This Kings team isn’t any different despite a hot start.
Just over a week ago, the Sacramento Kings were 5-4 and riding high fresh off of a 30-point win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Kings had gotten through their early gauntlet of a schedule with a record above .500 and were in prime position to start stacking wins once their schedule began to ease up.
Since then, however, the Kings have completely and utterly fallen on their face as they have done repeatedly for 15-plus seasons. The team has lost four in a row, with the most recent loss being a game in which they completely crumbled and blew an 18-point lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It’s been an incredibly disappointing week for those who support the team after a positive start to the season, but when examining things further, it shouldn’t be that surprising.
Sacramento brought back essentially the same team and coaching staff from last season’s team that went 31-41 and entered the season with a notably imbalanced roster. The notion that internal development and additions on the margins like Alex Len and rookie guard Davion Mitchell were somehow going to elevate the team from a lottery team to something meaningfully more than that was just silly.
If everything falls into place, maybe this Kings team could reach the elusive .500 mark this season, but that just isn’t a likelihood at this point. The Kings were 5-4, prior to their current four-game losing streak that began but that was an early-season mirage similar to years past.
The Kings are good enough to where they could rattle off four or five wins in a row at some point this season, but they could also easily lose nine in a row, as they did last year, two separate times.
The loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder was the perfect encapsulation of who they are as a team. They are good enough to lead by 18 points and convince you that things are different but they are also just as likely to completely collapse.
Kings fans have understandably directed a ton of blame towards Luke Walton for the Kings’ recent poor play, but I’m not sure any coach in the NBA is turning Sacramento’s current roster into a playoff team. The roster is just bereft of top-tier talent and even the talent that they do have doesn’t fit.
General manager Monte McNair still hasn’t made a significant personnel move outside of the draft since coming to the team in September of 2020. In general, the team hasn’t had a non-draft personnel shake-up to its roster since trading for Harrison Barnes in March of 2019.
McNair’s two almost moves — signing and trading Bogdan Bogdanovic for Donte DiVincenzo and trading Buddy Hield for Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell — would have been feathers in McNair’s belt if they happened, but they didn’t. At a certain point, McNair needs to actually put his imprint on the team, and make a significant transaction in the trade market.
The last two offseasons have also been nearly silent in free agency, with Glenn Robinson III, Hassan Whiteside, Frank Kaminsky as the team’s signings during the 2020 offseason, none of which are with the team at this point. The 2021 offseason was similar in that regard as they resigned their own guys and brought back Len. It’s hard to fault the Kings too much for a lack of success in free agency, given that Sacramento isn’t the most attractive market, but it just shows the Kings’ lack of roster change and the importance of the trade market.
At this point, everything should be on the table. Whether that’s firing Luke Walton, trading Fox or some other major shake-up, something’s got to give. Even if you make a move and it fails, at least you tried.
De’Aaron Fox is a great talent, but he just isn’t the same caliber of player as Jayson Tatum, Ja Morant, or Luka Doncic that can be the best player on 50 win teams. Barring some unforeseen growth to his shooting, this just isn’t all that likely.
That’s not to say Fox can’t be an All-Star at some point or a building block for the organization, the simple fact is that the Kings need to get someone who is better than him if they truly want to level up. And for a Kings team that has been reluctant to truly, tank the best option to do that is via trade.
Fox hasn’t even been Sacramento’s best player this season; Harrison Barnes has. Barnes’ improvements have been special this season but if he is your best player, you aren’t a very good team.
The saddest part about the Kings’ struggles is that the bar for success is extremely low in Sacramento compared to other NBA markets. Seemingly every year the organization goes all-out just to get the 8th seed and they can’t even get that right.
The status quo is not working and if the Kings don’t shake things up, they are going to finish the season where they always finish the season, with a record not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to secure a high draft pick. An NBA purgatory which they’ve been in enveloped in for the better part of 15 seasons.
The cycle continues.