With last night’s 110-116 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sacramento Kings are now officially out of the play-in tournament and will miss the playoffs for the fifteenth consecutive season. Yes, it has been that long, and with another early exit this year, the Kings have now tied the Clippers for the longest playoff drought in NBA history. If you need help getting this to sink in, the last prominent Sacramento Kings to represent the team in the postseason were Brad Miller and Mike Bibby.
Given the fact DeAaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, and Marvin Bagley III have missed significant time in the midst of a late push for the play-in tournament, we can cut this year’s team a bit of slack. With the amount of talent that The Kings have been able to draft, however, the team certainly should not ever have this record within reach. Perhaps if they drafted Steph Curry over Tyreke Evans in 2009, we would not even be discussing this, but that is neither here nor there. This team had a bonafide star in Demarcus Cousins not too long ago and a franchise that had the chance to draft Luka Dončić a few seasons ago but elected to go with Bagley instead.
Truth be told, it’s been a series of miscalculations and bloated valuations by The Kings’ front office that has brought the franchise to this point. Unfortunately, with some of the decisions made by Sacramento’s front office, you would think that their research was mostly done on the search section on Instagram and not by their own expertise.
First, there was the decision to hire Luke Walton after a horrid stint with the Lakers. The Lakers made the mistake first, but who could blame them after the fantastic job Walton did standing in for Steve Kerr in ‘15-‘16? Walton’s stop in LA was the proof in the pudding, but the Kings seemed to think it would be different with their young core. With all respect to Luke, he is a good coach, but it is foolish to expect the turnaround job the Kings were looking for based on his time with the Warriors. That team was fresh off a championship and was a well-oiled machine, so much so that in succeeding years they had Andre Iguodala taking the whiteboard during timeouts.
The second blunder baffles me even more. Who could forget when Vlade Divac said in so many words that he did not think it was a good idea to draft Luka Dončić with the second pick in the 2018 draft? Yes, there was much “upside” to Bagley given his athleticism and perceived versatility as a big, but he was just as unproven as Walton was. Sure he and Ayton are turning out to be nice players, but they will unlikely become the generational talent with the impact on winning that Luka brings and will continue to bring for years to come. It is ironic that Vlade knows the caliber of basketball in Europe and how it can prepare you for the toughest basketball competition in the world, yet he chose to go with a one-and-done who had an underwhelming season at Duke. Luka has brought the Mavericks back to the playoffs in just two seasons and promises to be a headache for whichever of the higher seeds draw them in the first round.
Don’t get me wrong, the Kings may have a bright future ahead with DeAaron Fox being that cornerstone for them at the point guard position, but there is definitely more work to be done to build an 8th-seed playoff team around him. The infamous playoff drought record seems inevitable now for a franchise once touted a contender; whether or not they can stop the bleeding depends on how committed the organization is to doing the strategic work and having the patience necessary to build a great team with a winning culture.