After a couple of years of speculation and another year of finalizing details, the NBA officially approved an in-season tournament to be played as a part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The new tournament will take place over five weeks from November 3rd to December 9th, featuring a world cup-esque format of a group stage followed by knockout rounds.
The teams were divided into conferences – as the NBA does – and then drawn randomly into three groups of five teams per conference. The draw was arranged in multiple pots based on each team’s regular season finish during the 2022-23 season in an attempt to make each group fairly divided.
Each team will play every other team in their group once, meaning there are four group stage games. After that, the winner of each group will advance to the quarterfinal knockouts, and one more team from each conference will advance as a wild card – the best record among all second-place finishers.
As is common with the Sacramento Kings, it just did not go their way in the drawing.
The Sacramento Kings drew the most difficult group by far
The Kings were drawn into West Group C, which also features the following teams: Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the San Antonio Spurs. The thing about this group is that every one of these teams has a solid chance of actually beating the other – something not found in any other group.
The other groups in the West are mixed with dominant teams and some rebuilding teams, making the top two easily predictable, and the East is the same way. However, West Group C features the 2022 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, who kept their main core together and even beat the Kings in the 2023 NBA playoffs.
The Timberwolves, while being the only other playoff team last season in the group, are honestly the least scary team. Regardless, having to deal with the oversized frontcourt of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert and the electric play of Anthony Edwards is something that can easily be overlooked – especially in only one game.
The Thunder barely missed the playoffs. With a strong young core starring Lu Dort and Josh Giddey, as well as the dominance of All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the return of Chet Holgrem after missing his intended rookie season, they are looking like a dangerous team to deal with.
Finally, the Spurs tanked so hard last season that they got the number one pick and secured the greatest prospect since LeBron James in Victor Wembanyama. With a 7-foot-4 player as versatile and capable as Wembanyama is, the Spurs have to be taken seriously during every single game this season.
How will the Sacramento Kings win?
Despite this incredible misfortune, the Kings still have two things going their way – every other team has to go through the same thing they are, and they just came off the most efficient offensive season in NBA history. If the Kings keep the fire burning next season, and improve their defense more in the off-season, their chance of winning the group is likely the highest.
The Kings were ranked higher than all the other teams in the group last season, and this time around, they will get the chance to get revenge on Golden State.
While the ultimate goal still remains to win an NBA Championship, taking the inaugural in-season tournament is just another step on the path to greatness for the history-making Kings.