The Sacramento Kings’ playoff aspirations are officially in jeopardy 

Sacramento Kings v Phoenix Suns
Sacramento Kings v Phoenix Suns / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

After a 130-125 road loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Sacramento Kings have dropped to the eighth seed in the West. With that, they are a PlayIn team rather than safely playoff-bound. 

They have fallen out of the top six before and then battled their way back to the fifth or sixth seed, but this time might be different. Due to last night’s loss, the Kings are now 1.5 games behind the Suns, and the Pelicans and Mavericks are between them in the standings. 

Battling back into playoff territory will not be an easy journey, especially considering that the Kings have the fifth-hardest remaining schedule to finish the season. They still have to go up against the defending champions twice, the conference-leading Timberwolves, Thunder, and Clippers once each as well as the new-look Mavericks, the Suns, and some Eastern Conference contenders. 

We have seen the Kings play well against some of the top teams but have also watched them fall apart completely against rebuilding squads. Despite all their talent, the Kings have been very inconsistent, and now it is coming back to haunt them, as their playoff hopes are officially in jeopardy. 

It is not impossible that the Kings will make it—especially if De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, and Malik Monk put up numbers like they did last night—but it will be a grueling road. 

How did this happen?

One big reason for the Kings’ drop in the standing is the number of losses they racked up against worse teams. They lost to the Rockets twice, the Trail Blazers, the Hornets, and the Pistons. If the Kings had just taken care of business in those games, we would not be having this conversation. 

To be a great team in the NBA, you have to take care of the games you are supposed to win and then battle with the other great teams. The Kings are not there yet and they still have time, which is why they didn't force a deal at the trade deadline. 

In the long run that was not a terrible decision, but, this season, it will hurt their chances of making the playoffs. The top of the West is firmly established, as the Timberwolves, the Thunder, the Clippers, and the Nuggets are not going anywhere that’s not the playoffs. 

Out of the other three teams ahead of the Kings in the standings—the Suns, the Pelicans, and the Mavericks—two have gotten better. The Suns are finally largely healthy, even though Bradley Beal left last night’s game early in the first quarter, and added Royce O’Neale at the trade deadline. 

Yesterday, O’Neale put up 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block. He would have been a perfect fit for the Kings, and they were linked to him at the trade deadline. Instead, he went to their competition. 

Much like the Suns, the Mavericks had to deal with injuries to one of their stars with Kyrie Irving having played only 32 games so far. He is back, however, and Dallas also added PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline. Both are great fits, and the Mavericks look much improved. 

Plus, the Warriors and Lakers are figuring some things out, breathing down Sacramento’s neck. So, the Kings don’t only have to be locked in on who they are chasing but also have to watch their backs. 

How big of a tragedy would it be if the Kings missed the playoffs?

The Play-In Tournament is tough, and there is no guarantee that the Kings would make it out if they had to. For fans, that would be a huge tragedy. We just got a taste of what it’s like to root for a winning team. Now, we want more. 

For the players, it would be a heartbreak as well. They all want to compete at the highest level and find some postseason success. From an organizational standpoint, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, however. The Kings are only in the second season of going from a losing team to a successful one.

Their core is still young—Keegan Murray is only in his second season, and De’Aaron Fox just started learning what it’s like to be a star in this league—and, except for Malik Monk, under contract for a while. These things take time. This season is more about seeing what you have and how the players react to being on everyone’s radar, even if it means taking a step back, than anything else. 

The offseason is the time to make big moves and prepare for a season of competing at the highest level. Don’t give up hope yet, though. The regular season is not over and anything could happen.