The Sacramento Kings haven't made the NBA playoffs since 2006. De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are a talented backcourt to build around, so what will it take for the Sacramento Kings to return to a semblance of prominence and make the playoffs this season?
2006 Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings of 2006 were a balanced team led by Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Brad Miller, Bonzi Wells and Peja Stojakovic. Bibby led with 21 points a game, yet the Kings had seven players average double figures in points, and Kenny Thomas was just off with 9.1 points a game.
Despite losing in six to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round, the Sacramento Kings were a decent unit, yet mediocrity has persisted ever since.
De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton
As the centerpiece on the Sacramento Kings, De'Aaron Fox has been a much coveted player. He's been mentioned in prospective trades with Ben Simmons all offseason because of how talented he is -- especially because he's left hand dominant.
Fox must get better defensively, and Davion Mitchell just might be the right player to encourage a defensive mindset in Fox. Fox is exceptional on the offensive end, and imagine what he would become if he improved defensively?
Haliburton was a surprise player last season and his rookie numbers of 13 points and five assists should rise this season as he settles into NBA life. De'Aaron Fox went from scoring 12 a game to 17 a game in his sophomore season, so the NBA better take notice in Tyrese Haliburton than it has.
Could Haliburton score 20 points a game this year? Why not? If Tyrese Haliburton makes a 2nd year leap as many expect, Sacramento will be decidedly better off.
Defense, defense, defense
The Sacramento Kings finished 12th in offensive rating last season and dead last in defensive rating, so offense wasn't the problem. The Sacramento Kings allowed an abysmal 117.2 points per 100 possessions.
In fact, the 2020-21 Sacramento Kings have the worst defensive rating of all time, so it's obvious that drafting a defensive talent in Davion Mitchell was a high priority on the way to defensive recovery.
Mitchell was Summer League MVP along with Cam Thomas, and hopefully his mindset for defense will pervade throughout the Sacramento Kings roster.
The Kings lack wing players
Harrison Barnes and Moe Harkless are the only experienced wing players on the Kings roster. If the Kings want to push through and make the playoffs, this is a roster imbalance that must be addressed. Both Barnes and Harkless are servicable, yet neither is the star Sacramento needs at the position.
It's really early, yet could Louis King be the answer? He's signed to a two-way deal, so he'll be limited in how many games he can play for the Kings, yet he's a smooth scorer showing promise in the NBA Summer League at 22 years old.
What must happen?
For the Sacramento Kings to make the playoffs this season, accountability has to flow from top to bottom. Buddy Hield is another player the Kings have shopped to no avail.
Will consistency become a standard in Sacramento? Addressing the roster imbalance is a must, as is figuring out what really is the Sacramento Kings identity. Who is Marvin Bagley III? Will he become who everyone wants him to become or is just a serviceable back up?
How long will the Kings depend on Bagley, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes to fill in and man their front court despite obvious limitations?
Monte McNair, the Kings' new GM hire last season, will try to change the culture in Sacramento. It's his shot to turn it all around, and yes, the Sacramento Kings haven't seen the lights of the NBA playoffs since 2006, yet this will be the year.
It seems so huge to have a player like Davion Mitchell on the roster to set the team's defense strictly by example, and if that transpires the cowbells will be ringing again in Sacramento.