The California Team Nobody Talks About |Sacramento Kings Backcourt Quartet Could Help End 15-Year Playoff Drought

The Sacramento Kings have been a poorly run franchise for decades, and things haven’t gotten much better under owner Vivek Ranadive.

The hiring of Luke Walton hasn’t paid dividends either. Drafting Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic will forever haunt this franchise.

You have to really be a basketball geek to remember the 2002 team led by Basketball Hall of Famer Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac. That was the closest Sac-Town ever came to bringing an NBA title to California’s capital city.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

This team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005-06. That’s 15 years of futility, tied for the longest drought in NBA history.

Sacramento has had some great players over the years like Mitch Richmond in the ’90s and a young DeMarcus Cousins, but both players wasted big chunks of their careers trying to get this franchise off the mat. 

Draft ineptitude has also been a huge problem for this franchise, but that might be changing. The last two drafts have borne some real fruit for the forgotten team from Cali. There’s a strong sense of optimism brewing that the Kings may be ready to turn things around in “SacTown.”

Kevin Johnson, the former Phoenix Suns star point guard-turned-politician, is owed much credit for keeping the Kings in Sacramento. His last-minute efforts brought an ownership group together which vowed to keep the team in town.

The Maloof family owners had agreed to sell the team to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in 2013, a year before Ballmer purchased the L.A. Clippers in the aftermath of the Donald Sterling racial drama. Ballmer had intended to move the team to Seattle. The deal to sell to Ranadive also called for a new arena to be built in place of the outdated ARCO Arena or “Sleep Train Arena.”

New Arena, New Draft Philosophy 

The Ranadive deal went through, and in 2016, the Golden 1 Center opened, giving the Kings a state of the art facility on par with those of other teams around the NBA. But they still lacked a quality product on the floor. 

In the 2016 NBA draft they drafted Buddy Hield No. 6 overall and projected him as a Steph Curry-level talent. He’s no Curry, but he wasn’t a complete miss. Hield can definitely shoot the ball and is a cornerstone piece. 

The following year they drafted point guard DeAaron Fox with the No.5 overall pick. He’s the franchise player but will probably be a second option when they become truly competitive. 

Bagley Over Doncic … SMDH

The team dropped the ball a bit in 2018 drafting Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic, but finally struck gold in 2020 landing the underrated Tyrese Haliburton with the No. 12 overall pick.

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They also drafted Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman but inexplicably traded him to Memphis, where he flourished on a playoff team last season. In 2021, they drafted Davion Mitchell No. 9 overall to complete the guard quartet.

 

Core Four

For the first time in a long time, Sacramento has a core to build upon. You get the all-around brilliance of Fox, the shooting of Hield, the cerebral and savvy play of Haliburton, and the physicality and defense of Mitchell, who reminds analysts of perennial All-Star Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. That’s huge praise. 

 Now Luke Walton has to figure out how to make it work. 

If this team can get quality play from youngsters Bagley III, Richaun Holmes, and vets Tristan Thompson and Harrison Barnes, in the frontcourt, Sacramento could emerge as a dark horse playoff contender.

 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.