Tag Archives: Sacramento Kings

NBA Playoffs Preview: Playoff Races, Matchups, Storylines

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

As we approach the end of the season and the beginning of the NBA playoffs, both excitement and disappointment begin to sit with fanbases around the league. Some of the typical championship contenders remain the cream of the crop, but the current playoff picture looks far different from years prior.

The Western Conference is, still, extremely clustered. Seeds four through 11 are all within five games of each other. There’s less parity in the East, but the play-in seeds remain jumbled. With less than two weeks remaining in the season, let’s take a deep, detailed look at the NBA playoff picture.

Play-In Tournament

Eastern Conference

Here’s a look at the current play-in standings in the Eastern Conference (standings accurate as of March 30, 2023).

  • #7) Heat 40-37
  • #8) Hawks 38-38
  • #9) Raptors 38-38
  • #10 Bulls 36-40

Play-in matchups: Bulls @ Raptors, Hawks @ Heat

It’s worth noting that the Nets own the sixth seed, although they are just 1.5 games ahead of Miami. Either the Nets or Heat could occupy the seventh seed by the time the season ends.

Here, we have some solid matchups. The Heat easily put away the Hawks in the first round last year, although they clearly aren’t on that level anymore. Meanwhile, both the Raptors and Bulls have had disappointing seasons, and one will get dumped after the first play-in game. The Wizards own the 11th seed, but remain two games behind Chicago.

Western Conference

  • #7) Timberwolves 39-38
  • #8) Lakers 38-38
  • #9) Pelicans 38-38
  • #10) Thunder 38-39

Play-in matchups: Thunder @ Pelicans, Lakers @ Timberwolves.

This conference is far more jumbled. The Timberwolves find themselves in a play-in spot, yet are just one game behind the sixth seeded Warriors. They’re also just a game and a half out of the fourth seed.

Still, Minnesota will face the Lakers in their first play-in matchup. The Warriors has had a very up-and-down season, as has Los Angeles. The Pelicans and Thunder is a matchup of two teams going in very different directions. Bpth teams are young, up and coming franchises, and they’ll be battling for a spot in the playoffs here.

The Mavericks sit a full game behind the Thunder, and the Jazz are one and a half games back.

Current NBA Playoffs Matchups

Eastern Conference

  • (1) Bucks vs. #8 seed.
  • (2) Celtics vs. #7 seed.
  • (3) 76ers vs. (6) Nets
  • (4) Cavaliers vs (5) Knicks

The Bucks and Celtics have led this conference from the very beginning of the season. Both of these teams stand out apart from the rest of the competition, and both will be heavy favorites over whichever play-in team they face. Milwaukee could face the Hawks, Raptors or Bulls, while Boston would likely face Miami or Atlanta.

The Nets have been a bit of a surprising team. After trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, most expected them to tank. However, some players have blossomed in the new system, and they’ve risin to contention. They’d pose a tough matchup against a 76ers team that has been in a bit of a freefall recently.

Finally, the Cavs and Knicks present a very even matchup. Both teams are very similar, and this series has a good chance of going seven games.

Western Conference

  • (1) Nuggets vs. #8 seed.
  • (2) Grizzlies vs. #7 seed.
  • (3) Kings vs. (6) Warriors
  • (4) Suns vs. (5) Clippers

This conference is incredibly clogged, and by the time the season ends these standings could look very different. The Nuggets and Grizzlies have been the top two in this conference for most of the season, and they’ll face one of the play-in sides.

The Kings and Warriors are a very interesting matchup. Golden State has had the Kings’ number for quite awhile now, but Sacramento is a different beast this season.

The Suns and Clippers have both had plenty of ups and downs this season, but remain right in the thick of the playoff race. A playoff series between these two might be one of the better matchups around the entire league. Both teams have star power and large expectations, and it would be a very intense first round matchup.

NBA Playoffs Storylines

Young, New Playoff Contenders

One of the biggest aspects to this postseason is the new up-and-coming franchises that will be new to the playoff landscape. We will see a couple of them on display this season.

In the Western Conference, the Kings and Thunder are the two most surprising playoff contenders. Sacramento recently clinched their playoff berth for the first time in 17 years. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has accelerated their rebuild far quicker than anybody might have guessed as they contend for a play-in spot.

In the East, the Cavaliers remain the new darlings in the playoff scene. Cleveland made the play-in last year, but couldn’t advance. This year they’ve earned a playoff series. The Nets have been in the playoffs before, but their new, young core will be leading the playoff charge for the first time as well.

Continuance of NBA Playoffs’ Rivalries

Rivalries are vital to the NBA’s popularity. The league thrives off of rivalries, and those that occur in the playoffs make for a legendary atmosphere. This year, we have a ton of potential rivalry matchups.

In the West, the most well-known squabble is between the Warriors and Grizzlies. Both teams have made their dislike for the other clear, and as it stands, there is a very real chance this can be a first, or second round matchup.

The Celtics and Heat played each other in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. That game came down to the final seconds in game seven, in one of the most evenly-matched series’ in recent memory. If Miami comes out of the play-in as the seventh seed, this re-match will be a first round matchup.

One of the brightest parts about the playoffs in general is the creation of these rivalries. We’ll see some very exciting, tough matchups this time around, and some of those will create rivalries that extend into next season.

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!

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.