By Vignesh Kumaravel
Disclaimer: the following article contains various degrees of optimism. If you are a Kings fan, optimism has been known to cause mental and, in rare cases, physical duress. Please proceed with caution. Enjoy responsibly.
A new NBA season is upon us, meaning it’s that time of the year when Kings fans are finishing up spending the late summer and early autumn months talking themselves into believing how the latest draft pick is going to be the difference maker in the same exact manner since 2006.
Gee, 2006? That’s a hell of a long time ago. How long? Well, for perspective, JJ Redick was drafted that year and since then, went on to have a respectable career before retiring last month.
It feels so easy to sulk, to feel equally weary and frustrated at this playoff drought that feels more like the grim result of extinction, but in spite of this repetition of losing seasons, the healing process may be further along than the average Kings fan, entrenched in the morass of 15 years of mediocrity, may imagine.
On the heels of Vlade Divac’s resignation, Harrison Barnes told reporters that the former GM had set this team up to succeed. It seemed like a stark miscalculation considering Divac had left so many fans feeling disillusioned, namely with the passing on of Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft.
Though it seems astray from generally accepted belief, Barnes may have had a point that’s proving itself in time.
Divac drafted franchise centerpiece, De’Aaron Fox, hired coach Luke Walton, and acquired Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Richaun Holmes. Though Divac may not have delivered success, it is apparent that he has at least laid down a large portion of the foundation for it.
Since the GM change, Monte McNair has utilized that foundation to progress and improve, and for the first time, the Kings have taken the R-E out of rebuilding. It is clear McNair, for the last year-plus has been building upon what he inherited.
So far, considering Tyrese Haliburton’s first year and Davion Mitchell’s skillset and preseason performances, it’s clear McNair has begun to erect a promising future with smart draft strategies. Most importantly, he’s redirected his overall attention to sure up this team’s most glaring weaknesses: depth and defense.
Is this roster the end product of the creation of a championship team? Nope. Is this roster the best Sacramento’s had in recent memory? Many familiar with the Kings would say so.
There are signs that optimism for this upcoming season may not be as flimsy and false as seasons past.
As for the roster itself, it is not without concern. The Kings are still a team with weak depth at the wing where so many stars play. Not to mention they are also limited, for now, to just a single star on the whole roster which is frankly not enough in the modern NBA to venture deep into the playoffs.
Those concerns are big, but only insofar as the expectations are as big. Those kinds of concerns can only sink a team looking to beat the league’s powerhouses in a seven game series, not a team merely looking to have a chance to play a seven game series.
In that context, there is a lot to be optimistic about, no matter how dirty of a word that is in Sacramento. Going into the season, there are many signs that point to assured improvement and a potential playoff appearance.
The Kings have five guards — Fox, Haliburton, Mitchell, Hield, and Davis — that between all of them cover the facets necessary to winning games. Thus Luke Walton will have the luxury of utilizing each player based on the circumstances presented. Sure, there is still lack of depth at the wing, but this is a good group of guards, and when Fox, Haliburton, and Mitchell are all out there together this season, Kings fans may very well be witnessing their team’s best unit then and for a long time to come.
Complementing the talent at guard, McNair added big men Tristan Thompson and Alex Len to the team one year removed from a season where the Kings gave up the third most offensive rebounds. So the team will be able to go big just as they can go small.
Considering these factors, the roster looks primed to win at least 40 games, but putting what’s on paper into practice requires more than potential and talent. However much the dichotomy between building and executing has tormented the Kings in the past, the team is in the midst of continuing its progression in a meticulous manner that seems dissimilar to past attempts at overhauling both talent and coaching philosophies.
The state of the Kings franchise is without a doubt in a better position today than it’s been in recent times. There is still a ways to go before the best fans in the NBA experience something akin to the glory days of the early 2000s, but the healing process has been churning. Now, it seems it’s just a question of how much patience will be left to see it through.