The Sacramento Kings had a decent 2021 NBA offseason, surrounding their youngsters with elite-level players that could help inspire a turnaround in franchise history. They have endured a ridiculous 15-year playoff hiatus, and it is perhaps time for a change.
The Sacramento Kings lineup is not filled with All-Star caliber talent, but they have exciting prospects that could impact the game. Winning the championship in the 2021 NBA Summer League is proof of the quality of young talent they have, but can they deliver in the NBA?
A 12th-placed finish in the 2020-21 NBA season saw the Kings get the ninth overall pick through the draft lottery, which they used in selecting Davion Mitchell. The Baylor guard was a bright spot, especially on the defensive end of the court, earning him Co-MVP of the 2021 NBA Las Vegas Summer League.
Point Guard - De'Aaron Fox
De'Aaron Fox was the standout performer for the Sacramento Kings last season, averaging 25.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. He is arguably the best player on the Kings' roster and can do a bit of everything.
However, his unique feature is his ability to attack the rim and finish ferociously. He is currently the fastest player in the NBA, and the leftie is never scared to finish strong at the rim against much bigger players. Although he’s been linked with a potential exchange for Ben Simmons, Fox is expected to lead this Kings team in the future.
Shooting Guard - Tyrese Haliburton
Tyrese Haliburton had an incredible rookie season for the Sacramento Kings, and the franchise is sold on giving him a starting role. Although he's naturally a point guard, he will be used in the shooting guard role in the upcoming season because it is unthinkable that he dethrones Fox. His frame, ball-handling skills, and shooting ability put him in a perfect position to develop as a top-tier combo guard.
Haliburton averaged 13 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists last season while shooting 40.9% from three-point range and made the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie team. He could have his breakout year in the 2021-22 NBA season given his increased playtime.
Small Forward - Buddy Hield
Several trade rumors surrounded Buddy Hield in the 2021 offseason, but the sharpshooter will at least start the season in a Sacramento Kings uniform. Reports suggested that he was growing increasingly frustrated and was eager to join a team that could compete for a championship. The LA Lakers were interested, but the Russell Westbrook trade left them short of tradable assets that could have been used to pursue Hield.
Hield's numbers have consistently dropped in the last two seasons, but that does not take away from his ability. With him playing as a wing, he should have more opportunities to execute catch-and-shoot. He averaged 16.6 points last season while shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc.
Power Forward - Harrison Barnes
The Sacramento Kings signed Harrison Barnes to a four-year in 2019, and the veteran has been a significant contributor ever since. He averaged 16.1 points and a career-high 6.6 rebounds last season.
Barnes fits into the Kings' intended style of play as he is a decent three-point shooter. With a backcourt composed of Fox and Haliburton, the big men will need to get out of the way to give the youngsters room to attack the rim.
Center - Richaun Holmes
Richaun Holmes has been exceptional for the Sacramento Kings since joining in the 2019-20 season. Last year, he averaged career-high numbers in points (14.2), rebounds (8.3), and assists (1.6).
Holmes' athleticism is a massive plus, helping him grow into a decent two-way player. Although his upside is limited based on the fact that he is not a three-point shooter, he will still play a crucial role as a member of their starting 5.
Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis, Jahmi'us Ramsey, Moe Harkless, Louis King, Robert Woodward II, Marvin Bagley, Chimezie Metu, Emanuel Terry, Tristan Thompson, Alex Len, Neemias Queta, Damian Jones.
The Sacramento Kings lacked depth last season and have made attempts to rectify that. Davion Mitchell will be a significant boost on both ends of the court and will act as a direct replacement for Fox.
Alex Len was also acquired in free agency and signed to a two-year deal. The 2013 5th overall pick is not the most exciting player to watch, but he could make an impact coming off the bench.
Perhaps the most high-profile acquisition was the trade for veteran Tristan Thompson. The big man played a key role in the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship run and showed flashes of that performance in the 2021 playoffs as a member of the Boston Celtics. He could provide the much-needed veteran experience and lead by example on the floor.
Can Their Young Backcourt End Their Playoff Drought?
It's been fifteen years of mediocre performances from the Sacramento Kings, resulting in year-after-year absence from the playoffs. While they've put together an exciting and talented young team, a playoff feature is still not within reach.
The goal will be to at least first register 40+ wins, which will prove difficult, especially with how most teams have gone all out in building a championship roster. In the 2020-21 NBA season, they were two wins away from the 10th-placed team, who featured in the play-in tournament.
Knocking off any of the top eight teams in the Western Conference will be a big ask. Given the quality of their roster, a play-in appearance is achievable and will be a sign that they are doing something right.
Luke Walton will go into his third year hoping to turn things around as his stay with the Kings might depend on it. The former LA Lakers forward has a decent 62-82 win-loss record with the Kings but will be looking to improve on it. Regardless, the likeliest possible outcome will be an extension of their playoff drought into year 16.