Kings Season Preview
Last year’s record: 30-52
Key Losses: Donte DiVincenzo, Damian Jones, Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless, Jeremy Lamb, Josh Jackson
Key Additions: Keegan Murray, Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, KZ Okpala, Chima Moneke, Matt Dellavedova, Keon Ellis
Returning: De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes, Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis, Alex Len, Trey Lyles, Chimezie Metu, Neemias Queta
1: What Significant Moves Were Made During The Offseason?
A significant move was hiring Mike Brown, who has a deservedly outstanding reputation as a defensive guru, as head coach. His professionalism, experience, and culture-building approach will contribute to improved team performance. Remember, last season started with Luke Walton in the job! In the preseason, the team seems to have bought in on his stressing energy, effort, and communication.
GM Monte McNair not only once again nailed the draft by selecting multi-talented Keegan Murray at #4 but also significantly strengthened the roster by adding Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, KZ Okpala, and Chima Moneke. Coach Brown was involved in acquiring Okpala and Moneke who each played for him on the Nigerian national team.
Getting Richaun Holmes back from injury is also a plus, but it is unclear how he will be used, given last year's midseason addition of Domantas Sabonis. He does have decent trade value if the fit with Sabonis doesn't work out.
2: What Are The Team’s Biggest Strengths?
While it will take time to adjust to Brown's preferences and incorporate his schemes, he may be the biggest strength.
Additionally, the Kings should be a good offensive team. Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox looked very good in the 13 games they played together last season and the expectation is they will be even better as they get more acclimated this season. Sabonis is a major plus offensively in several ways, including passing, floor-spacing, screening, rolling and rebounding. Fox showed great improvement after the Tyrese Haliburton trade. Haliburton is an outstanding player the Pacers are lucky to have, but he and Fox were not the best fit together on the Kings. Adding Murray, Huerter and Monk will significantly upgrade the team's shooting.
3: What Are The Team’s Biggest Weaknesses?
Kings' defense has been nearly nonexistent for as long as anyone can remember. Out of the Association's 30 teams, they finished as high as 19th just once in defensive rating in the most recent 16 seasons (and were 27th last year). The defense should improve this season largely because of Mike Brown’s principles. Okpala will make a difference as well. However, developing defensive cohesiveness under a new coach with new schemes will take time and, with few exceptions, the Kings' roster severely limits the growth ceiling at that end. In a positive development, the Kings led the Association defensively in the recent preseason schedule. A sign of hope, at least.
Last season, the Kings were in the bottom half of the league in almost every offensive statistical category except free throw attempts. Incremental improvement is likely across the board, but the coaching change and the new personnel aren't likely to vault them from being in the bottom third to the top third. It is fair, however, to expect a generally less dysfunctional milieu that will likely result in improvement in all phases of the game.
4: What Are This Season’s Goals?
Now that the Mariners made the MLB playoffs after a 21-season absence, the Kings hold the dubious honor of the longest non-playoff streak in any of the major professional sports leagues. Team leadership has publicly made making the playoffs the prime goal. With so many strong teams in the Western Conference, making the play-in seems far more realistic. Utah's and San Antonio's roster dismantlings will help in that regard as will similar moves by any other teams that decide to tank if their seasons don't start well. The 10th-place finishers in the West won 34, 33, and 33 games the past three seasons, so if form holds, the Kings will not need to improve much on last year's 30 wins. If the Kings qualify for the play-in, they might be further helped by an eighth-place team that would rather be in the strong and deep 2023 lottery than be crushed in the first round of the playoffs by the Warriors, Clippers, or Nuggets.