No one is talking about the Sacramento Kings but going into Orlando from day one, they are exactly where they need to be to have a shot at a play-in series. They’re 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and tied with the Blazers and Pelicans. The schedule lays out nicely for them, even though they’re 3-9 against their 8 opponents this season, one of those losses was to a Brooklyn team that will look nothing like the one they will face in Orlando and only a few of those losses were by more than a possession.
They’ll face the Pelicans twice and the season will likely turn on those two games. Their two-point loss to New Orleans in January was without Zion Williamson on the court. There’s no doubt his presence will change those games but why doesn’t anyone care about the Kings?
Marvin Bagley is out for the season with a foot injury. Their highest –paid player is Harrison Barnes and they’ve locked up Buddy Hield for the next few seasons. Throw De’Aaron Fox into the mix and they have some talent. Luke Walton is a good coach but even as I’m writing this I find myself wondering what this team is or what they will be.
That might be because Harrison Barnes is on his third team and while he’s always been effective, he’s also a ball-stopper on offense when he’s been the top option in Dallas and Sacramento. Hield is about to become their highest-paid player at least until Fox and Bagley are eligible for extensions. He’s a very good shooter but I’m not convinced he can be the best guy on a championship team. De’Aaron Fox very well could be that guy and he’s steadily improved since he came into the league.
That brings us to Marvin Bagley, who’s been effective but often injured during his first two seasons in the league and when people see what Luka Doncic is doing in Dallas and how the Kings could’ve drafted Doncic, that’s what leads to the let down in fans and observers. If the Kings take Doncic, they probably don’t trade for Barnes and then give him an extension. They also probably don’t sign Cory Joseph, who’s on the books for $12M in each of the next two seasons. That’s about $40M that could be used elsewhere and a future trio of Doncic, Fox and Hield would get fans excited and still leave the Kings money to sign a big body to fill the role Bagley is filling now. Or rather, not filling.
So, what to expect from the Kings in Orlando? Well, they’ll be competitive and they’ll probably be fun to watch but the talent just isn’t there to take down the Pelicans twice and climb into the playoff hunt. They’ll fall just short and end up in the lottery where they’ll get another nice young talent to join this team of nice young talent. But Kings fans are rightly concerned that they may never be able to get past that label of nice young talent and into the realm of championship contender.