Pacific Division Roundup: Sacramento Kings

Aug 17, 2023, 9:23 AM

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after making a ba...

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

NBA training camps will open next month, meaning we are closing in on the start of the 2023-24 season.

As we prepare for another exciting season of Sacramento Kings basketball, it’s time to look around at the Pacific Division and check on what the five returning NBA Playoff teams have done to upgrade their rosters this summer.

Which teams have made the most significant changes? Although Sacramento is the reigning Pacific Division champion, has another team done enough to its roster to take the crown?

Let’s dive in.

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Sacramento Kings

  • 2022-23 record: 48-34
  • Place in Pacific: 1st
  • Finish in Western Conference: 3rd seed
  • Playoffs: Lost 3-4 to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference First Round

Kings fans will remember the 2022-23 season forever.

Not only did Sacramento bring the dreaded 16-season postseason drought to an end, but they did so while playing an incredible brand of basketball that resulted in the highest offensive rating in NBA history.

The Kings struck gold in several facets during a 48-win season, as De’Aaron Fox took a massive leap towards superstardom, Domantas Sabonis finished seventh in MVP voting, first-year forward Keegan Murray broke the NBA rookie three-point record, and head coach Mike Brown took home Coach of the Year honors.

Although Sacramento fell short to the Golden State Warriors in a hard-fought seven-game series, the Kings planted seeds in becoming a perennial playoff team in the loaded Western Conference.

With Fox, Sabonis, Murray, sharpshooting guard Kevin Huerter, and a cast of Harrison Barnes, Malik Monk, Davion Mitchell, and Trey Lyles all back this season, the Kings have high expectations for the 2023-24 season.

“Our expectations are going to be high,” Sabonis said during an interview this month with ESPN’s NBA Today. “This year is going to be a whole another level. We have to be ready from the jump. We can’t have little three, four game losing streaks. We have to come in focused and have everyone be ready.”

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The “Beam Team” is returning all of its key cast members from last year’s third-seed finish in the Western Conference, but a wild card addition could make Sacramento’s already stacked core more intriguing in 2023-24.

EuroLeague MVP and two-time Greek League MVP Sasha Vezenkov made the jump to the NBA this summer, and the 28-year-old inked a three-year deal with the Kings–something that was made possible thanks to Sacramento’s impressive 2022-23 season.

“They showed me that they are glad [with me] and that they believe in me. The front office, the coaches, everyone. That doesn’t say anything on its own. I can’t wait to start working [with the team],” Vezenkov said of his new team in July.

“It’s a dream. Because I’m not doing this just for living the NBA dream. In any dream, I see potential. A potential that can teach me something and evolve me. I want to be tested in the NBA.”

Vezenkov, a 6’9 forward that averaged 17.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 65 percent on two-point field goals and 39 percent from beyond the three-point arc with Greek club Olympiacos B.C., will arguably be the top storyline to watch during Kings training camp next month.

If Sacramento can get another Sixth Man of the Year type of player on its bench to join forces with volume-scoring guard Malik Monk, it only adds to an already impressive rotation that Mike Brown will have at his disposal.

Sacramento Kings Offseason Moves & Depth Chart

  • Extended center Domantas Sabonis through the 2027-28 season
  • Re-signed forward Harrison Barnes
  • Re-signed forward Trey Lyles
  • Re-signed center Alex Len
  • Re-signed center Neemias Queta
  • Re-signed guard Keon Ellis (two-way)
  • Acquired G/F Chris Duarte from Indiana
  • Signed forward Sasha Vezenkov
  • Signed center Nerlens Noel
  • Drafted G/F Colby Jones and F/C Jalen Slawson (two-way)

While ESPN has Chris Duarte listed as the third-string shooting guard, you can expect the former Indiana Pacer to log minutes in a similar fashion to former Kings guard-forward Terence Davis.

Duarte, a 6’6 wing that has two season of NBA experience under his belt, played 39 percent of his minutes at the small forward position versus 41 percent at the two-guard spot, per Basketball Reference.

The 26-year-old has a close relationship with Sabonis, as the pair were teammates in Indiana during the 2021-22 season before Sacramento traded for the All-Star center.

Now that Duarte is a King, Brown will have another interchangeable player on his roster that can play multiple positions, joining Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Trey Lyles, and Kevin Huerter.

From a depth standpoint, Sacramento hasn’t had a rotation that can be twelve or more players deep since the early 2000s, but you can expect Brown to go with a nine-to-ten man rotating during the regular season.

While the Kings’ starting five is all but ensured to remain the same and its first three spots in the bench rotation (Mitchell, Monk, Vezenkov) locked in, the main training camp battle will be between veteran center Nerlens Noel and young big Neemias Queta.

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After spending the past two seasons with Sacramento on a two-way contract, Queta–last season’s G-League MVP runner-up–will enter camp looking to earn a full roster spot.

Queta’s competition for a roster spot will be veteran big and notable shot-blocker, Nerlens Noel.

Noel has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons, logging 17 games in 2022-23 and 25 in 2021-22. When healthy, Noel is one of the better rim-protectors in the league, averaging 1.8 blocks per game from 2019-22 (150 games).

The competition will be another top storyline to follow during training camp and preseason, but that fact that Sacramento’s backup center spot is the largest question mark entering camp is a resounding positive.

Sabonis said it himself: Expectations are going to be high for this team, both in the locker room and in the stands.

This isn’t about making the playoffs anymore. It’s about making a playoff run and playing into May, and eventually, into June. The Kings have a young, talented core, an award-wining coaching staff, a skilled medical team, and passionate fanbase.

If you thought 2022-23 was fun, imagine if this team can even remotely replicate that success in 2023-24.

2023-24 Preseason Schedule

  • Sunday, October 8th – Sacramento Kings @ Toronto Raptors – 5 PM PST (Preseason Opener)
  • Wednesday, October 11th – Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Lakers – 7 PM PST (in Anaheim, CA)
  • Sunday, October 15th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST
  • Wednesday, October 18th – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST
  • Thursday, October 19th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7 PM PST

2023-24 Regular Season Schedule

  • Tuesday, October 24th – NBA regular season begins
  • Wednesday, October 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – TBD (Season Opener)
  • Friday, October 27th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – TBD (Home Opener)

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