The Sacramento Kings have been a feel-good story of the NBA season. Instead of being the perennial basement dwellers that everyone expected them to be, the Kings are sitting at a respectable .500 on December 4th. When we looked at the schedule at the start of the season, some were wondering if the Kings would have even 5 wins by this point in the year. The performance has exceeded all expectations.
And yet the performance is even more impressive than we may have realized. With a tip of the cap to Kings Reddit, the Kings have had the second hardest schedule in the NBA so far according to ESPN’s strength of schedule data. This data is obviously in flux day to day as opponent records and results change (on Monday the Kings were third, today they’re second), but the general idea remains the same. The Kings have had a very tough schedule so far this year, not even counting how many back-to-backs they’ve already played, and yet the Kings have emerged in a good spot.
The December schedule looks much lighter. The Kings face the Phoenix Suns tonight, and then face the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Indiana Pacers again, and the Chicago Bulls. Since the Kings play in the West, the easier schedule won’t last forever. December still holds multiple games against the resurgent Minnesota Timberwolves, the Golden State Warriors, the frisky Dallas Mavericks, the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, and Oklahoma City Thunder. This year is a brutal time to be in the West, and it won’t get a lot easier as the season goes on. But where Kings fans should be encouraged is that based on strength of schedule, it won’t get much worse than what the Kings have already endured.
The Kings started the year by running through a brutal gauntlet, and they came through the other side in good standing. I try not to get too excited about moral victories, but being .500 at this point in the year is worth celebrating, especially given the context of how the Kings got there.