The Sacramento Kings have been the league’s biggest surprise so far this season. At the halfway mark of the season, they sit with a 23-18 record and are fourth in the Western Conference and on top of the Pacific Division.
They’ve done it in a season where the West has been a bloodbath, where only 4.5 games separates 13th and fourth place.
The Kings are playing and winning with an entertaining brand of basketball that is reminiscent of their golden era in the late ‘90s and early 00’s. They play an unselfish game that sees everyone get touches and opportunities to score, as evidenced by their league-leading 119.7 points per game.
This was evidenced by today’s 139-114 victory against the Houston Rockets, where they had 34 assists on 47 made field goals. Six players scored in double figures, with three of them scoring more than 20.
The win against the Rockets was a chippy affair, which saw a big altercation happen in the fourth quarter after Glen Mathews shoulder checked Malik Monk. Mathews, who had made a dangerous play on Keegan Murray a couple of days ago, lost his mind when Monk tapped the ball away after a foul was called. Mathews and Monk were both ejected, as were Chimezie Metu and Tari Eason for ‘instigating.’
Sacramento were up 18 points at that point, but the on-court brouhaha took a long time to clear up and the Rockets were able to get a bit of a run going. However, it didn’t last too long as the Kings quickly got back on track.
Domantas Sabonis, who has 19-straight double-doubles, a franchise record, was the best player on the court. He finished the game with 19 points, 15 rebounds, 16 assists, two steals and two blocks. He has been the focal point of the Sacramento offense and has made a strong case for the All-Star game and perhaps even the All-NBA third team.
Speaking of All-Stars, Sabonis’ play has also allowed De’Aaron Fox to focus on what he does best. Fox has a case for Salt Lake City himself after turning himself into one of the league’s deadliest fourth quarter players this season. He finished with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists against the Rockets, and his heroics weren’t even needed in the blowout.
Sacramento’s two stars have been helped greatly by a roster that’s been well-constructed by Monte McNair. Players like Kevin Huerter and Monk have become important secondary ball-handlers and scorers, and their three-point shooting spaces out the offense. Harrison Barnes, who led the Kings in scoring with 27 points against the Rockets, has provided a veteran presence that stabilizes them on the court often when things start to go wrong.
Keegan Murray, the fourth pick of the 2022 draft, has shown flashes of his potential on both offense and defense and was recently named the December 2022 Rookie of the Month. On top of that, hustle players like
Davion Mitchell, Trey Lyles and Terence Davis Metu have helped Mike Brown’s system succeed.
The Kings aren’t perfect by any means. They have a big weakness at the center position outside of Domantas Sabonis, and regularly see themselves abused in the paint. That’s going to be tough to deal with if they finally break their 17-year playoff drought. They’ve also had some surprising losses against lottery-bound opposition, so it’s still a long way from the promised land.
However, they’re certainly the league’s feel-good story so far this year. The Sacramento fanbase, once the loudest in the NBA, has been re-energized and the chants of ‘Light the Beam’ have become a regular sight at the Golden One Center.