The Sacramento Kings announced in mid-January that they would be resting one or two veteran players each game. With a few exceptions required by injuries or trades, they’ve followed through on this. Most games end with Zach Randolph or Kosta Koufos or Garrett Temple or Vince Carter receiving a DNP-CD. This strategy has opened up minutes for the Kings to give extended minutes to players like Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson, or Bruno Caboclo. This has also led to plenty of losing, and when the Kings win it’s on the production of their young core.
Other teams have been less subtle about their attempts to lose games. The Chicago Bulls essentially announced plans to bench Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday for the remainder of the season. On Tuesday, the NBA cracked down on the strategy.
Sources: The NBA issued a warning to the Chicago Bulls this week on resting healthy players, and the team now plans to play veteran starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday again more extensively to close the season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 6, 2018
This action by the league has led some to wonder if the Kings might receive a similar reprimand. But the Kings shouldn’t be in any danger. The difference is how the two teams handle the resting of players. The Kings didn’t shut down their veterans, they simply give them games off on a rotation. And then there’s the fact the Kings have won two of their last three games with their current strategy. De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, and Skal Labissiere have led the team to wins. It makes it hard to argue that the Kings approach is tanking.
The Kings will continue to lose. Even after recent wins, the Kings are still just two games back from having the best odds for the first overall pick. Lotto odds will continue to shuffle for the remainder of the season, and the Kings are bad enough that they don’t need to lose on purpose.
There’s no reason for the league to crack down on Sacramento. If anything, the Kings are a model of how bad teams should use rest to provide minutes and opportunities to young players.