When the Sacramento Kings’ brass, led by general manager Monte McNair, stunned the Kingdom by trading away Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers for the acquisition of two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis, their intentions of making the play-in tournament and ending the drought were made clear. However, just eight games into the Sabonis-De’Aaron Fox era of Sacramento basketball, that notion is becoming further and further from reality.
With a 2-8 record, there’s a five-game discrepancy between the Kings and the No. 10 seed, which is now vacated by the New Orleans Pelicans after they brutally beat Sacramento on Wednesday night. Is there still enough time for the Kings to make up that ground? Let’s look ahead.
The Kings boast the sixth-toughest schedule in the association moving forward, according to Tankathon, with the likes of Miami, Boston, Milwaukee, Golden State, Dallas, Chicago and Phoenix up ahead. The giants of both the Western and Eastern Conference are sure to miss key players as injury and rest come into play gearing up for their championship aspirations, but for a team like Sacrament — where the 10th seed is truly viewed as a victory — it’s hard to imagine the roster as constructed making enough noise to lock in that final play-in spot.
Realistically, two teams are neck-and-neck with the Kings to earn their way into the Western Conference play-in: the New Orleans Pelicans, who they face one more time before the regular season ends, and the San Antonio Spurs, who they’ll play for the final time Thursday night. Both the Pels and the Spurs have an easy final stretch compared to the Kings, as they’re respectively ranked 16th and 22nd in strength of schedule from here on out.
It wouldn’t be surprising if as the losses stack up, players begin to be shut down and the organization pivots to positioning themselves to, once again, draft high in the lottery. In contrast, they could hit a stride, and go on their longest win streak of the season, finish in position for the 10th in the West, and ride into the sunset knowing that “win-now” move was worth it.
There are obviously contingencies on the success of the Pelicans, Spurs and even the Lakers who are teetering out of ninth and into that play-in push as well. The next month will reveal the direction in which Sacramento brass sees this currently constructed roster going.