NBA writer for The Athletic believes the Kings will miss the playoffs this season

Oct 17, 2023, 11:10 AM

Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings drives to the basket during the second quarter against...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 30: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings drives to the basket during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Golden 1 Center on April 30, 2023 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings finished the 2022-23 season with a 48-34 record, the top spot in the Pacific Division, and were the third overall seed in the playoffs. Players, coaches and executives walked away from last year with end-of-season awards, too.

But, that’s not enough to convince John Hollinger of The Athletic that last year for the Kings wasn’t a fluke.

The veteran NBA writer released an article earlier this week predicting which Western Conference teams will miss the playoffs. There are the teams everyone believes will be all the way at the bottom — Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Portland Trail Blazers — before he gets into the fringe Play-In teams.

Hollinger expects the Kings to win nine fewer games for a 39-43 record and miss both the playoffs and Play-In.

The odds of repeating the Kings’ 2022-23 injury avoidance are unlikely, the second unit looks shaky at best and will be considerably more exposed if the starters miss actual games, and it appears this year’s West will be much less forgiving.

One of the teams Hollinger predicts will be in the Play-In tournament is the New Orleans Pelicans. Last year, their main three players, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, only played 10 games together. Williamson and Ingram missed a combined 90 games. The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder are his other picks to join the Pelicans in the Play-In Tournament.

Sacramento’s big two of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, on the other hand, missed a combined 12 games. So how does a team with a major injury history finish stronger than the Kings? The future, to Hollinger, lies within the roster.

Of course, all our assumptions are contingent on the current roster and not the one they may have later in the season, which takes us to an important conversation: What could this team look like if it decided to push some chips in further? The Kings have a relatively clean cap sheet going forward, enough expiring money to make a palatable salary match and can still trade first-round picks in 2028 and 2030. (Their 2026 pick could potentially come back online too; the Kings owe a top-14 protected pick to Atlanta this season from the Kevin Huerter trade.) Thus, the big-picture debate: This team is clearly better than any of the previous 15 years in Sactown, but is it good enough to start taking big risks with future draft capital? Is there a realistic trade endgame that gives the Kings a top-five-caliber roster and justifies a damn-the-torpedoes trade?

So let’s recap. Hollinger’s argument that the Kings miss the playoffs is because they can’t be as healthy as they were last year and even though the team opted for continuity instead of flashy moves this offseason, we shouldn’t believe this is the roster Sacramento will have later in the season.

It’s not the strongest argument, especially when every other team in the Pacific Division has had injury issues in recent years. Last season:

  • Anthony Davis missed 26 games for the Lakers
  • Kawhi Leonard missed 30 games for the Clippers
  • Steph Curry missed 26 games for the Warriors
  • Kevin Durant missed 35 games between the Nets and Suns

Of course, there are many other NBA analysts who do believe in ‘The Beam Team’ like ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, so it will be up to the Kings to prove Hollinger wrong in 2023-24.

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