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It’s no mirage: The Sacramento Kings are for real

The Kings have the longest active playoff drought in North American professional sports. Will their elite offense be enough to break it?

The Sacramento Kings are on track to break the longest active playoff drought in North American pro sports. In other words: The Kings are good. But can they finally make it to the postseason? 

The Kings have an elite offense

Something has changed these last few years in Sacramento. For the first time since the early 2000s, the team has placed a premium on continuity and drafting. The team’s current young core contains three guys the team drafted in the last six years, beginning with De’Aaron Fox in 2017. The rest of the core group is filled with veterans obtained via trade, like Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis, and free agency Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter. 

Hurter is a candidate for the Most Improved Player award, while Sabonis has developed an elite two-man game with Fox. Sabonis came over in a midseason trade with the Indiana Pacers last season for Tyrese Haliburton. The trade was controversial, as Haliburton was the best player on the team and looked like the franchise’s future. While Haliburton remains the better player, the Kings had a glut of guards in the backcourt, and Sabonis’s ability to pass and score has helped boost their offensive efficiency.

And Sabonis isn’t the only player carrying the Kings’ offense. Currently, the Kings hold the following placement in league-wide offensive ratings:

  • Fourth in FG% (48.7%)
  • Sixth in three-pointers made per game (13.3)
  • Second in points per game (117.8)
  • Seventh in assists per game (27)
  • Fifth in effective field goal percentage (.564)
  • Fourth in pace (101.8) 
  • Third in true shooting % (.600%)
  • Sixth in offensive rating (115.3)

All of this has added up to the league’s fifth-best offensive rating and fourth-best offensive efficiency. And in a tight Western Conference race, that has the Kings in sixth place standing only two games behind first. Who would have thought?

Sabonis and Fox are lighting the beam

What the Kings are doing isn’t novel: Surrounding Fox and Sabonis with shooters have given their two star players more room to operate. Most notably, Fox is seventh in field-goal percentage off of drives (57.2%), a career-best. And with the Kings expected to finally make it back to the playoffs, Sabonis will give them an option down low when the game slows down from pressure and defense. Sabonis’ ability in dribble-hand-off scenarios should make the Kings a consistent threat come playoff time, as his passing ability has helped various Kings duos rank first (Sabonis-Huerter), third (Sabonis-Monk), and fifth (Sabonis-Fox) in points generated from dribble-hand-off plays.

Their offense will get them to the playoffs, but they will need to get better on the defensive end to threaten in the postseason. The Kings currently rank 17th in defensive efficiency, good enough to make it, but not good enough to make it far. They will need to improve by four or five spots to get out of the first round. But for now, there’s plenty to be optimistic about regarding the Kings’ future. 

Kings fans are some of the most loyal in the game. If anyone deserves a franchise turnaround, it’s them. They have stuck by their team through almost two decades of losing, but this current Kings squad is finally giving them something to cheer for. It will take improvement and a sustained effort on all fronts for the Kings to continue on their route. But if they do, it will end the dysfunction and disappointment that has festered in Sacramento far longer than it ever should have.