Are the Kings Playoff Bound?
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The Sacramento Kings are an exciting young squad that many people enjoyed watching last year. They were dubbed a “League Pass Team” because journalists & fans alike tuned in to see them nationwide and were impressed by the fun style of basketball they played. The Kings excited their viewers with their fast-paced, high flying brand of basketball. Led by point guard D’aaron Fox, the Kings got up-and-down the floor, attacked the rim, and were able to convert on 3 pointers.
They were in playoff contention with 5 games to go last year, but were not able to push through and ended up in 9th place. They replaced coach Dave Joerger with Luke Walton. Joerger feuded with the front office about his rotations; one source of contention being his desire to bring number 2 draft pick Marvin Bagley off the bench. Bagley excelled and the front office felt he should get more minutes while Joeger preferred to ease him into the NBA by allowing him to go up against the other team’s 2nd string players, rather than subject him to the better play of starters.
Overall, I felt Joerger did a great job of developing this young team, but Walton’s temperament and motion offense will be better suited to the style that the Kings want to play. The beginning of Walton’s tenure was marred however by sexual assault allegations but the team seems determined to support him and hopefully, this will not be an issue as the year progresses.
Let’s take a look at the Kings roster. The Kings have a nice young starting backcourt with D’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Additionally, Bogdan Bogdanovic will be coming off the bench as a 6th man. The Kings added Cory Joseph as a backup point guard and are bringing back Yogi Ferrell so they boast some depth at the point guard and shooting guard positions. Harrison Barnes returns after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Mavericks. Barnes is accustomed to being coached by Walton due to their time together in Golden State. This will be a fruitful pairing as Walton should know how to get the best out of Barnes and his skill set.
A great addition is Trevor Ariza to backup Harrison Barnes. Ariza gives them much-needed depth at wing, which was their major weakness last season. After last season’s Joeger controversy, Marvin Bagley is slated to start this year; much to the delight of the Kings front office. He will be joined by Dewayne Dedmon, who is replacing the outgoing Willie Cauley Stein. Dedmon provides the rim protection that the Kings so desperately need, although he will be a downgrade on pick and roll perimeter defense as Cauley Stein was quite adept at playing the ball in a pick and roll switch situation.
They will be backed up by Richaun Holmes, Nemanja Bjelica, and Harry Giles. Giles is a darling of Kings fans due to his overwhelming talent, potential, and charisma. Although Giles was a top prospect coming out of high school, an injury forced him to miss most of his college career causing him to be pushed him down to the 20th pick in the draft. However, Giles is loaded with potential.
Thanks to Whale Capper and Basketball Reference, I learned Giles and Bagley together had a -4.9 plus/minus last year (which surprised me quite a bit because they looked great in tandem when they shared the floor last season), but I expect that number to greatly improve this season as Giles becomes more adjusted to the NBA game.
Home Court Haven
This Kings team also has another quality necessary for regular-season wins and that is depth. By adding Ariza, Dedmon, and Richaun Holmes to the roster, the Kings addressed glaring weaknesses of rim protection and wing depth. This will help fight off tired teams, as a road trip out West looks to be a monster this year. Teams will have to go to Portland, Sacramento, Golden State and then face both LA teams. This should factor into the Kings favor as they are the team to be most likely overlooked during this gauntlet (which I consider to be the toughest road trip for a team to make in the NBA).
The Kings will have to defend their home court adeptly in order to make the playoffs and I expect them to do just that. The Sacramento fans have traditionally been very boisterous in their support of their local team (and add in the fact they will be underestimated), the Kings should be a threat to anybody on their home floor. Their youth and roster depth should also help them in their travels. If they can maintain a close to .500 record on the road, their home-court advantage should lead them to be 4 to 5 games above .500; the target to get the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
The Kings will need a little luck, however, in the form of an injury or regression in one of the current playoff teams. The West is as loaded as it has been in the past 30 years. This will be quite a test for Luke Walton. Leading the Kings to a playoff berth would do well to erase his forgettable tenure as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
In making this NBA pick I am counting on huge forward strides in development from the Kings 2 young stars: D’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. I’m quite confident betting on their development. Fox has continued to improve each year. Bagley should do better under a new coaching regime with more game minutes to display his talents. I expect this team to come out hot, motivated, and ready to go. They look to be a team that has their sights set on the playoffs and should be giving 100% effort every night.
Luke Walton’s new motion system should be a boon for the younger players who are more accustomed to playing this style of basketball. I like the Kings to surpass the rising Pelicans and Mavericks to secure the 8th playoff spot. I believe this should be priced with NBA odds of +150 or +175. So at +275, we are getting huge value. I love the NBA odds of +275 for the Kings to make the playoffs.
Pick: Sacramento to make the playoffs at +275 with Bovada