What the Kings never had and still don't

The Kings were once a good team. No joke. It's hard to believe, but the Kings used to be the (almost) best team in the league. They had a strong player at every position, as well as a great bench. Everything was going well. Even though they were a small-market team, they had the best fans. They really deserved to win a championship. Then, it all changed. 

The Kings were sailing along in the playoffs in 2002, when they matched up with the former champion and division rival, the Lakers. After losing game 1, the Kings won the next 2. Then, an event simply known as    a-blocked-tip-results- in-the-ball-landing-in-the-hands-of-a-power-forward-who-happened-to-be-standing-at-the-top-of-the-key-with-.4- seconds-left    gives the Lakers a win in game four. In game 5, Mike Bibby responds with a buzzer-beater of his own. Then comes the game that no one would like to talk about at the moment. That lands the Kings in game 7, in Sacramento, which they should win. Everything would have been fine, except the Kings were missing one key thing- clutch. 

This brings me to my point. Although the Kings were arguably the best team in the league, they couldn't beat the Lakers because Bibby was their only real clutch player. In overtime, Bibby hit big threes, while Doug Christie shot airballs. Peja missed a game-winner. Webber missed a big three. The Kings couldn't hit their free-throws. Not only did the Kings choke, but the Lakers couldn't miss. Every Laker hit their free-throws when they needed to, even Shaq. The Kings couldn't execute when a championship was on the line. 

Since the Michael Jordan era, every championship team has had at least 2 clutch players. Just look:

Chicago Bulls- Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen

Houston Rockets- Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Sam Cassel, Robert Horry

'99 Spurs- Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Mario Elie 

Lakers- Kobet, Shaq, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox

Spurs (again)- Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan, Michael Finley (and Robert Horry) at one point

Pistons- Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince (clutch defense)

Heat- Wade, Shaq, Gary Payton

Celtics- Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett

Lakers (again)- Kobe, Fisher, Gasol

One might say that these teams only won because they were the most talented, but if you look at all the other really good teams that were good enough but never won a championship, you will find that those teams were missing the element of clutch. Jordan's Bulls were the only team to win with only 2 clutch players.

'94 Knicks- no one really that clutch (Ewing missed game winners)

'95 Magic- Shaq and Hardaway (2 clutch)

'96 Sonics- Kemp and Payton (2 clutch)

'97 and '98 Jazz- Stockton and Malone (2 clutch)

'00 Trail Blazers- Scottie Pippen (1 clutch)

Indiana Pacers- Reggie Miller (1 clutch)

New Jersey Nets- Jason Kidd (1 clutch)

Philadelphia 76ers- Allen Iverson (1 clutch)

Sacramento Kings- Mike Bibby (1 clutch)

Minnesota Timberwolves- Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassel (2 clutch)

Dallas Mavericks- Dirk Nowitzky, Jason Terry (2 clutch)

Phoenix Suns- Steve Nash (1 clutch)

Denver Nuggets- Chauncey Billups (1 clutch)

Cleveland Cavaliers- LeBron James (1 clutch)

Orlando Magic- Hedo Turkoglu (1 clutch)

I would like to make a point that since 2000, no really good non-championship team has had 2 clutch players in (at least) the Conference Finals. The 76ers, Nets, and Pacers just didn't have one. Like the Kings, everyone on Portland (except Pippen) choked. For the Timberwolves, Sam Cassel was out during the playoffs of the team's best year. The Mavericks would have had two clutch players in the Conference Finals and beyond if they hadn't been demolished by the Warriors (doesn't count as lack of clutch because the Warriors handled them easily in six). The Suns arguably had a second clutch player in Boris Diaw, but he was suspended in the playoffs during the Suns' best year. Melo came up short against the Lakers (even though Chauncey didn't). Mo Williams didn't show up in the playoffs for the Cavs. Even Dwight Howard didn't do anything against the Lakers (the only one that could was Hedo Turkoglu).

If this pattern continues, the Kings will need at least two clutch players to win a championship. It seems as if they already have one in Tyreke, but does Kevin Martin qualify? Can Martin be the Pippen to our Jordan? Will Kevin Martin shoot airballs in game 7 like Doug Christie? Only time will tell.

What is clear to me, though, is that Kevin Martin's clutch is questionable. I can't remember in recent years many clutch perfromances from him, although I know he has had them. To be considered a clutch player, though, one must be consistently clutch. Peja may have had clutch performances in many games, but in that perticular Game 7, he didn't. What the Kings need is another player that is consistently clutch, and Casspi doesn't count (yet).

In my mind, the Kings roster isn't complete until they bring in one more clutch player. Keeping in mind that this player would have to be young enough to still be servicable in 5 years, two players come to mind. One is former King and possibly unwanted Raptor Hedo Turkoglu. He proved to be the only clutch player the Magic had last year, and his performance is suffering on the Raptors where he can't play point-forward very often. Turkoglu could be the player that glues the Kings together, just like he did with the Magic.

The other possible prospect is soon-to-be imprisoned Gilbert Arenas. Agent Zero is a very clutch player who has hit many game-winners in his career for the Wizards. When he returns from jail, the Wizards may not want him back. An improving Sacramento Kings may be just where he wants to go. Hey, the Kings took Artest, why not Arenas?

In summary, the Kings have never been clutch. Even when they were at their best, they couldn't compete in high-pressure situations. If the Kings are to win a championship in upcoming years, they will need another clutch player. 

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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