Conference rivals, Summer League reunions and the age old question: will Lonzo Ball continue to duck De’Aaron Fox?
The Sacramento Kings will look to make progress in a loaded Western Conference this season and a spot in the play-in tournament would certainly be a step in the right direction for a team trying to end a 15-year playoff drought.
Aside from the marquee matchups of title contenders, there are real litmus tests on this season’s calendar that Kings fans should be looking forward to in large part because of the young core of De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell.
Here are my picks for five games this season you should be tuning into:
Oct. 31 @ Dallas Mavericks
Although the beef between the Kings and Mavs remains strong for reasons we don’t need to rehash, Sacramento seems to have their number. Last season, the Kings won all three contests against them, two of which were wins in double digits.
Harrison Barnes will return to his former team and look to make a statement, which I love for the Black Falcon. It’s no doubt that Luka puts on his Sunday best whenever he plays us, and who really knows if Marvin Bagley III will even be in a Kings uniform come season start.
So for this new-look Kings team, it will be a battle of the offenses between De’Aaron Fox and Luka’s cast of role players.
Nov. 5 vs. Charlotte Hornets
Coming off the heels of an exciting Summer League contest where rookie Davion Mitchell was able to put the clamps on James Bouknight, there are many reasons why I’ll be looking at this game closely.
This will all be another opportunity to see two star sophomores facing off against each other in Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball and (the real Rookie of the Year) Tyrese Haliburton. As the Hornets were able to make the play-in last season and look to make a playoff run, this should be a fun game as the Kings face what I look to as a mirror image of their Eastern Conference selves.
Nov. 26 @ Los Angeles Lakers
The Kings will look to a battle their long-standing Western Conference rivals for the first time over the Thanksgiving holiday. After an injury-ridden first round playoff exit and an eruptive free agency, Los Angeles is undoubtedly looking to contend for a title this year.
Sacramento has had many a battle with new look Laker Russell Westbrook, famously being remarked by De’Aaron Fox as a player he greatly admires. This could be a future first-round playoff matchup, should the Kings make it beyond a play-in tournament and I think another #BeatLA series is exactly what Sactown needs.
Feb. 16 @ Chicago Bulls
Truthfully, this is my most highly anticipated match-up for Sacramento. Chicago completely transformed in the offseason, acquiring Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan.
The story will continue between Fox and Ball as they enter their fifth seasons. It doesn’t feel like long ago people were pitting them against each other in their Summer League debut and since then, Lonzo has seen three teams while De’Aaron has become a Sacramento staple. I feel that the Kings could match the energy of the Bulls both in the backcourt and on the defensive end, bringing a new excitement between these middle-of-the-road teams.
Dec. 26 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
In what will be the closest thing Sacramento gets to a Christmas Day game, the Kings will host the Grizz in their series finale at home. Memphis and Sacramento feel very much on the same trajectory to me: young with explosive talents in Ja Morant and De’Aaron Fox, great second-year guys in Desmond Bane and Tyrese Haliburton and defensive powerhouses in Steven Adams and Richaun Holmes.
This could be a potential for a play-in come April, and I think that their battles throughout the regular season will be must-see TV.