dysfunctional and awful and a boat without a captain and a clueless owner in love with the star player who he then traded, and an impotent G.M., to round out the cast of characters.

In 2005-06, the Kings best player was Mike Bibby and they won 44 games and lost in the playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs, who were the defending champions. Since then, they have had seasons of 33 wins, 38 wins, 17 wins, 25 wins, 24 wins, 22 wins, 28 wins, 28 wins…To keep counting their futility will only parameterize their failure. The Kings are like that little kid pressed up against the department store window at Christmas time staring at all the bright lights of NBA teams he wants for himself but on Christmas morning all he has is a bag of coal.

In 2005-06, the NBA’s  leading scorer was Kobe Bryant. Allen Iverson played the most minutes. Ray Allen drained the most threes. Allen Iverson went to the line more than anyone. KG was the rebound leader. Steve Nash was number one in assists. Gerald Wallace led the league in steals. Marcus Camby had the most blocks. Shaq had the highest field goal percentage. Richard Hamilton had the highest three point percentage. Steve Nash had the highest free throw percentage. Chauncey Billips had the highest offensive rating. Tim Duncan had the best Defensive Rating.  2005-06 was a lifetime ago.

Since the Kings were last in the playoffs in 2005-06, LeBron James has been to seven straight NBA Finals and possibly eight if the Cavs make it there this year.

Since the Kings were last in the playoffs, the Warriors went from famine to on my God.  The Warriors won 23 games in 2011-12. Four years later, they won 73 games.

Since the Kings were last in the playoffs Kobe retired, Shaq retired, Allen Iverson retired, Steve Nash retired, Paul Pierce retired, Tim Duncan retired, KG retired.

The game has done a complete 360 since the Kings were in the playoffs. In 2005-06, a Carmelo dominant Nuggets team led the league in fastbreak points, 19 per game. Currently, the Golden State Warriors lead the league in fastbreak points with 27.

Since the Kings were last in the playoffs, the Charlotte Hornets have been to the playoffs three times, the New Orleans Pelicans have been to the playoffs four times, the Memphis Grizzlies have been there seven times, the Raptors have been there four times, the Magic were in the NBA Finals. All small market teams who scouted and drafted better than the Kings.

While other organizations changed their fate, the Kings have stayed the same ridiculously clueless organization that can’t seem to get it right, it meaning the draft, the trading deadline, acquiring talent, free agency home runs.

This is what the Kings have done in a decade.

  • They drafted Spencer Hawes their first year out the playoffs (2007). Hawes was a lottery pick. He has been with six NBA teams and is out the league now.
  • They drafted Jason Thompson, a lottery pick. He is playing in Turkey.
  • The Kings traded Mike Bibby to Atlanta for four players. Two of the players are noteworthy for what happened to them later, after the Kings eventually got rid of them. Lorenzen Wright was murdered. Ty Lue is coaching the Cavs.
  • They drafted Tyreke Evans who was Rookie of the Year and of course, he was traded. They drafted Omri Casspi at the bottom of the first round in 2009. He was a good pick, a solid player who had a very good year in 2015-16. They traded him.
  • They drafted Hassan Whiteside and let him go after funneling him in and out the D-league. He signed a max deal with the Miami Heat.
  • They drafted DeMarcus Cousins, despite red flags about maturity. They traded their All-Star so as not to pay him the supermax deal of $200 million.
  • They drafted Bismack Biyombo, a lottery pick, then traded him on draft night. He has seen more playoff action than Cousins. Biyombo signed a $72 million deal with Orlando.
  • They drafted Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the 2011 draft. And they traded him. He became an All-Star.
  • They drafted lottery pick Thomas Robinson. He played for six NBA teams in five seasons. He is currently in Russia.
  • They drafted lottery pick Ben McLemore, a good but not great choice. He is with Memphis. They drafted Nik Stauskas in the lottery, a blah pick, and they traded him. They drafted Willie Cauley-Stein.

What about coaches?

  • They fired Eric Musselman after one season of 33 wins.
  • They fired Reggie Theus after a season of 38 wins and 6 wins the following year. His replacement, Kenny Natt, won 11 games.
  • They fired Paul Westphal after 51 wins over two seasons and one week. He hated Cousins. Keith Smart lasted the rest of the season and the next year, 48 wins total.
  • They hired Mike Malone who lasted a season and a quarter, 39 wins.
  • He was followed by 7 win Ty Corbin and George Karl, an epic disaster.

All their hopes lie in Dave Joerger who has won 35 games and lost 58.

On the players side, they are crossing their fingers that De’Aaron Fox can make magic happen but Fox is on the bench because the Kings overpaid George Hill $57 million, after Hill had one great year. Hill has career low scoring numbers, 7 points a game.  He hasn’t even been a good point guard, accounting for only 18% of Kings assists.

What’s The Point? Points FG% 3Point% Assist % 2017-18 Salary
George Hill 7.8 40.6% 40.0% 18.3% $20,000,000
De’Aaron Fox 12.3 40.9% 18.8% 34.1% $4,609,200

This version of the Kings with past their prime veterans in Zach Randolph and Vince Carter and learning the league Fox and Buddy Hield is a prime recipe for what we see again- the new story that is the old story.

The Kings can defend, almost a top ten scoring defense but they cannot score, at the bottom of the league, actually next to last, to be precise. This is a miss or make league. They are one of the slowest teams in the NBA so forget about fast break points making a difference between winning and losing. Their leading scorer is Zach Randolph and if you can’t figure out why that’s a problem then you are just as clueless as Vlade. The Kings leading rebounder, Koustas Koufas, averages 6.5 rebounds a game. Rookie De’Aaron Fox leads the Kings in assists off the bench.

More numbers to depress you: The Kings are last in first quarter points, next to last in third quarter points and ditto for offensive efficiency, next to last in blocks. They have the worst starters in the league  when measuring point production.

They are not going to make the playoffs this year which means 12 years in a row, the NBA leader in that department.  They are a developmental team, stuck on grooming De’Aaron Fox and hoping he develops at an accelerated pace so veterans want to play with him and in Sacramento. It is Sacramento so it always feels like Sisyphus climbing uphill and that damn rock rolling down to crush him. And us.

Winter is here. Already. Sacramento has the fourth worst record in the league. Hold on for another bumpy mediocre ride.

photo via llananba