As the NBA playoffs dwindle to the final few teams, it is important to look at the fallen teams. This team didn’t seem to try much at all. The Sacramento Kings experienced another failed season, as they now share a piece of the longest playoff appearance drought with the 70s-90s Clippers. Fifteen years might not seem like much, but look at what has happened in the NBA since then. Look at the world’s change and progression since then. As much as everything has changed, the Kings keep on their losing ways.
The last time the Kings made the playoffs in 2006, the roster featured Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Brad Miller, and Metta World Peace. Although Rick Adelman’s team placed fourth in the five-team Pacific Division that season, their 44-38 record was good enough for the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference. Following a 4-2 first-round defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, Kings’ President Geoff Petrie chose to move on from Adelman, the winningest coach in franchise history.
Since the 2006 playoffs, Sacramento holds a 437-801 record, never eclipsing 40 wins in any season after that. Three years removed from the ’06 season, Sacramento bottomed out with a record of 17-65, placing last in the Western Conference.
Many fans wonder why it is hard to find the right owner-GM-head coach-star player (or players) mix. If any team can create multiple years of success after a 5 or 6-year rebuild, why can’t the Kings?
Many connect their failure to the city itself. Aside from popular opinion, however, Sacramento doesn’t have the smallest NBA market. Cities such as Cleveland, Salt Lake City (Utah), and New Orleans have smaller cities by population. The Sacramento area ranks 21st out of 30 markets in terms of the TV market, with teams such as Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio all consisting of smaller television markets.
The majority of NBA players see Sacramento as a place where careers either die or get wasted. Look at DeMarcus Cousins. His prime years were wasted in SacTown. In his early years in Sacramento, Cousins was seen as a star of the future, making the 2011 All-Rookie 1st Team after being drafted by Sacramento. In the years that followed, the future predictions became a reality, as he became a member of the All NBA 2nd Team in 2015 and 2016, the final two years of his career in Sacramento. His career since has been underwhelming, as injuries have resulted in a lack of team interest outside of desperate teams. In comparison, his equally impressive Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis has had success with a solid supporting cast in New Orleans, showing enough to get a championship-bound Lakers team to pick him up in 2019. Sacramento shouldn’t be the place for players to start or finish their careers if they plan on succeeding.
The Kings brass doesn’t seem to strive towards making a more successful team. Owner Vivek Ranadivé runs the team almost like he doesn’t know what he is doing. His first general manager hire was to bring in former Kings center Vlade Divac, who decided to overhaul the entire roster after just one season at the helm. Their coach selections always seemed like failures, as they either get fired for bad performance, or they succeeded enough that the front office found a different reason to release them. They have missed out on countless franchise-altering players, instead drafting underwhelming and underperforming players who were one-hit college stars.
Might Sacramento make a playoff run in the near future? They have been closer recently, with current head coach Luke Walton leading the team to back 31-41 seasons. The Kings ranked 12th in the West over the past two years, heading to the Orlando bubble to finish the regular season in 2020, following that up by falling two positions short of the play-in tournament this past season. They nearly made the playoffs under coach Dave Joerger in 2019; however, he was fired after placing ninth in the conference. Divac resigned last offseason, being replaced by Monte McNair. The team inked star PG DeAaron Fox to a maximum contract while retaining young players such as Buddy Hield, Richaun Holmes, and others. Many moves are forward-looking in the small-market team in Sacramento, which is good news for the loyal fans in California’s capital city.
Realistically, the Kings could break the streak in the next couple of years; however, it is not likely that this upcoming season will be the end of this terrible record. Hopefully, the management reset and maybe a year or two of retooling turns Sacramento into a regular playoff contender for the future.
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