Silver Linings from Another Gloomy Sacramento Kings Season
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
When a team has underwhelmed as long as the Sacramento Kings have, it's difficult to focus on anything but the negativity. Instead of looking at the things that are going right, we're always looking to the areas that need improvement; after all, there are way more of those.
Yet while the team certainly isn't performing as well as we we would like, it could also be true that it's doing better than we think. That is, there could be silver linings we're not seeing simply because our senses are being overrun by all that ails us.
In the case of the Kings, there actually are some positive things to take from the season. Believe it or not, most everything seems to be improving...even if it's at a snail's pace.
They're Above .500 at Home
The Kings are currently 19-18 in games played at Sleep Train Arena. That's a .513 winning percentage. Compared to the team's overall winning percentage of .360, it's a pretty good accomplishment. It's also better than the .484 winning percentage Sacramento posted at home last season.
Defending your home court is an essential step in going from a cellar dweller to a contender. There's obviously still room for improvement in this area compared to other teams. But the fact the Kings are slowly but surely progressing in this category is a positive to take from the season.
The Offense Is Getting Better
Sacramento has become one of the league's better offensive clubs. The Kings are 10th in scoring with an average of 100.0 points per game. They're 16th in field-goal percentage and 10th in three-point percentage. They're also 12th in offensive rating at 106.3.
What's most encouraging for Sacramento is the improvements it's made throughout the season. After averaging 96.8 points pre-All-Star break, the Kings are averaging 108.4 points post-All-Star break. They've also seen their assists climb from 19.7 per game to 23.5, showing an increase in teamwork is a catalyst behind the breakthrough.
Most Young Players Are Making Strides
With the way the Kings are constructed, they need progression from their home-grown talent to take that next step as a team. They're not built through free agency and they're not built through trades. Most of the Kings' core players got here through the draft, and most of them are quietly improving.
Jimmer Fredette went from 14.7 points per 36 minutes, a .386 field-goal percentage, .361 three-point percentage, 100 offensive rating and 10.8 PER as a rookie to 18.3 points per 36 minutes, a .423 field-goal percentage, .419 three-point percentage, 107 offensive rating and 14.8 PER as a sophomore.
Isaiah Thomas jumped from 11.5 points per game, 16.3 points per 36 minutes and 4.3 win shares to 13.8 points per game, 18.8 points per 36 minutes and 4.9 win shares.
Tyreke Evans improved from a .453 field-goal percentage, .202 three-point percentage, a 16.4 PER and a 103 offensive rating to a .480 field-goal percentage, .330 three-point percentage, an 18.3 PER and a 111 offensive rating.
If the team can continue to get improved production from its young players, that's how it'll go from the lottery to the postseason. It's on the right track; it just needs to keep it going.
They're Likely to Keep Their First-Round Pick
One of the benefits to not making the playoffs is that you get in the draft lottery. It gives every team with a lottery pick the opportunity to win the rights to the No. 1 overall pick. Of course you need a pick to be eligible.
If the season were to end today, the Kings would be seventh in the lottery. Sacramento currently owes its first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the pick is top-13 protected. Meaning, if the team gets a pick somewhere in the top 13, it will keep its pick; if not, it'll give that selection to the Cavs.
As it currently stands, the Kings are in line to keep their pick. They'd surely rather be in the playoffs than picking in the lottery. But at least if they're in the lottery, they might as well get the benefit of a first-round selection.
New Ownership Is Very Likely on the Way
Regardless of what happens with the team's potential relocation to Seattle, one thing is fairly certain: The team will have new owners. This is a positive development for whichever fanbase ends up supporting the organization.
Not all of the Maloofs' tenure as owners has been bad. But the last three years have been pretty awful in nearly every facet—willingness to spend money, public relations and on-court performance.
In order for this franchise to get back to contention, it needs a strong ownership group supporting it. That's simply the antithesis of what the Maloofs have been. Getting them out and new owners in is surely a positive development for the Kings.
The Team Is Posting Its Best Winning Percentage in Four Years
Take it for what you will, but the .360 winning percentage the Kings are currently sporting is better than anything they've posted in four years.
A pessimist could argue this is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig—because even with a marginally improved winning percentage, the team's still awful, or still a pig in this case. However, the purpose of this article is to look at the Kings optimistically.
What I would argue, and this is an argument I made in supporting the job Keith Smart has done this season, is that the increased winning percentage is somewhat remarkable. Not because the team is a bit better or because a .360 winning percentage is something to get excited about.
It's remarkable when you consider the turmoil with the relocation, the absentee ownership group and the team's ability to fight through all of the negativity caused by DeMarcus Cousins.
That Keith Smart was able to actually improve a team under those circumstances is obviously the ace up his sleeve when it comes to evaluations following the season. It also speaks to the mental fortitude of the players.
Follow me on Twitter: @SimRisso
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