For 15 consecutive seasons, the Sacramento Kings have missed the
playoffs. The last time Sacramento was a postseason squad, Mike
Bibby, Ron Artest and Brad Miller were their primary
Far and away the longest streak in the NBA, Sacramento has
become the proverbial cellar-dweller. Stuck in a rudderless cycle
of mediocrity, how can the Kings finally escape this position? With
how loaded the Western Conference currently is, it’s going to be a
massive task to break through as a top-eight team in the 2021-22
However, the cupboard isn’t totally bare in Sacramento. De’Aaron
Fox’s five-year rookie max extension officially kicked in this
offseason. Tyrese Haliburton immediately proved to be an integral
piece to their core as a rookie, averaging 13.0 points, 5.3
assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals while converting 40.9% on
three-pointers. Richaun Holmes, who proved to be a legit starting
center in the Association, is now locked in on a new four-year, $55
million deal. Davion Mitchell, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021
NBA Draft from Baylor who was lauded as one of the most pro-ready
prospects, will slot in as the Kings’ third guard.
Outside of those four pieces, there are questions about the rest
of Sacramento’s rotation and whether they are actually in the
team's long-term plans.
Buddy Hield was almost traded on draft night to the Los Angeles
Lakers for Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, proving he’s more than
available in discussions this offseason. Marvin Bagley III, who was
drafted No. 2 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft ahead of Luka Doncic
and Trae Young, has not fared well in his first three seasons due
to injuries and inefficient play. Rumors have also circulated
around Bagley III being floated in trade talks entering into the
final year of his rookie-scale contract. Harrison Barnes is a very
solid, reliable two-way wing who has revamped his career in the
purple and white, but will he be in Sacramento once his contract
expires after the 2022-23 season? The rest of Sacramento’s roster
is filled with unproven young players yet to make a dent in their
So, the Kings are truly in an interesting spot. What direction
should they go in? Do they make an aggressive push in an attempt to
reach the seemingly impossible playoff threshold or continue
playing the waiting game for years to come?
The Kings should try to find the best fits to surround their
backcourt duo of Fox and Haliburton. If that’s a win-now move or
continuing to add young prospects, it’s the best bet to make this
longstanding postseason drought rewarding once it ends.
Bringing back Holmes on a long-term deal was a great start,
because he was the only player in three-man lineup combinations to
carry a positive net rating (+5.8 NetRtg) alongside the budding
young backcourt throughout last season. In a career-best season for
Holmes, the 27-year-old big man averaged 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds
and 1.6 blocks in only 29.2 minutes per game. When Fox, Halliburton
and Holmes shared the floor in 43 games, Sacramento’s record was
close to .500 at 20-23.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, swapping out
Holmes for Bagley III alongside Fox and Haliburton caused their
lineup metrics to plummet. Sacramento was outscored by 20 points
per 100 possessions when this trio shared the floor, over a
25-point swing in the wrong direction compared to Holmes.
Sacramento would be wise to move off Bagley III to open up more
minutes elsewhere, but his value is at an all-time low. Simply
salary dumping Bagley III is a possibility, but there’s a better
way to maneuver this tumultuous situation.
Hield and Bagley III’s 2021-22 salaries combine to be $33.7
million. With both players in trade talks, Sacramento can slyly
become a sleeper team in the Western Conference by making one big
swing for the fences: Ben Simmons.
Sacramento is missing more defensive versatility and playmaking
to help anchor an already promising foundation led by Fox and
Haliburton. Insert Simmons into the mix and Sacramento is cooking
with gas on, immediately taking a huge leap forward. Simmons and
Haliburton would become one of the most entertaining one-two
playmaking punches in the NBA, while Fox takes on a primary scoring
role with the easiest buckets he’s been fed throughout his career.
Barnes would be a terrific floor-spacer, while Holmes’ efficient
rim-rolling will excel while being tossed picture-perfect lobs.
Sacramento becomes a playoff contender, potentially even a lock
to make the big dance, if they were to land Simmons. The No. 1
overall pick from the 2016 draft has needed a situation where he
can run the show with optimum spacing around him, similar to the
ecosystem Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is
thriving within. The Kings present an intriguing situation to make
those dreams a reality. Fox and Haliburton can play off the ball
with no issue, which we saw throughout last season as they shared
NBA insider Marc Stein reported last month that Sacramento is
one of five teams to have expressed interest in acquiring Simmons
from Philadelphia. The Sixers' asking price for Simmons is quite
simply outrageous — four first-round picks and an All-Star player.
Nobody is going to send Sixers GM Daryl Morey that much in return
for the 25-year-old point-forward, but Sacramento does stand out as
the one team desperate enough to cobble together an enticing
package to make it happen.
In the organization’s current state, no star-caliber free agent
will ever consider making their next long-term home in Sacramento.
Making an aggressive trade is the only way to make it happen.
Rolling the dice is tough, because it could all blow up in their
face down the road, but risks need to be made in order to break the
curse in Sacramento.
If the Kings refuse to go all-in, they will continue to stay in
neutral. Eventually, the button needs to be pushed in order to
become a well-respected playoff threat.