The Sacramento Kings opened their 2022 with a convincing victory over the Miami Heat, and with a 8-8 record over their last sixteen contests. They now have sole ownership over the 10th seed in the west, which is a good place to build up from in the new year.
Breaking it down from how the rest of the season should play out and beyond, here are six ideas the Kings should resolve to considering for the betterment of 2022 at large, both on and off the court.
Let’s Make a Deal: Since the preseason, when Buddy Hield’s launch to the Los Angeles Lakers failed and Ben Simmons was all but packed to leave to the Sixers, GM Monte McNair has had many chances to shake up this roster. During preseason, McNair told media that this would be the group of guys Sacramento was counting on to lead the Kings back into playoff contention.
The trade deadline this year will put all eyes on McNair, as the Kingdom is looking to swing for the fences with a big-time trade. In trade talks all season long, this is the closest Sacramento has been to acquiring an All-Star caliber player in nearly five seasons.
Win the Third Quarter: It’s time for the Kings to figure out adjustments at halftime and apply them to the third frame of contests. This should be Sacramento’s easiest and most blaring resolution, as issues in the fourth quarter plagued the first 15 games of the season.
It’s perplexing, as Alvin Gentry has said to media time and time again following the embarrassing twelve-minute performances that rip the team immediately out of contention. Whether the hyperawareness of their kryptonite puts the Kings in their own way or the basketball IQ is genuinely that low on this roster, something has got to change coming from the players on the floor first and foremost.
On 38 games played, Sacramento has lost 24 of their third frames. In the second half of the regular season, I’d like to see the number of third-quarter victories jump from 14 to 25 before the All-Star break.
Execute Respectable Defense: When the season started, creating a top-15 defense was at the top of the docket when forming a new identity for Sactown. Davion Mitchell’s entrance and last season’s record-low defensive rating were major catalysts heading into the season for means to lock down the effort and play the opposition at a high level.
It hasn’t exactly panned out this way in the win column, but the Kings garner their best rating on the season yet as their defensive rating currently sits at 113.1. Improvements on fouling, rebounding and winning the respective match-up will put Sacramento in a good place closing out the second half of the season.
Find the Right Coaching Fit: Letting bygones be bygones, the Kingdom knew from the jump Luke Walton wasn’t going to be the long-term coach of the Sacramento Kings. Why McNair waited until one month into the season to let him go? A very Kings-of-old decision. However, the unique nature of the season has allowed Sacramento to be steered by both interim head coach Alvin Gentry and acting head coach Doug Christie.
Gentry doesn’t appear to want to be the coach of this squad. His postgame press conferences are sad, and frankly no one would blame Gentry. However, stepping into this kind of role only to go on record sharing Walton did nothing wrong, and continuing to use that same coaching scheme is not the energy Sacramento needs to carry into next year.
Just as the trade deadline, McNair and Kings’ brass have an opportunity to do their due diligence in finding the right coach on an extensive search. Big names are out there who can come in and steer this team into the right direction, and as more dominos fall in other franchises Sacramento will have the opportunity to find the right fit who is committed to moving toward a winning brand of basketball.
A More Aggressive Offseason: While the free agent market isn’t too incredibly enticing heading into the summertime, the opportunity for Sacramento to capitalize on smart trades and acquisitions will be McNair’s biggest test yet.
At the rate the Kings are playing, they could either avoid picking wrong the lottery player or being drawing ping pong balls by April. It’s really a difficult season outcome to project due to the parody in the Western Conference, but no matter where Sacramento lands when all is said and done McNair needs to be aggressive, active and prove he’s the most equipped person for this position when building a better roster heading into next season.
Continue Stacking Days: Ending on a positive note, this team has potential to stay in play-in contention with the rest of the Western Conference. Looking back at the midway point of the season, this team has lost their coach, been ravaged by Health and Safety Protocols, and just didn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations that were set up for them in the preseason.
In a fifteen year playoff drought, Rico Hines’ ‘stacking days’ mantra is applicable for both the franchise and the fan base. While no one is going to make excuses for why this team is flawed, there is always hope surrounding the Kingdom that someday soon this team will get it together.
De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton deserve to continue playing alongside each other, as the budding backcourt are in just their second season together. In this .500 run over the last month, Sacramento has an opportunity to build momentum and carve their way into the play-in tournament and a chance to get back to competitive basketball that they are capable of achieving.