The Sacramento Kings are in the best position possible, coming off their best season in almost 20 years. Despite not having much cap space room to sign big free agents and not many assets to trade for stars, the Kings are building something big and now is the time to capitalize. Only two Western Conference teams remain in the playoffs: the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers. That means the 13 other teams in the West failed this season, including Sacramento.
For the Sacramento Kings, this might have been the most successful failed season in history, as the franchise is finally trending in the right direction.
Many Western Conference teams seem to be trending in the wrong direction.
Let’s start with the two-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Superstar point guard Ja Morant has been caught on social media with a firearm again. After receiving an eight-game suspension in the first instance, there are reports of him receiving a “significant” suspension this time around.
Although the Grizzlies have had regular-season success without him in the past, as they went 20-5 while he was injured in the 2021-22 season, they will not be able to succeed long-term if their star misses significant time. A significant suspension might be the best-case scenario for Morant, as I would not be surprised if he is cut from the team entirely following a repeat of his actions.
Next, the four-seeded Phoenix Suns. The Suns recently fired their head coach, Monty Williams, after failing to make it to the conference finals. They have an aging superstar, Kevin Durant, and their star point guard, Chris Paul, has already exited his prime and nearing retirement. They are led by Devin Booker, who did have a fantastic playoff run but is cursed by the roster he has around him. Outside of those three, they have no depth, and their fourth guy, Deandre Ayton, is supposed to be an All-Star caliber player but acts like he does not want to be out there.
The fifth-seed Los Angeles Clippers are possibly the most confusing team here. They are led by two superstars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but at least one is always hurt. This team is full of role players who do their job well. If the stars were healthy, this team would be dangerous, but the injury concerns with those two are always so significant.
The sixth-seeded Warriors, while being the most-winning NBA team of the past decade, seem as if their dynasty is coming to an end. Although Stephen Curry is still playing at a high level, everyone else seems to have taken a step back. Draymond Green is on a pending player option, and Klay Thompson struggled for most of the postseason. Regardless of what everyone has to say about him, Green might be the most vital piece to those Warriors squads outside of Steph, so if he declines his player option, it might be over for them.
The Los Angeles Lakers, even though they are four wins away from another Finals appearance, might be in their final season of having a chance to win. LeBron James is getting older, and it finally looks like he is slowing down at least a bit. Although they have built up a young core for the first time since LeBron moved out west, those young guys will not be able to get it done without an aggressive LeBron.
Finally, the last notable team missed the playoffs this year. The 11-seed Dallas Mavericks missed the playoffs despite having the best backcourt in basketball with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Now Irving has a player option and will likely decline it to decide where he wants to play next season. Doncic will have no help, and the Mavericks are not contenders with him alone.
Overall, the Western Conference runs through Denver. But the Sacramento Kings can make that jump and compete with the Nuggets to be favorites to come out of the West. With the right moves this off-season, the Kings can take advantage of the downfall of the Western Conference and push their way to the top.