How the Sacramento Kings can make a return to the playoffs

Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Sacramento Kings are in a playoff drought. A really, really long one. In 2020-21, the Kings sported an underwhelming 31-41 record, guaranteeing them their 15th consecutive season missing the playoffs.

This season could simply be a continuation of the Sacramento Kings’ perpetual failure, or it could see the team make their first playoff appearance since 2006.

Any team looking to improve will need major individual and team-wide jumps. Here are some things that could significantly increase the Kings’ possibility of finishing in the top 8.

Buddy Hield Returning to Form

Over the past two seasons, Buddy Hield‘s name has been swamped with trade rumors. This escalated into a near-move to the Lakers in July. Despite initially seeming unlikely, Hield is on the roster and is expected to begin the season wearing a Kings jersey.

Since his stellar 2018-19 campaign – where he played all 82 games, putting up 20.7 points on 43 percent three-point shooting, Hield’s presence on the team has been uncomfortable.

Due to a poor start in 2019-20, coach Luke Walton benched him for Bogdan Bogdanovic. Throughout that season, Hield started infrequently, leading to reports suggesting he was disgruntled with the front office.

He started every game in the most recent year but regressed significantly from seasons prior. Whether he starts or not, Buddy Hield must bounce back to 40 percent three-point shooting and reliable scoring for the Kings to maintain a good offensive attack.

De’Aaron Fox Takes a Superstar Leap

In a Western Conference stacked with the likes of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Chris Paul at point guard—it might be tough for De’Aaron Fox to be considered a top player at his position—yet that is what is needed for the Sacramento Kings to progress.

In 2020-21, Fox had a career-best season, averaging 25.2 points and 7.2 assists per game. Those are incredible stats, but he still has room to improve upon that campaign. Only shooting 32 percent from downtown and 72 percent from the line, Fox could boost his scoring to 28-30 points per game if he upped those numbers.

If Fox hits more than 35 percent of his threes and shoots an 80 percent clip from the line, there is no reason why he can’t be one of the league’s best scorers and help the Kings win more games.

Davion Mitchell in ROY contention

The 9th pick out of 2021 NCAA champion Baylor, Davion Mitchell is a very promising Kings prospect. A 6-foot point guard, Mitchell is known for his pestering defense—winning the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in his final college year.

Mitchell impressed at the Las Vegas Summer League, notching the Kings the Summer League Championship while taking home the tournament MVP trophy with Nets rookie Cameron Thomas.

On a team that ranked last in defensive rating last season, Mitchell is a great addition who can provide instant energy on that side of the ball. If his collegiate 45 percent shooting from three translates to the NBA floor, Mitchell has a real shot to be an immediate contributor and a steady presence in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

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Although it may be difficult in the West—with a competitive roster and potential individual breakthroughs, the Sacramento Kings have a chance to make the playoffs and finally put their decade-and-a-half drought to rest.