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The playoff hopes of the Sacramento Kings have been dwindling for a while now, but their loss to the Lakers on Sunday night may have been the final nail in the proverbial coffin. While the Kings are still not mathematically eliminated, it would take both a massive winning streak on their part and a massive collapse by someone else in order to make things work for them at this point. All season long, they had remained in the running, just hanging on to that eighth playoff spot, competing with the Clippers, Spurs, and Lakers, all trying desperately to sneak in. Now, with them coming so close only to fail to make the playoffs for the thirteenth consecutive season, it’s all too easy to cast this season as a failure, another lost season in a long list of lost seasons.
However, it’s important to focus not merely on the ending but to go back and consider what was expected of the Kings to start the season. In October, most fans and analysts assumed the Kings would be more likely to compete for the best lottery odds in the league than for a playoff spot. FiveThirtyEight’s preseason projections even expected the Kings to have the worst record in the league, giving them just a one percent chance of making the postseason. Most believed that the Kings had bet badly by deciding to build around a young triumvirate of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley III, but all three players have shown much more than anyone expected this year. Fox improved pretty much every aspect of his game in addition to showing a newfound ability to consistently make 3’s while displaying a ton of confidence running an offense that would have been misplaced last year. Hield established himself as one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and while Bagley isn’t Luka Doncic or Trae Young, he’s been a great bench player for them in his rookie season who appears sure to be a major part of the Kings future.
On top of everything else, the Kings were just extremely fun to watch this year. They were a continual delight for League Pass subscribers, playing at the fastest pace in the league, wearing other teams down with their speed and the effervescent joy of their youthfulness. The biggest concern is that this team will be a one year wonder, much like the 2014 Suns who missed the playoffs despite going 48-34, appearing to be set up for the future with their backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe before quickly falling off in coming seasons. But for now, this season, despite not ending the way Kings fans may have hoped it would, offers Sacramento fans more reason for hope than any in many years. Sacramento has a promising young core who should be able to develop together and, if all goes well, they look to be more than just a fun team moving forward — they could be a good one as well.
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