Can Sacramento Be Saved?

This is the 15th year of Sacramento Kings apathy. The Los Angeles Clippers were never this bad. They never missed the playoffs 15 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 NBA Finals ten times. Foreign-born players have won the MVP in back-to-back years and possibly back-to-back-to-back years (if Nikola Jokic wins it 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. This year they are all in on the play-in game. Injuries and time changes dynasties.

During the epic playoff drought of the Kings, Kobe retired, Shaq retired, Allen Iverson retired, Steve Nash retired, Paul Pierce retired, Vince Carter retired, Tim Duncan retired, KG retired. Kobe died.

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. Fifteen years later, the Memphis Grizzlies lead the league in fastbreak points with 17.1 per game.

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 five times, the Memphis Grizzlies have been to the playoffs seven times, the Raptors have won a title, 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 retired.
  • They drafted Jason Thompson, a lottery pick in 2008. His career numbers are 8.9 ppg and 6.6 rebounds.
  • 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 Clippers.
  • 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. Now he’s back in Sac-town.
  • 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.
  • They drafted Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the 2011 draft. And they traded him. He became an All-Star before injuries changed his career.
  • They drafted lottery pick Thomas Robinson. He played for six NBA teams in five seasons. He is currently in Turkey.
  • They drafted lottery pick Ben McLemore, a good but not great choice. He has played for 5 times. They drafted Nik Stauskas in the lottery, a blah pick. He’s out the league.

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 coached the Nuggets in the 2020 Western Conference Finals.
  • 7 win Ty Corbin and George Karl, were epic disasters.
  • Luke Walton has won 62 games in two seasons and has lost 80 games.

On the player’s side of the ledger, current Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox is the 12th ranked point guard (Real Plus-Minus) 25.2 ppg, 7.2 assists. But they overpaid Buddy Hield (still owed $60 million). Hield is a scorer with a defensive rating of 119. They overpaid Harrison Barnes (still owed $38 million). Center Marvin Bagley wants out so bad his daddy went to the media to dog the Kings. Rookie Tyrese Halliburton is a bright spot.

Two years of Luke Walton Record Offensive Rating (Rank) Defensive Rating (Rank) Points Per Game (Rank) Leading Scorer
2019-20 31-41 18th 20th 22nd De’Aaron Fox, 21.1 ppg
2020-21 31-39 11th 30th 10th De’Aaron Fox, 25.2

The Kings are not going to make the playoffs this year which means 15 years in a row, the NBA leader in that department.  They are a developmental team, wasting De’Aaron Fox’s excellence. Veterans will want to play with Fox but are they willing to play in Sacramento for a sinking ship? Because it is Sacramento, it always feels like Sisyphus climbing uphill and that damn rock rolling down to crush him.

It’s Summer in  Sac-town.