A lot of NBA fans have seemed to forget how close the Kings really are too capturing a playoff spot in the West. A quick look at the Western Conference standings and you will see a three-way tie between the Blazers, Pelicans, and Kings for the ninth seed. Each team sits three and a half games back from the Memphis Grizzles.
With several teams ready for the start of the seeding games, the question remains: Is it fair to completely count the Sacramento Kings out of the playoff picture?
The Kings’ Schedule*
7/31 Sacramento @ San Antonio 5:00 PM
8/2 Sacramento @ Orlando 3:00 PM
8/4 Sacramento vs. Dallas 11:30 AM
8/6 Sacramento vs. New Orleans 10:30 AM
8/7 Sacramento @ Brooklyn 2:00 PM
8/9 Sacramento vs. Houston 5:00 PM
8/11 Sacramento vs. New Orleans 6:00 PM
8/13 Sacramento @ Los Angeles Lakers TBD
*all times are PST
Sacramento has a distinct advantage right off of the bat. Of the twenty-two teams in the NBA bubble, the Kings have the 20th hardest schedule. The only team within reach of the eighth seed with an easier schedule are the Pelicans. But the Kings can also influence the Pelicans.
The three must-win matchups for Sacramento are the Spurs and the two games against the Pelicans. While Dallas is on the lower end of the playoff contenders for the West, they will have to fall quite a ways to be fighting for the eighth seed.
The Spurs serve as the first challenge for the Kings. San Antonio is four games out of the playoff picture, but they are only a half game away from the Kings. The Kings need to win around 5 or more games to have a chance.
Their most important matchups are the two games they have against New Orleans. Ideally, the Kings would win both games. If they split the “series” they could still slip into the ninth position. Their only game against the Pelicans was a two point loss. The Kings were set to play them a second time, but that game was cancelled on the same night of the shutdown.
Challenges For Sacramento Going Forward
Injuries have already made a major dent to the chances of the Sacramento Kings. Marvin Bagley III suffered a right foot sprain that will keep the young power forward out for the remainder of the season. He had been averaging 14 points and 7 assists a game. Under the current scenario, the Kings cannot replace Bagley with another free agent because his injury was not COVID-19 related.
De’Aaron Fox tweaked his ankle on the 15th of this month. But unlike Bagley, Fox is hopeful to return for the first game of the season. Fox racked up 20.4 PPG, 4 RPG, and 6.8 APG this year. As the heartbeat of the Kings, Fox is going to need to be ready to go from the start or their playoff chances go down the drain in a hurry. Whether Fox and the Kings can crack into the Playoffs for the first time since 2006 is up in the air. They play their first game on the 31st against the San Antonio Spurs.