The Sacramento Kings came into the NBA restart facing an uphill battle to earn the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but it was still a reasonable possibility if the Kings could replicate the level of play they had achieved heading into the hiatus.
Instead, the team could never get back to that form, and they were officially eliminated from the postseason for the 14th straight year after the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. The Kings are among the three teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention, and the second in the West, after the New Orleans Pelicans were knocked out on Sunday. The Wizards were eliminated on Friday.
The difference is that the Wizards didn’t appear to be trying to make the playoffs, while the Kings ostensibly came into the bubble fighting for at least the ninth seed. Unfortunately, Sacramento was hit hard by the coronavirus and other injuries and never had a fully healthy roster in Orlando. Several other teams were dealing with similar circumstances, however, and managed to punch about their weight while the Kings faltered.
They got off to a lousy start in the seeding games, getting run over by DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs in game one before being absolutely trucked by the Magic in game two. The effort perked up against Dallas in game three, but there was no time left for moral victories. The nail on the coffin was a loss to the Nets, who were dealing with severe personnel shortages during the restart and still ran circles around the Sacramento defense.
The Kings have nothing left to play for in a season that began with so much promise. After finishing ninth in the West a year ago, Sacramento currently sits in 13th place, a truly disappointing outcome for this team. The only silver lining for the Kings is that they still don’t have the longest playoff drought in NBA history — that belongs to the Clippers, who missed the postseason for 15 straight years, though that record may soon be in jeopardy.
The team should start to shut down upcoming free agents and give the majority of its minutes to the young players. This is the time to prioritize development for DaQuan Jeffries, Kyle Guy, Justin James, and even De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Once again, the Kings are forced to look towards the future, because this season is over.