32.5 wins? ‘Not better than’ Portland? Why the national perspective on the Kings isn’t worth a penny

We’re at a point in the offseason—at least for now—where Las Vegas odds on the upcoming NBA season stand as a prominent topic of discussion, debate, and dispute. 

When it comes to the Sacramento Kings, put an emphasis on the last two. After what is widely believed to be the most positive offseason in recent memory for the franchise, oddsmakers have calculated, through their use of magic, a win total of 32.5 for the year ahead. 

There seems to be plenty of disagreement.

It remains to be seen whether the emphasis on these odds is due to the proliferation of sports gambling advertising these days or the mere fact the offseason remains in a dull lull until actual news is delivered regarding Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Donovan Mitchell.

In all likelihood, it probably has to do with the fact that it is, as always, setting up the clearcut debates on whether to take the over or the under on some of these projections. 

Vegas aside, related questions regarding what the upcoming season will look like on a league-wide and individual team scale are always relevant, especially at this point in the summer with most rosters beginning to resemble what the final product for opening night will be (excluding, of course, teams like the Lakers, Nets, Knicks, and Jazz). 

It’s partly why Marc Spears went on ESPN’s NBA Today last week to explain his case for why he thinks the Kings will be a playoff team. At the end of one of their shows he dropped that prediction, and so they had him back on the next day to talk about whether or not the Kings “can really make the playoffs this season.”

As for why he thinks they can, Spears cited the pick-and-roll combination of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, Davion Mitchell’s anticipated second year progression, the drafting of his Rookie of the Year pick Keegan Murray, the presence of Harrison Barnes and the “underrated” Richaun Holmes, as well as the acquisitions of Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter.

Based on what Spears noted, nobody disagreed with him on the notion that Sacramento will compete for a possible spot in the play-in tournament, likely battling with teams like the Pelicans, Lakers, and Trailblazers. However, nobody actually believed that the Kings might possibly have a better year than any of those three teams and end up among the eight playoff teams in the west.

“They’re not better than the Pelicans,” Kendrick Perkins countered. “And to be honest with you, they’re not better than the Trailblazers.” 

More than disagreement with Spears’ hunch, it was insulated denial.

And that likely has to do with the fact that the national sports media is not the amoeba of gurus its often regarded for being. 

Think about a year ago. Nobody expected Minnesota to win 46 games. Not many seemed to think Golden State would win more than 50 games and a title. Likewise, nobody thought the Clippers would be hit with the injury bug and succumb to a play-in defeat. And it came as a shock to many that the Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook did not result in a playoff berth.

More to the point, think about just a few months ago when the Kings traded for Domantas Sabonis. Recall JJ Redick’s inability to rationalize why Sacramento would trade for an all-star. There wasn’t even an attempt to provide any worthy analysis on what it might do for the Kings.

Of course, nobody will argue that the Sacramento Kings are an ordinary organization. The record 16-year playoff drought may justifiably have a big influence on this rejection to entertain the thought that Sacramento has a chance to crack the playoffs. Not to mention the fact that Ranadive’s ownership has been erratically disruptive for the vast majority of its tenure.

But the error of the national sports analyst regarding coverage of the Kings is that they often fail to dig deeper. It’s lazy coverage more often than not, void of curiosity, frequently resorting to rudimentary observations that echo Sacramento’s obvious and longtime mediocrity without utilizing much time or effort to try and enlighten anyone as to why it might be happening. 

The reason for this might be that there hasn’t really been a reason for them to take a closer look at what Sacramento has been doing this last decade-plus. That would seem to explain why there seemed to be a lack of awareness of how different the post-deadline Kings were and in turn why the offseason additions are being seen as such a big deal.

Pay attention to why Spears came to his conclusion in the first place.

“I watch them more. I live in Northern California,” Spears told the panel. 

So Spears’ reasoning rests on the fact that he’s watched them? That he actually knows a little bit about them, what they were doing post-deadline last season before both of their stars got hurt?

“Their (Fox and Sabonis’) pick-and-roll game is special. You’ll see,” he added, implying that as of right now, the others on the panel haven’t seen, they don’t know.

Sure, there’s not a lot of room to argue against being skeptical of Sacramento until they actually show they’re turning it around through indisputable results. And this is no endorsement of putting money on a Kings playoff appearance. However, because of this offseason’s acquisitions of shooters that will piggy-back off of last year’s deadline, which added the two-time all-star Sabonis and veteran depth piece Trey Lyles, there are already discernible contrasts to how this upcoming season feels when compared to any other in the last decade and a half.

Neglecting that is openly admitting ignorance.

Which steers things back to the sports gambling scene and to a particular “rant” that James Ham had the misfortune of pointing out.

You Better You Bet is the name of a song by The Who, but it also happens to be the name of a sports betting podcast. Its co-host Nick Ashoosh was the one who went on the tirade that supposedly lays out why it’s a no brainer that one should bet the under on the 32.5 projected Kings wins.

This was an unfiltered example of sports media brain idleness typical from the national perspective. 

Ashoosh mentioned his questions regarding the chemistry of a team that, despite not winning games down the stretch last season, was building considerable rapport on the fly and will have all of training camp to bolster it. Odd. 

He shared his feeling of confusion due to Malik Monk’s decision to sign with Sacramento, oblivious of the clear fact he’d be reuniting with college teammate and backcourt sidekick De’Aaron Fox, which calls into question any credibility he has to comment on the team. 

And the foundation of his belief that the Kings will finish with 32 or less wins seemed to be articulated by the oft cited fact that no active NBA player has competed against the franchise in the playoffs, which might be a fun piece of trivia, but is certainly not the analytical x he thinks it is.

All things considered, that show is probably a fine source for gaining the confidence to potentially throw money away, but Nick Ashoosh may have benefitted from putting some time into getting somewhat familiar with the Kings before he advocated that people put money on the under.

This is not a proclamation that the Kings will certainly make the playoffs, nor is it claiming anything is certain about the season to come. But it is proclaiming that not every reliable analyst is reliable about every topic.

It’s harmless and par for the course that the Kings and their offseason are both seemingly a bit obscure relative to what’s been circulating in the national discourse lately, but it’s common sense to understand that to claim to know what’s ahead with a blindfold on is foolish.

The national sports media is not stupid, it provides some valuable information and coverage, but to think the opinions of national personalities are sources of valuable analysis on less macro-level things that pertain to particular franchises and teams is probably overstating their expertise. 

To put value in their analysis on such issues could easily be deemed ridiculous.

If, however, someone does happen to see value in what they have to say about the Kings, there are plenty of daily flights to Las Vegas that will bring just about anyone of legal age to a place where you can put your money where your mouth is.

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