It has been an eventful week for the Sacramento Kings. The team is not expected to have all of its players for the start of their training camp, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday, as three have players have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past few days. The NBA is planning to have the 22 teams participating in the return to play to arrive in Orlando by July 9, with the first games scheduled for July 30.
Sacramento sits 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference heading into the restart. If the Kings are able to stay within four games of the Grizzlies and finish as the No. 9 seed, they will participate in the play-in round.
Here are seven things to know about Sacramento heading into the NBA’s restart:
- This is the Kings’ best chance to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Sacramento has one of the most loyal fan bases in the league. Even though the team has been among the worst in all of the NBA over the years, the fans deserve to see some postseason action involving their beloved Kings.
- Head coach Luke Walton will need to focus on pushing the pace. The Kings have been better at getting out in transition since point guard D’Aaron Fox returned from injury in December. Since his return, the team is 15th in the NBA in pace, up from 23rd, where Sacramento ranked before Fox rejoined the lineup.
- Walton will have some big decisions to make with his rotations. He made the right choice in removing Buddy Hield from the starting lineup, and bringing him off the bench. The move coincided with the best stretch of the Kings’ season, where they won 13-of-20 games to get back into the playoff race. With a healthy Marvin Bagley III back in the lineup, Walton will have plenty of front court options, with Richaun Holmes, Harry Giles, Alex Len, Nemanja Bjelica, and Bagley all vying for minutes.
- The impact of the positive coronavirus tests: The good news from a league-wide perspective is that only 16 players tested positive. The bad news is that three of those players are on the Kings roster: Hield, Len, and Jabari Parker. All three players are self-isolating prior to rejoining the team for basketball-related activities.
- Limiting the injury bug: Sacramento will need to stay healthy if it wants to qualify for the play-in round. Seven different Kings players have missed time during the 2019-20 season, totaling 150 man games lost to injury, which ranks 14th in the NBA.
- Getting off to a fast start: The Kings have to come out swinging when the league restarts. Over the last three seasons, Sacramento has a combined record of 8-16 over the first eight games. This season, the Kings were 2-6 over their first eight contests.
- Sharing the wealth: Sacramento has seven players scoring in double figures going into the restart (eight if you include Bagley.) The Kings will need to continue to play as a team on the offensive end and have different players step up behind Fox and Hield to produce points.