The Sacramento Kings are Back, Baby

Sacramento Kings stars De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The last time the Sacramento Kings made the playoffs was the 2005-06 season. That was 16 years ago. The Kings haven’t finished a season remotely close to .500 in that same timespan. Sacramento has had Demarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Isaiah Thomas, De’Aaron Fox as key players during that time frame, and yet has failed to make a significant impact on the NBA landscape. Don’t even get yourself started on their missed draft picks. You’ll drive yourself mad.

The Haliburton/Sabonis Trade: Another Sacramento Kings failure?

One draft pick that didn’t flop was Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton is one of the most exciting young players across the league. With Haliburton and Fox, and a solid group of role players around them, for the first time in a very, very long time, the future looked bright in California’s capital.

Then, in a trade that rocked the NBA landscape, the Kings shipped him off to Indiana at last year’s trade deadline. The Kings sent Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson to the Pacers in exchange for Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday and a 2027 second round pick.

The trade at the time was seen as horrid for the Kings, which is in part justified. Sacramento was 20-35 at the time of the trade. Trading a young star for a proven veteran isn’t necesarily the type of a trade a team of that caliber should make. Fortunately, it’s been a bit better than that.

Off-season Upgrades

Sacramento didn’t make any major moves this offseason, but the ones they did make were very important. The Kings lost Donte DiVincenzo, but that was the only real loss they had.

The Kings were fortunate enough to land the fourth overall pick, and they used that to select Keegan Murray, a small forward out of Iowa. Murray didn’t have as much potential, but he was undoubtedly the most NBA-ready pick in the draft, with a very well-rounded skillset. Since the trade sent Sacramento into win-now territory, this trade makes sense.

Sac also swung a trade for Kevin Huerter. Huerter was acquired for Maurice Harkless, Justin Holiday, and a second round pick. That trade turned out to be a steal, with Huerter being a crucial cog in the Kings’ offense. Finally, the Kings signed Malik Monk, reuniting him with his college teammate De’Aaron Fox.

The Evolution of a Playoff Team

At the time of the Sabonis trade, the Sacramento Kings seemed to be a bad team with no direction. Kind of sounds like the Kings for the past 16 years, huh?

Well, Monte McNair and Mike Brown have completely turned things around. The Kings are six games above .500 for the first time since… who knows when? They have two All-Star caliber players in Sabonis and Fox. Sacramento is one game out of the third seed, and looks like a true playoff contender. The Kings are one of the most entertaining stories in the league, and have built themselves a very bright future.

Light the beam!

Examining the Rudy Gobert Trade

Last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a huge leap, and were able to make the postseason with the seventh seed. The Wolves then tried to take the next leap, with the help of a trade for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Minnesota made a huge decision, and traded a ton of assets to land Gobert. So far, the results are far from impressive.

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, acquired in an offseason trade with the Utah Jazz
Photo Credit: Associated Press

What Was the Rudy Gobert Trade?

In return for Gobert, the Jazz got quite the haul. Utah received Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, and Jarred Vanderbilt. In addition to this, the Jazz got Minnesota’s 2022, 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks, as well as rights to swap picks in 2026.

The only player the Timberwolves got in return was Rudy Gobert.

How Bad Has the Rudy Gobert Trade Been?

At the time of this trade, this move was looked at as a rebuilding team getting a haul of assets, and a team on the rise getting their star. Unfortunately for the Wolves, they currently find themselves looking up at Utah in the standings. 

Gobert hasn’t necessarily been bad, but he has certainly not been good enough to make up for the haul Minnesota had to send away to get him. Gobert is currently averaging 13.5 points per game, 12.7 rebounds and and 1.4 blocks on 66% true shooting percentage.

The problem with Gobert is that he’s essentially made no difference. On defense, the team is about the same with or without him on the court. He hasn’t made a difference, which isn’t encouraging considering the fact that that’s supposed to be his hallmark.

What Does the Future Look Like?

The Wolves mortgaged their entire future to trade for Rudy Gobert. They don’t have another choice other than to make this work. Time is on their side, especially after signing Gobert to a five-year, $205 million contract.

The Wolves will have plenty of time to figure it out. We are also only about a quarter of the way into the first season of this experiment. Plenty can change as Gobert’s contract runs its course. At the present moment though, this trade has not worked out for Minnesota.

Four Most Surprising Teams in the NBA So Far

At the time of this writing, we are nearly one-fourth of the way into the NBA season. The first month has brought us many twists and turns, and we’ve seen several surprises. With unexpected teams exceeding expectations, and vice versa, here are the four most surprising NBA teams so far.

Four Most Surprising NBA Teams

Guard Malik Beasley of the Utah Jazz, one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season
Photo Credit: Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune

#1) Utah Jazz

Without a doubt, the most surprising team this NBA season has to be the Utah Jazz. After trading away two franchise players in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they currently have a higher winning percentage than the teams that landed those players.

Lauri Markkanen is finally realizing his star potential in Utah, while Jordan Clarkson has helped carry the offensive load as well. Sexton, Olynyk and Conley all have played well as role players. This Jazz team looks cohesive, but we’ll have to wait and see if they can hold this form.

#2) Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is another team from the Western Conference that has far exceeded expectations. Portland currently sits atop the Western Conference with a 10-4 record.

The Blazers currently have a three-headed monster on offense. Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simmons, and Jeremi Grant all currently average about 20 points per game. Portland looks very good, and this is the first time in a while Lillard has had some real help on offense.

#3) Brooklyn Nets

Now for a team who has been surprising in the other direction so far this NBA season. Brooklyn ended last season on a bad note. They fell apart in the first round, getting swept by Boston. That was followed by a whirlwind of rumors and trade requests throughout the offseason, but Brooklyn managed to keep the core together. So far, the results from that decision are far from encouraging.

One bright spot is some surprisingly impressive play from Yuta Watanabe. Yuta had a rough rookie season, to say the least. This year though, he’s made some tremendous improvements. Yuta currently leads the NBA in three-point percentage, at the time of this writing. Aside from him, and the normally impressive performances from Kevin Durant, there hasn’t been much to be excited about in Brooklyn.

#4 Sacramento Kings

Don’t look now, but the Sacramento Kings currently own the fifth best record in the Western conference, at 9-6. The Kings have seen serious, All-Star caliber play from their point guard De’Aaron Fox. Domantis Sabonis has been very impressive this year, as well.

It’s far too early to get too excited about this team, as we haven’t made it a quarter into the season yet. However, the Kings have won nine of their past 11, and it feels like the tide is finally beginning to turn in Sacramento, as they have been one of the most surprising teams in the early portion of the NBA season.

Is Russell Westbrook Off The Bench The Solution?

Following Wednesday night’s thrilling performance against Western Conference rivals the New Orleans Pelicans, the purple and gold won their second straight game. It appears that bringing former MVP Russell Westbrook off the bench as a 6th man is the solution to the team’s success.

While it’s still too early in the season to tell, as of right now it seems to finally work… it just took a matter of a few games to get the ball rolling.

Editor’s note: The Lakers have dropped two games in a row since this article was written

Russell Westbrook has been showing out lately off the bench

Despite his early season struggles, such as a 0-6 three-point shooting performance against the Los Angeles Clippers. This all changed during their game against the Denver Nuggets, where he fully embraced his role, flirting with a triple-double with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. These heroics contributed to the team’s first victory.

Not to be outdone in their second victory, he continued to play the role of second unit leader, finishing with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. It’s clear that when he’s laser-focused on this role, it has a positive impact on the game.

Now he gets to lead a unit that includes young talent such as Austin Reeves and fan favorite Matt Ryan.

Russ for 6th Man of The Year?

While it is never too early to begin a campaign for an award, why not advocate for Westbrook to win the 6th Man of The Year Award? If he continues to play at this level, he should earn his share of votes.

He could be joining an illustrious group of players who have won both MVP and Sixth Man of the Year awards, including James Harden and Bill Walton. Darvin Ham is one person who has already started the conversation. And once you have the belief of your coach, the sky is the limit for you.

Don’t be surprised if he keeps doing this. If you see him adding more trophies to his collection, you know the hype train is on. Cast your votes now.

Pre-Season NBA Power Rankings

Both Detroit and Orland come in towards the bottom of the newest NBA power rankings
Photo courtesy of Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports

The NBA season is right around the corner, and with that, expectations for all teams are pouring in. In this series, we’ll examine each team in the league, and formulate the complete pre-season NBA power rankings. Here are teams 30-21.

NBA Power Rankings: #30-21

#30 Houston Rockets

The Rockets are in the middle of a rebuild, and it shows on their roster. They’ve got some impressive young players in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., but aside from them the talent on the roster is lacking. In a few years, Houston will be much higher.

#29 Oklahoma City Thunder

Like Houston, Oklahoma City finds themselves in the middle of a rebuild as well. The Thunder have a lot of young players, and nearly half the draft picks remaining in the next decade, so their future is bright. At this time, the Thunder don’t pose much of a threat.

#28 San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio was once perennially near the top of the list, but now they find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum. San Antonio, like most teams in this position is in the middle of the rebuild. They obtained some draft picks for Dejounte Murray, and have three rookies at the age of 19, so their future should be bright.

#27 Utah Jazz

Utah is just beginning their retool, after trading away franchise players in Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Utah got a load of picks for them, so if they draft correctly, they’ll be further up this list in no time.

#26 Orlando Magic

Orlando should be exiting their rebuild soon. They’ve got a ton of young players, with the likes of Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Cole Anthony. If Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac can start to figure things out, this team can start to make some noise soon.

#25 Indiana Pacers

Indiana is also just beginning their rebuild period, but they’ve got a bit longer to go than some other teams on this list. They swung a trade for Tyrese Haliburton, who has the potential to become a real star in this league. If they can make their draft picks worth it in the future, they have a bright outlook ahead of them.

#24 Detroit Pistons

Detroit, on the other hand, should be contending soon. The Pistons have a good foundation with Saddiq Bey, Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren. Detroit’s young corps is almost complete, and in the next couple of years they should start to compete.

#23 Washington Wizards

The Wizards are probably the worst team on this list who isn’t necessarily in the rebuilding phase. They were able to keep Bradley Beal, signing him to a long-term extension this year. Johnny Davis will be solid as their first round pick, but aside from a couple bright spots, their roster is bare of talent.

#22 Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte will keep essentially the same roster this year, minus Miles Bridges — for obvious reasons. The Hornets have flamed out in the play-in tournament in back-to-back years, and without any big moves this off-season, it’s hard to be encouraged about this roster.

#21 Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is another team who failed to make any big improvements after a mediocre season. Portland still keeps Dame Lillard around, and they have some solid players around him with Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons. Still, they haven’t proven enough to warrant being higher on these NBA power rankings.