Kings banking on internal improvement after quiet trade deadline

Harrison Barnes, Domantas Sabonis, Malik Monk, and Kevin Huerter (left to right) vs Phoenix
Harrison Barnes, Domantas Sabonis, Malik Monk, and Kevin Huerter (left to right) vs Phoenix / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The trade deadline approached, with Kings fans optimistic, concerned, and hopeful that their franchise would make a move at the deadline that would increase this team's ceiling. Those same fans were left puzzled after the conclusion of the deadline, as Sacramento GM Monte McNair was relatively quiet on the trade market.

With a possibly short window of contending in a stacked Western Conference, the Kings have faith that their current core can get the job, at least in the short term. Robin Lopez and cash considerations. Those were the assets the Kings acquired or moved prior to the trade deadline. While it's been nearly identical the last two seasons for Sacramento, this season has seemed rather frustrating for the Kings and their "Light the Beam" supporters.

With regression from their role players, the main core of De'Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, and Malik Monk have shouldered a heavy burden for Sacramento's offense. Below is an analysis of Sacramento.

Sacramento is gambling on internal improvement.

The Kings (as of this article's writing) are in a battle with the Mavericks for the seventh and eighth seeds, both being play-in spots. The reality is that last season, Sacramento was near the top of the Western Conference with similar play to their current state. However, they are struggling with consistency this season.

The same team that beat Denver by 29 points also lost to the lowly eight-win Detroit Pistons the game home. That's not the only disappointing loss for Sacramento. The Kings suffered early season back-to-back losses to the Rockets and got blitzed by the Timberwolves and Celtics at home, in addition to one-sided contests against the 76ers, Cavs, and Pelicans.

The most frustrating losses have been games Sacramento let slip away from them. The games that haunt them are losses to Portland, Charlotte (blown late game lead at home), Detroit, Miami (ended their losing streak), Milwaukee (blown late game lead), and Phoenix (led by 22 at home in the fourth quarter).

The Kings have been hopeful all season that slow starts from re-signed Harrison Barnes (12 PPG, 3 RPG, 1 APG, 48% FG, 40% on three-pointers) and Kevin Huerter (11 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG, 45% FG, 37% on three-pointers) would eventually fade, but they haven't.

The Kings are trusting their own process.

Nearly halfway into the season, both players became subjects of trade discussions throughout the season, as many critics began considering whether the currently constructed Kings could survive in the playoffs or succumb to a first-round defeat again.

Luckily for Sacramento, a career year from De'Aaron Fox, along with Domantas Sabonis dominating over the last two months of the season after a sluggish start, has kept Sacramento afloat. Malik Monk and Keegan Murray have both experienced career years as well, with Monk averaging career-highs in points per game (15.2) and assists per game (5.3). Keegan Murray has improved every aspect of his game statistically, with the one exception being a near 6% drop in three-point percentage.

The Kings' window of opportunity to win is not only now but in the next three to five years. If Sacramento can't find the internal improvement they're looking for, they have to look on the open market and acquire talent to improve this roster for championship aspirations.

Younger teams such as Oklahoma City, Minnesota, New Orleans, and eventually San Antonio will emerge among the league's best, if not already there. The time is now for Sacramento, as they "trust their process."