How Malik Monk’s knee injury impacts the Kings’ playoff odds

Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings
Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

After making the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons, the plan for the Kings was clear. Develop the core, return to the playoffs, win a series, and set the foundation for long-term contention. Things didn’t go according to plan. 

The rest of the West has gotten better while the Kings have stayed mostly the same. So, despite putting together a winning season, they are a Play-In team rather than the third seed in the West. 

That alone is a bit of a disappointment, but now, with Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter out for the rest of the season, it seems less and less likely that they will even make it out of the Play-In Tournament and into the playoffs. 

The Kings have one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the entire league with games against the Clippers, Knicks, Celtics, Thunder, Pelicans, and Suns still coming up. At full force, the Kings have shown that they can hang with some of the best teams this season. They have won games against the Thunder, the Nuggets, the Clippers, and the Timberwolves, beating all the top teams in the West. 

Malik Monk is a big part of that. He is a scoring force off the bench and one of the team’s best playmakers. He can put the team on his back when needed and secure the win. His MCL injury came at the worst possible time because, without him, the Kings will struggle to get to the playoffs.

Missing the playoffs could be disastrous for the Kings

Missing the playoffs would be disastrous for the Kings for several reasons. Most of their main guys have little to no playoff experience. De’Aaron Fox, Keegan Murray, Malik Monk, and Davion Mitchell all only have one short playoff run under their belts while Keon Ellis has never been to the postseason at all. 

This was supposed to be a chance to see what the core could do in the playoffs the second time around, and missing it would mean that the Kings would have to go into the offseason guessing. 

Plus, Sacramento still owes Atlanta a top-fourteen protected first-round pick. If the Kings do not make the playoffs this season, that pick does not convey, limiting what the front office can do over the summer. If anything, this season has proven that the Kings’ roster still has plenty of issues that need to be addressed in the offseason. 

Another ripple effect of missing the playoffs could be losing Monk in free agency. He has said before that what the Kings do in the postseason will impact his decision. Without him, it doesn’t seem that they will do much, and he might be inclined to sign with another team like the Magic that promises long-term playoff success. Kings fans better hope that Monk feels like this injury ended what could have been another playoff appearance way too early, and he has unfinished business in Sacramento. 

When could Monk return from his injury?

Currently, the expectation is that Monk will be out for four to six weeks. So, at best he could return in early May and at worst much later than that. Most NBA players who have suffered a similar injury have missed between 35 and 50 days. 

The Play-In Tournament will take place from April 16-19 with the first round of the playoffs following on April 20. Depending on how long the first round goes, the second round will start sometime between May 4 and 6. 

Looking at that schedule and the timeline for Monk’s return, it seems unlikely that we will see him suit up for the Kings again this season. Sacramento would have to escape the Play-In, play an incredibly long first-round series, and make it to the second round to get Monk back. Miracles can happen, especially in sports, but this seems very unlikely. Even with Trey Lyles and Sasha Vezenkov coming back from their injuries, the Kings won’t have enough firepower offensively.