The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Up next is the Sacramento Kings.
2020-21 season record
31-41, 12th in Western Conference
Tristan Thompson, trade
Alex Len, free agency
Davion Mitchell, No. 9 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Hassan Whiteside, free agency
Delon Wright, trade
|PG||De'Aaron Fox||Davion Mitchell||DJ Steward|
|SG||Tyrese Haliburton||Buddy Hield||Terence Davis|
|SF||Harrison Barnes||Maurice Harkless||Robert Woodward II|
|PF||Marvin Bagley III||Chimezie Metu||Louis King|
|C||Richaun Holmes||Tristan Thompson||Alex Len||Damian Jones|
3 key storylines
Looking to end the drought
The last time we saw the Kings in the playoffs was 2006. That makes for a 15-year postseason drought, which just so happens to be the longest active drought in the NBA.
The team closest to the Kings? The Charlotte Hornets, who are riding a five-year postseason drought.
The Kings were one of the surprise teams in the league in 2018-19, finishing ninth in the Western Conference with a 39-43 record, but they've followed it up by going 31-41 in back-to-back seasons. While the Western Conference is shaping up to be highly competitive yet again this season, the addition and return of the Play-In Tournament means a total of 10 teams in each conference will have a shot at making the playoffs.
The Kings finished two games shy of the Play-In Tournament last season. Will they find themselves in the mix this season?
The Kings will likely have to improve defensively to be more competitive this season.
While they ranked 12th in offensive efficiency last season, the Kings ranked dead last in defensive efficiency, giving up a whopping 116.5 points per 100 possessions.
For perspective, that's the second-worst defensive rating a team has posted since the 1996-97 season. Only the 2018-19 Cleveland Cavaliers (116.8) were worse.
The Kings didn't make too many additions this offseason, but they did address their defensive woes in the 2021 NBA Draft by adding Mitchell, who NBA.com's draft expert Kyle Irving said "might be the best on-ball defender in this class." We got a taste of Mitchell's potential on that end of the court in Summer League when he helped lead the Kings to a title and was named co-MVP on the strength of his defence.
The Kings will need more than Mitchell to be a better defensive team this season, but the rookie could be the one to set the tone for them.
De'Aaron Fox's leap into stardom
The No. 5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fox is coming off of the best season of his career.
In 58 games, Fox averaged a career-best 25.2 points to go along with 7.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals on .477/.322/.719 shooting splits. It wasn't enough for him to earn the first All-Star selection of his career, but Fox worked his way into the conversation with his play.
Fox had a particularly dominant stretch early in the season when he averaged 28.9 points and 8.4 assists over 11 games, seven of which the Kings won. He scored 30 or more points in five of those games, including a 43-point outburst in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
🚨 CAREER-HIGH ALERT 🚨- Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) January 18, 2021
De'Aaron Fox had a monster performance and notched a new career-high!
43 points | 13 assists | @swipathefox pic.twitter.com/H6qEtLbXtA
He also came up big time and time again in key moments.
De'Aaron is on another level in the 4th quarter 🔥 pic.twitter.com/DeUeiY8BEZ- Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) February 4, 2021
The Kings hit a rough patch following that stretch, but if Fox can build on last season and the Kings are more competitive, an All-Star selection could be on the cards.
5 games to watch
Oct. 20 at Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento's season-opener. Not only will it be an opportunity to see Fox take on Damian Lillard, but each matchup between the Kings and Trail Blazers could be important for seeding purposes.
Nov. 5 vs. Charlotte Hornets
Haliburton's first meeting with LaMelo Ball on the season. While Ball won Rookie of the Year last season, Haliburton was a finalist for the award.
Jan. 19 vs. Detroit Pistons
According to The Athletic's Sam Amick, Mitchell's defence on Cade Cunningham last season convinced the team that he could defend bigger players. Will Mitchell get the Cunningham assignment again?
Feb. 3 at Golden State Warriors
There are a few ties between the Kings and Warriors, namely Luke Walton was once an assistant coach in Golden State and Barnes played a key role on the team that won a title in 2015. An added bonus? Fox scored a career-best 44 points in a win over the Warriors last season. Watching him take on Stephen Curry should be fun.
March 12 at Utah Jazz
Get your popcorn for a showdown between two of the best guards from the 2017 NBA Draft in Fox and Donovan Mitchell.
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