Sacramento Kings: Is it safe to believe?

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Sacramento Kings are off to their best start since the 2004-05 season. After years of misery and hopelessness, is it safe to finally believe again?

The Sacramento Kings are 14-12 on the season, ninth in the Western Conference, and just one game back of a playoff spot. Through 26 games, it’s the franchise’s best start to a season since 2004-05, when the Rick Adelman-led Kings started 17-9. That was 14 years ago! That’s how far back you’d have to go to find the last time there was contentment in Sactown.

Since that time though, there have been very few moments of happiness. There were some dark days throughout the Kings’ rebuild. Players came and players went, games were lost and coaches were fired. But that all looks to be changing. If there were ever a time to take this franchise seriously again, it would be now.

De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are a legit starting backcourt. Willie Cauley-Stein is finally starting to come around. Marvin Bagley III is already giving the team solid contribution in limited minutes. And head coach Dave Joerger, despite the rumors we heard about his job security, is turning his doubters into believers.

The main difference between this year’s Kings team and the post-Adelman Kings teams, is this rendition actually produces fun and enjoyable basketball. Remember turning into a Kings game, and knowing what you were going to get into? You went into the game knowing you’d get a big performance from DeMarcus Cousins, maybe a technical or two, a loss and that same feeling of hopelessness after every game. It was almost like a chore having to watch those games.

Not with this team, though. Fans actually enjoy themselves and are entertained tuning in. The Kings play a fun brand of basketball and it’s not just one guy doing all the heavy lifting anymore, it’s a collective team effort. Different guys, doing different things.

Aside from the improvement of their top guys, a big factor for their early success can be attributed to the system they’ve all bought into. It was something the franchise lacked in prior years. Their predictable strategy of throwing it into the post to their best player, and letting him operate on his defender just wasn’t as effective as they wanted it to be.

Clearly, the pace they’ve been playing at is paying off. The Kings are scoring a bunch of points (114.3 per game, sixth-most across the rest of the league), sharpshooters Buddy Hield and Nemanja Bjelica are both top 20 in 3-point percentage, and the team is posting the third-best offensive rating in franchise history. It was a simple tweak that’s had made all the difference.

Unlike years before, this ball club is won’t be playing for any draft picks in 2019, and that might be sparking their motivated start. They’ll be without a first round draft pick for the first time since 1999, so tanking is out of the question and it’s probably for the better. I mean, would be seeing this type of improvement and growth otherwise? It seems unlikely.

Looking at the Kings’ roster, there isn’t a real, big marquee name that stands out… yet. Fox is in his second season, as is Bogdan Bogdanovic. Cauley-Stein is in his fourth, Hield is in his third, and Bagley and Harry Giles are a pair of young rookies not even old enough to drink yet. The potential is there for all of them and they’ve all shown us parts of their games that are worth getting excited over.

Fox is one of the quickest players in the league and is already climbing the point guard rankings. Hield is an elite outside shooter with a silky smooth jumper. Bogdanovic is a flashy scorer but can also handle playmaking duties from time to time. Cauley-Stein’s offensive skill-set continues to expand. Bagley is already the best rim protector and offensive rebounder on the roster. Even Giles has shown off some of his passing ability despite having a far less important role than the rest of the group.

There is a ton of potential here. This is a core with limited experience and is somehow exceeding expectations. If that doesn’t get the hairs on the back of your neck jumping then I don’t know what will.

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It will likely still be a while before the Sacramento Kings are one of the NBA’s premier basketball teams, but their days of being a laughingstock are quickly fading.