Sacramento Kings could break highest offensive rating
Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis celebrates lighting the beam after a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Photo: José Luis Villegas (AP)
It’s past time for a Sacramento Kings media mea culpa. That means I get involved. Before the season, The Athletic’s John Hollinger had the Kings finishing 10th in the West, FiveThirtyEight’s Jared Dubin predicted they would finish 16 games under .500 and 12th. DraftKings, Vegas sportsbooks — you name it — were all down on the Kings. You’d be hard-pressed to find a prognosticator who had Sacramento in the postseason or playoff tournament.
Then the season started and all the rules were thrown out the window. In 64 games, Sacramento twisted the future. After a decade of humiliating mistakes, Sacramento was a second-rate franchise stuck in purgatory. Today, they are generating more points per 100 possessions than any team in the entire league and are on pace to set the NBA record.
Franchises don’t usually revive to this extent without terraforming their entire core in one offseason. Usually, that means drafting a franchise cornerstone, paying max money to a heliocentric free agent or welcoming a game-changing player back from injury.
Nothing to get excited about
Sacramento’s acquisition of Domantas Sabonis in February 2022 was countered at the deadline because they traded the wrong ball. De’Aaron Fox’s regression as a shooter has dampened his power as an offensive engine. Before the 2022 trade deadline, Sacramento reportedly offered Fox in trade discussions for Sabonis and Ben Simmons.
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Even after Sabonis was integrated into Sacramento’s lineup, the Kings were a sub-.500 team. Who can blame the media for overlooking Sacramento? They drafted embarrassingly, and Tyrese Haliburton looked like the first time they’d hit a lottery ticket in two decades.
Taking a step into the postseason wouldn’t be unprecedented with Sabonis. The Western Conference is a scrambled egg. As of this writing, the gap between the 13th-place Utah Jazz and the fifth-place Dallas Mavericks is three games. By the trade deadline, there was a sense that they would eventually dive into the rest of the pack. However, on Tuesday night, Memphis’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers moved the Grizzlies into a tie with Sacramento for the second-best record in the Western Conference (38-26). The Kings are 2.5 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, who recently acquired Kevin Durant.
The Kings have been a laughingstock for most of their 16-year playoff drought. They haven’t even come close. Over those last 16 years, Sacramento has compiled a 477-803 record.
Things done changed
Suddenly, Fox is the NBA’s best performer in the bunch, hitting game-winners and clutch buckets in droves. Sabonis’ use of mini-Nikola Jokić plays has transformed the Kings’ offense. His dribble deliveries, especially involving Kevin Huerter, have created an offensive vortex that no defensive scheme can escape. Malik Monk’s career has been revived. Fourth overall pick Keegan Murray has spread the offense and become the fourth offensive player in Mike Brown’s swing offense.
Sacramento’s defensive acumen is the only thing separating them from title contention. As of this writing, the Kings defense is currently allowing the 25th highest defensive rating in The Association, which illustrates how much Sacramento relies on its offense.
This twist defies logic. A year ago, Fox was an offensive albatross, and Sacramento brought in a coach known for his stale offense and defensive units to take over a team that was 24th in defensive rating metrics. The Kings are a record breaking offense. Say it again. You would have thought Mike Brown’s run offense still needed new personnel. Perhaps, the beam has transient properties that we have yet to understand. Perhaps every workplace needs “radius”. It may be expensive, but Sac-Town now seems to be communing with the basketball gods because of it.
In Sacramento, productivity doubled just by deploying six Nu-Salt laser space cannons requiring 1,800 watts of total power that combined to shoot a bright violet beam into the exosphere atop the Golden 1 Center.
All hail, beam.