Thirteen years - the longest active playoff drought in the NBA. It’s also the fourth longest drought in all professional sports, behind the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Browns and Miami Marlins. The Minnesota Timberwolves previously owned the longest NBA playoff drought
title shame until their youngsters propelled them to a spot, despite falling in the first round to the Houston Rockets.
The accomplishment of earning a playoff berth is something Sacramento fans haven’t witnessed or felt since 2006, so when Minnesota put an end to their extensive dry spell, the already heavy shame fell down to California’s capital.
In 2006, That ‘70s Show aired their final episode, the Wii and Playstation 3 consoles officially released, Twitter launched, Steve Irwin passed away (RIP) and so much more. I mean I was six years old when the Kings last earned a playoff spot.
Fast forward through 13 long years, the Kings are situated where they haven’t been in quite some time - playoff talk.
Before last year’s season even began, I remember all of the discussions about the young core being 3-4 seasons away from real playoff contention. Those were legitimate talks because it was difficult to expect numerous young talent to fill in the puzzle pieces so quickly and efficiently.
Sacramento suddenly blew everyone’s reasonably low expectations with a 39-43 record that a plethora of analysts and fans were blindsided by - except if you’re user “slartabartfast”, who accurately predicted the win total.
This time around, the Kings have a significantly better squad across the chart with concrete depth following the starters. Especially at the 3 where Iman Shumpert, Justin Jackson and Troy Williams shared the duties for the most part last year is being positively altered with Harrison Barnes to start and Trevor Ariza providing a veteran presence.
De’Aaron Fox elevated to a different level after a questionable rookie campaign and now is backed up by two fully capable guards in Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell, each offering their own skillset.
Buddy Hield assembled a remarkably strong season and arguably placed himself as an All Star level player as he looks to improve again with Bogdan Bogdanovic backing him up. Bogi has additionally been playing superbly in the FIBA World Cup and it’s certainly different to the NBA, but it’s a promising sign for the sixth man.
The big man stock has increased after some bumpy showings last year that has seen two long time Kings departure. But the replacements in Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes are both upgrades so it’ll be exciting to see how they are integrated with this young team.
Sacramento finished 9th in a ridiculously tough Western Conference and were in the playoff hunt well into the new year for the first time in a long time, until they fell out to the better teams.
This year will be interesting for the Kings immediately starting the season because there is legitimate expectations for them to improve upon last season’s outing and that includes a potential playoff berth.
Can they beat the teams they’re expected to? Can they sneak away some victories against much tougher opponents or do better against teams that swept them last season (Golden State)? It can come down to them battling it out for the 8th seed (or maybe higher) against a team like San Antonio like it did last season.
Think this roster can do it in a strong, well-balanced conference? We’ll find out soon enough.