By Conrad Hoyt
Published: May 8th, 2019
The Sacramento Kings have been a poor franchise for the better part of the 21st century, so when the 2018/19 season began, expectations were not very high. It has been 13 years since the Kings made the playoffs, the longest drought in the NBA.
It seems a lifetime ago that the Kings had their historic playoff battles with the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s. Since then, the franchise has made poor decision after poor decision, resulting in futile teams that either underperformed or realistically had no chance of success.
The Kings finished this season 39-43, which was good for ninth in the Western Conference. For a team that was expected to be one of the worst in the league, they were in the playoff picture for nearly the entire season, so there is no question that it was a step forward for a struggling franchise. Ironically though, just one day after the end of the NBA regular season on April 11, the Kings fired head coach Dave Joerger, after three years with the team.
However, this firing was not completely unexpected. There were reports during the season of disagreements between Joerger and Vlade Divac over how the team was being coached and what players were being played. Divac is the General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations and wanted to see number two overall pick Marvin Bagley starting, while Joerger preferred a better shooter (but not player) in Nemanja Bjelica. It is clear that with Joerger’s firing, Divac is consolidating more power for himself.
Luckily for Divac, his preferred coach Luke Walton was fired by the Los Angeles Lakers on April 13, and just a day later, the Kings hired him as their new head coach. Among the questions that come with a new coach, there are a lot of uncertainties for the Kings this summer and heading into next season.
Harrison Barnes, a player who the Kings traded for midseason, has a player option for the 2019/20 season for $25 million. All bets would be that he opts in, but it is no certainty. Willie Cauley-Stein, the Kings starting center this past season, is a free agent without a player option, and chances are he gets offered more money elsewhere than the Kings are willing to give him. Bagley needs to play, so letting Cauley-Stein go in free agency may be the best thing for the team.
De’Aaron Fox is a candidate for Most Improved Player this season, and he has cemented himself as one of the fastest and most explosive point guards in the league. He is lightning quick and a pesky, hardworking defender. The jump he has made from year one to two should provide a lot of confidence for the Kings’ front office.
Buddy Hield was probably the best player for the Kings this season, at least on offense, averaging 20.7 points on 45.8 percent shooting and 42.7 percent from deep, while playing all 82 games. Another impressive player for the Kings moving forward is Bogdan Bogdanovic, the second year player from Serbia, who is on the rise with his ability to create his own shot and make difficult ones.
There are many questions about the Kings moving forward, only elevated by the news that a woman is accusing Luke Walton of sexual assault during his time with the Golden State Warriors. The Kings look on the verge of a long-awaited playoff return, but if they do not get this summer right, the drought will be sure to continue.