Where Do the Kings Stand Among the Rest of the NBA?

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 2: Domantas Sabonis #10 and DeAaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings look on during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on April 2, 2023 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

We’ve definitely reached basketball’s slow period.

Things will pick up when the regular season schedule is announced, when the FIBA World Cup gets underway, and, presumably, when Sacramento begins adding guys for its training camp roster. Until then, everyone has to pretend the release of the preseason schedule is somehow exciting.

This—this emptiness, this void—is exactly why there is some remnant of an inclination to peek at the offseason power rankings, the name of which explicitly reveals its uselessness.

But one of the rules of thumb in sportswriting is if there’s nothing to talk about, then go find something up to talk about. Hence why the words “nba offseason power rankings” plodded across my browser’s empty search bar.

As it turns out, ESPN ran an offseason power rankings this week that was seemingly compiled by all the folks that weren’t laid off over the last month or so.

Unlike years past, the Kings have earned a prominent spot in the discussion. Their list had Sacramento at spot number-twelve, and as it pertains to the West, they’re the seventh ranked team among their conference.

Looking at the conference alone, from one to six, the Nuggets, Suns, Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Clippers all stand above the Kings in the rankings.

While last season was filled with oddities, the Kings not only lingered around the third spot in the conference for most of the year, but held it down in the end without much competition. Is this power rankings underselling Sacramento?

To get it out of the way now, Denver should be a lot of people’s championship favorite. There might be one or two NBA teams that could make a similar argument, but they’re in the Eastern Conference, so nobody is dumb enough to argue the Kings are close to being on par with the defending champs.

The Suns, however, are an interesting team. It doesn’t take much imagination to have them slotted in as number-two, which is why it isn’t at all surprising. 

Of course, they’ll have Kevin Durant better integrated with Booker, Ayton, and the franchise, and of course they’ll have Bradley Beal alongside them as well. They did also manage to bring on some quality role players to bolster their depth, including Yuta Watanabe, Eric Gordon, Keita Bates-Diop, and Drew Eubanks. They also added Bol Bol and old friend Chimezie Metu. The team on paper is top heavy, but it’s definitely good.

The problem for Phoenix might be the fact they got rid of the 2021-22 Coach of the Year Monty Williams. Frank Vogel won the (Mickey Mouse) title in 2020 and he’s a great coach with plenty of experience, but one of the questions is that as a collective group, what is the steady factor there?

Looking east, think about Milwaukee. Getting rid of Mike Budenholzer was just about up to standard regarding absurdity as Williams’ firing from Phoenix was. However, the Bucks have a strong core that expands beyond a few players; there’s stability and extensive carryover there. Adrian Griffin will be a first-year head coach after being plucked off Nick Nurse’s former staff in Toronto, but he’ll be coaching a group that’s won together.

The continuity from the title run in 2021 is stronger in Milwaukee than it has been for Phoenix, and that’s obvious. Outside of star power, the Suns still have a lot of unknowns.

Looking at the Lakers, though, they’re in a more well-earned position. Kings fans may wince at this admission, but while what LA did at the trade deadline to reverse their fortunes—which took them to the conference finals—was incredible, their additional improvements this summer could make them a scary team with a full season to work with as a unit.

They re-signed Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell. They’ll still have Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt. Additionally, they added Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes. 

Third in the conference, though? With LeBron James, who played 55 games, and Anthony Davis, who played 56, leading the way? At full strength, they’re a handful, but how often will they be in that state?

Moving on, the Warriors beat the Kings in seven games in the playoffs, but they’re harder to pin down. If the Chris Paul addition is as good as some are painting it out to be—even though he’s never been a Sixth Man in his life—then they’ll definitely be competitive. After all, Gary Payton II will start this season off with them, they added Dario Saric (who is better than Jamychal Green), and they picked two solid prospects in the draft. Lastly, and perhaps most vital, they’ll have another year of development for Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

Will this solve their road issues, which killed them last season?

It could. Draymond Green has indicated that a mental element is a reason for their road struggles, saying “a collective mental strength as a team” is imperative.

Does Chris Paul bolster that when the presences of Curry, Green, Thompson, and Wiggins were already there? Have Kuminga and Moody improved enough to meet a certain threshold regarding mental strength even as their playtime was still muzzled through their second years?

There are questions about Golden State, but this is essentially their last ride. That can’t be underestimated. Curry is 35 while both Green and Thompson are 33, and Chris Paul is freaking 38 years-old.

But still. Unless Jordan Poole was the lone inhibitor to road success last season, who’s to say the Warriors won’t encounter the same problems? 

In terms of Memphis, the 25-game Ja Morant suspension won’t hinder a team that finished second and maintained their place in the conference even as the watchful eyes of the media were fixated on them, on top of other absences from their star guard; in other words, Memphis is clearly deep and interconnected. Plus, they added Marcus Smart which, as the ESPN people surmised, is a one-man solution to the losses of Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones.

Taylor Jenkins’ squad should be fine. If anyone can handle incongruity, weirdness, and “drama,” it might just be the Grizzlies.

Between Memphis and Sacramento in these rankings is the Los Angeles Clippers.

The question of health has been noted above a few times, but it may apply best to the Clippers.

And unless they pull off a way to add James Harden, they’re really banking on much better health, which has eluded them for years. And even if they do get Harden, health will still be critical.

Ty Lue is a great coach, but unless he schemes up the magic elixir to prevent injuries, the Clippers have a lot to prove, which has probably been said of them for the last three years.

Just behind them in these rankings, though, are the Kings.

Is there a reason why they don’t entice these national sports minds despite being the exciting, feel-good story of last season?

Of course.

From their perspective, the Kings did not add a whole lot. 

“The Kings’ free agency was spent building cap space to re-sign Harrison Barnes and extend Domantas Sabonis rather than make a flashy trade,” Kendra Andrews wrote.

Without lingering on the surface-level characterization, the simple counter to that is that the Kings free agency was spent moving money in order to bolster their depth. Furthermore, they’re leaning into team chemistry and continuity while looking to ride the wave of improvement via Keegan Murray, Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, and others.

Should the Kings be higher? Is there a spot they’re more justified to reside in?

It doesn’t really matter—offseason power rankings are dumb—but to answer the question: maybe.

It makes sense these folks put them at number-seven among Western Conference teams because they clearly didn’t really factor in the chemistry and continuity of the core nor the injury susceptibility, two areas the Kings can claim to be strong in compared to many of these other teams. 

Clearly, it did not occur to the ESPN contributors that standing pat at last year’s deadline—excluding the Kessler Edwards acquisition—ended up paying off for Sacramento as the team chemistry helped them lock down the conference’s third spot. Could that foretell something about this offseason?

Even more impactful to last year’s regular season finish was the fact the Kings were remarkably healthy, which earned their training staff the annual honors for their job.

It’d be interesting to hear what fans think and what they feel would be a better ranking, but the point here isn’t to shame the national sports media. (They do enough of that on their own.) Rather, the point is more obvious: that there’s definitely an avenue to make a legitimate argument that the Kings are one of the best teams in the West and, really, the NBA altogether. And quite frankly, it’s fair to say there are less questions surrounding them than other teams.

That alone is enough for now during the slow period of the basketball calendar. Or that should be enough, lest you want to continue wading through the superficial explanations of offseason power rankings.

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1 month ago

Where do the Kings stand in the NBA? In the Western Conference it will not surprise me if the Kings end up just below the Nuggets in 2024. Monty is doing a marvelous job developing stability with the Kings. Are the Kings just an Aaron Gordon-type player away from equalling the Denver Nuggets level?

1 month ago
Reply to  Halloween85

Yeah, I think they’re one key piece away from being championship caliber…I agree with your take.
Nice to see other members post for a change, keep coming back if you can…it gets lonely here, haha. I try mentioning this site every place I go, but no users seem to come here to contribute.

Dan Smith
1 month ago

Thought it was a tad silly to have the Kings 7th despite being 3rd last year and winning their division. And they did upgrade their bench, swapping Mezie & TD for Vezzy & Duarte. McNair wanted a defensive improvement over HB I believe, but all the best guys re-upped with their current teams or wanted deals that were too exhuberant (C.Johnson & Grant). Still, they have chemistry & continuity on their side, and a lot of their younger guys still have room for growth and improvement. I think the Kings could get 55 wins or more possibly and finish anywhere from 5th to 8th in league rankings. Let’s go Sacto, time to prove the doubters wrong once again!