Let’s get one thing straight from the jump — until the Sacramento Kings actually conclude the year with a top-6 record (or top-10, if you must) and qualify for the Playoffs in the Western Conference, there is reason to be suspicious that this is finally their year. Yes, at 27-19 they’re currently the number three team in the West, the leader of the Pacific Division, and the winningest team in California. And yes, their overall net rating of +2.7 is good enough for seventh in the NBA, ahead of recent Finals participants like the Bucks, Suns, and Warriors. But these are still the Sacramento Kings, right? Owners of the longest playoff drought in basketball (16 years and counting) and the franchise most closely associated with mismanagement, bad ideas, and poor execution. Dysfunction has been living in the capital city for a long time, and the legacy of failure cannot be overlooked until absolutely proven otherwise. Skepticism, a necessary body armor for long-suffering fans, is warranted and advisable. All that said, there’s also reason to believe the worm has finally turned.
How could this be?
Depending on the day, the Kings have either the top offense in basketball or one that is just behind the conference-leading Celtics and Nuggets. Scoring 116-ish points per 100 possessions, Sacramento has been crushing teams at all three levels all season long. By eFG%, the Kings are a top 10 team from three (on the 7th-most attempts), a top 5 team in the midrange (on the 7th-most attempts), and a top 3 team at the rim (on the 13th-most attempts). Deadly from everywhere, Sac’s in the top 6 in free throw rate and takes care of the ball well enough (10th best turnover rate) to get as much as they can out of every offensive possession. Like the other all-gas/no-breaks teams in the Western Conference, Sacramento — like Dallas, Utah, and Denver — is home to a premium offense and a Swiss cheese D. Unlike their peers though, the Kings are getting their buckets through pace.
Speed has always been a defining trait for De’Aaron Fox, and over the first five seasons of his career, each of his four head coaches has throttled up at one point or another in order to get Fox the space to fly. First-year Kings Coach Mike Brown is wasting no time in leaning on the lead foot. Though the Kings play the longest defensive possessions of any team in basketball, they also get shots off faster than anyone else, a split that results in a top-10 pace. Despite a decided…