The Sacramento Kings endured another season of struggle in the NBA as their bid to end their playoff drought fell short of their target.
The Kings’ campaign may well be remembered more for their decisions off-the-court, opting to trade away All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in a deal that was widely criticised for its poor value for the team.
The New Orleans Pelicans received the 26-year-old – along with Omri Casspi – at the peak of his career for three players along with future first and second-round draft picks.
Although it did not have a great impact on the Kings’ season, their future looks far from certain without one of their brightest lights in recent history.
Head coach Dave Joerger had a steady first term in charge of the club, having been fired from his last post at the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Kings did take a slight step back from the previous campaign under George Karl, but given the circumstances of the rebuild in place at the Golden 1 Center – it may take a while for the franchise to threaten the playoff places in the coming seasons.
Sacramento have invested in youth in the off-season and their success in the future will be determined by how quickly they adapt to life in the NBA.
There’s not a lot of surrounding talent on the roster following the departure of Cousins – therefore it might have to get worse before it gets better for Joerger’s men, highlighted by their betting odds with Betway at +100000 to win the NBA Championship next term.
We’ll now take a look back at the 2016-17 campaign to where they failed over the course of the season.
The Kings made a good start to the term, defeating the Phoenix Suns in their opener on the road. Cousins put in a 24-point performance to deliver a comfortable victory for his side, heading into their home opener against the San Antonio Spurs.
Sacramento were aiming to kickstart life in their new stadium with a win over Gregg Popovich’s side, but the Spurs spoiled the party by claiming a narrow victory, despite a 37-point effort from Cousins.
Their second home match did yield success as Cousins drove his side to their second win of the campaign, edging out the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A four-game losing streak put Joerger’s men off the pace and from that point in the campaign they were always playing catch up – never managing to put their record above .500.
Cousins ended the poor run of form leading the way in an impressive road win over the Toronto Raptors, while he was once again on form in the following contest to put up 28 points in a victory over the Pelicans.
However, another series of defeats put the pressure right back on the Kings, including an overtime loss at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, while even a 38-pointer from Cousins was not enough to secure a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
For only the third time of the campaign, a Kings player other than Cousins led the way in scoring as Rudy Gay delivered a win over the Raptors.
December proved to be a decent month for the club as they managed to overcome an early lack of form to reel off six wins in eight, including a 55-point performance from Cousins in a bizarre contest where he had been ejected only to be brought back against the Trail Blazers.
Sacramento began the new year at 15-19 with the hope of still salvaging a place in the playoffs, and they began 2017 with a victory over the Denver Nuggets on the road.
However, it would prove to be a false dawn as the club lost eight out of their next nine matches, despite two triple-doubles from Cousins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers.
The end of January was to throw a surprise result the way of the NBA as the Kings stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena in an overtime victory as Cousins put on an offensive clinic, with 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
The 26-year-old continued to operate at an extremely high level in February, guiding his side to four wins on the bounce before the All-Star break, defeating the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Lakers and the Pelicans before their run was ended by the Golden State Warriors.
It would be Cousins’ last action for the Kings as he was traded during the break, although Joerger’s men showed no signs of initial struggle without him, defeating the Nuggets comfortable on home soil as Willie Cauley-Stein stepped into the role and flourished with a 29-point outing.
Cousins’ departure did loom large after the first game, with the club losing their next eight matches on the bounce. Tyreke Evans and Buddy Hield were among the group that arrived to replace the All-Star, but could not replace his production sufficiently.
Although the Kings staged a slight improvement towards the end of the season, with Hield producing a 30-point effort to defeat the Suns – the club finished nine games off the pace of the playoffs.
Joerger and general manager Vlade Divac have gambled on Sacramento’s future as well as their own by moving on from Cousins, while the compensation package received for the center was widely criticised for not providing the maximum value for his talent.
Hield did flash potential in his rookie season after being selected sixth overall by the Pelicans in the 2016 Draft. He impressed during his final term in the college game, averaging 25 points per game, and he will need to deliver that sort of form to justify the move for his signature.
The man taken in the same spot the year before him takes on an important role as well – as Cauley-Stein will be in Cousins’ position next term. The 23-year-old should see an increase in his minutes from the 21.3 he spent on the court last season, although he will need to become more active in the final third of the court to replace the points lost.
The Kings were active moving around in the 2017 Draft, and their move to acquire the fifth selection yielded De’Aaron Fox. The 19-year-old was MVP of the SEC Tournament and was a first-team selection in the conference, highlighting his quality.
At such a young age – there will be questions whether he can immediately rise to the standard of the NBA. At odds of +700 to be named Rookie of the Year with Bovada sportsbook he could spring a surprise and due to the dearth of talent on the Kings’ roster he will get ample opportunities.
The same could be said for forward Justin Jackson, with his odds at +3300 to take the league by storm in his first year.
De’Aaron Fox To Be Named Rookie Of The Year