By: Field Level Media
Sacramento Kings NBA Bubble Restart Preview
SACRAMENTO KINGS (28-36), tied for 10th in Western Conference
Where are they now: The standings indicate the Kings are 3½ games out of the final playoff spot in the West, but don’t be misled. Everyone within four games of eighth place at regular season’s conclusion will get a shot at the new play-in tournament, so in essence, Sacramento enters its final eight contests with a half-game cushion.
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Then there’s the remaining schedule, which doesn’t feature a single heavyweight until going up against the Lakers in the final game. And by then, LeBron & Co. could be resting up for the upcoming playoffs. Sacramento’s remaining opponents have a cumulative .529 winning percentage, the second-lowest among Western teams behind New Orleans (.495)
Sacramento Kings First Half Highlights
The Kings started 0-5 and lost 15 of 18 at one point, which appeared to have them fast-tracked to a 14th consecutive trip to the NBA Lottery. But a switch of Bogdan Bogdanovic to the starting lineup and Buddy Hield to the bench helped turn the season around, with the Kings having gone 13-7 since Jan. 24, the NBA’s seventh-best record during that span.
“Watching those games and just feeling those games before this hiatus, I could feel and see that we had gotten to the consistency part that I was talking about,” Kings coach Luke Walton assessed recently. “I think our future is bright. I think we have a great group of guys.
“Winning consistently in any pro sport is hard. But when you get a good group of guys that works hard and likes each other and is willing to trust each other, (this) is how you make that happen.”
Three-point shooting has triggered the turnaround. The Kings went from 18th in the NBA (35.3 percent) in their first 44 games to fifth (38.8 percent) in their last 20 games, twice burying a franchise-record 21 3’s in a game during the January/February/March flurry.
Sacramento Kings NBA Bubble Roster Rundown
Key players have opted out of the NBA’s return. Others have gotten hurt, or were already ruled out for the season. But no team has taken a bigger hit in the past four months than the Kings, who have had four players test positive for the coronavirus, including Harrison Barnes on the eve of entering the bubble. Hield, Alex Len and Jabari Parker all tested positive in June.
The pressure could fall upon De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, both of whom endured painful starts to the season. When last seen, Fox had recovered well from a broken right thumb, averaging 22.3 points on 48-percent shooting in his last 29 games, but he suffered a sprained ankle at a bubble workout. Bagley also played well when healthy (double-figure scoring in all 13 of his games) but broke his thumb in the season opener and later was sidelined with a midfoot sprain, the latter preventing him from playing after Jan. 20.
The emergence of Harry Giles and in-season acquisition of Kent Bazemore added much-needed depth, allowing Walton to experiment with different combinations and eventually come up with the successful Bogdanovic/Hield flip-flop.
Now, with coronavirus issues, Walton finds himself tinkering again.
“We have to prepare as if we’re not going to have either one of those guys,” he told reporters recently of Barnes and Len. “That’s just getting ready for what worst-case scenario would be. And there’s a reality that might be it.”
Sacramento Kings NBA Bubble Playoff Outlook
Fox, Bagley, Bogdanovic, Hield, Giles and Len have something in common. They’ve never made the playoffs. And don’t look now, but fate once again isn’t smiling on the Kings as they attempt to end the NBA’s longest active drought at 13 years.
The remaining schedule is enticing, starting with a matchup against the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Spurs that could be a springboard to a late run. They even get two more shots at the Pelicans, a popular choice to overtake Memphis for the eighth spot in the West. Simply beating the Spurs, Magic, Nets and Pelicans once could be enough to earn a spot in the play-in affair, but history warns not to count upon it.
Sacramento Kings Best Bets for the NBA Bubble: Spurs (plus-550 on FanDuel) to beat Kings by at least 11 points on July 31. The pressure is on the Kings to win their bubble opener, whereas the Spurs went to Florida with little more than pride at stake. It says here: Spurs pride trumps Kings nerves by way more than 11 points.
–Field Level Media