The Sacramento Kings have not reached the postseason or even had a winning season since 2005-06, a 15-year drought they'll be hoping to finally end when the 2021-22 campaign commences.
There is promise in Sacramento. There are talented young players and two straight 31-41 seasons to build upon.
Yes, the Western Conference remains loaded, but with a new play-in tournament format and a few contenders dealing with injuries to star players heading into the year, the Kings could be primed to take a leap.
Their fans will be hoping so, at least. It's been a long stretch without playoff basketball. The Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic years were another era altogether, but De'Aaron Fox and these Kings are hoping to revive those halcyon days.
Let's take a look at the schedule they'll face in that pursuit.
2021-22 Kings Schedule Details
Season Opener: at Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 20, 10 p.m. ET
Championship Odds: +24000 (via FanDuel)
First-Half Schedule: NBA.com
Memphis Grizzlies (First matchup: Nov. 28 at FedEx Forum)
In many ways, the Grizzlies are something of a measuring stick for the Kings. Like Sacramento, they are a smaller-market team that spent multiple years in the lottery. Like Sacramento, they hit on a young point guard (Ja Morant) in the draft.
But the Grizzlies also have been smart in their rebuild, taking their time and using cap space as an asset to take back bad contracts in exchange for draft capital. They've built a hard-working, tough group of role players around core pieces like Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke.
Oh, and they reached the playoffs already in their rebuild.
The Grizzlies are going to be one of the teams in the play-in bubble hunt, competing with the Kings for a shot at the postseason. But these games will also be a chance for the Kings to compare their rebuild with Memphis, an organization that to this point has handled its retooling in a smarter and more successful fashion.
Los Angeles Lakers (First matchup: Nov. 26 at Staples Center)
We are far removed from the days of Shaq vs. C-Webb, but anytime the Kings face their interstate rivals, it matters.
If nothing else, it's a chance for the Kings to measure up against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. How that trio coexists will be one of the fascinating storylines of the 2021-22 season.
There will be more impactful matchups in Sacramento's pursuit of a playoff berth. The Lakers are gunning for the No. 1 seed, not a play-in spot. But hey, who doesn't want to beat the Lakers?
The Kings are largely running it back. The young backcourt of Fox and Tyrese Haliburton returns, bolstered by the selection of Baylor guard Davion Mitchell, fresh off a national championship and a strong showing in the Summer League. It's one of the most exciting young backcourts in the NBA, even if there are questions about how the Kings will get their core young trio on the court together.
Solid veterans like Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and Buddy Hield return. Marvin Bagley III has plenty to prove. Tristan Thompson was added for center depth. Delon Wright was traded to clear out some of the backcourt logjam.
It's possible this team could yet make major roster moves, with Hield and Bagley being the subject of trade rumors all summer. As constructed, though, this team's ceiling is a play-in berth.
The Kings aren't catching the top teams in the Western Conference like the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors or Dallas Mavericks. They won't be as good as the Los Angeles Clippers or Denver Nuggets either, despite the injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray, respectively. So long as Damian Lillard remains in Portland, the Blazers are a playoff team.
The Kings likely will find themselves in the murky mass of potential play-in teams that also includes the Grizzlies, Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves. They'll be better than the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Beyond that, well... no guarantees.
Record Prediction: 37-45
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