NBA pundits love the discussion of the biggest surprises and unfortunate disappointments every NBA season. The category of disappointments can have various perspectives. Still, this season, the most surprising storyline in the NBA is the Sacramento Kings ascending to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
They have snapped their playoff drought, as they have not reached the postseason since 2006; the real deal will come in the playoffs and how they will perform on the biggest stage. Most of their players will experience it for the first time so the homecourt advantage will be vital for their organization. They have flourished at the Golden 1 Center and will likely finish at the No. 2 or No.3 seed for the NBA Playoffs.
The Kings will be the team that others may choose as the higher seed, which can be upset in Round 1, and the franchise they would want to avoid is the Los Angeles Lakers.
No. 2 Kings vs. No. 7 Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have been the brute of criticism and comedic stories for the past two seasons, but the trade deadline moves of Rob Pelinka were brilliant. They added D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Rui Hachimura, and Mo Bamba to bolster their squad led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The disaster for the Kings in a possible series with the Lakers starts with their perimeter defense. Imagine Harrison Barnes guarding LeBron James for 48 minutes in a seven-game series or Domantas Sabonis banging it with Anthony Davis in the paint. Sacramento's defense is currently at 26th in the association, and there have only been a couple of teams in the past 20 years who have won the championship but are not top 10 in defensive rating.
The NBA Finals or championship is far from the Kings' reach, but they will need at least at top 10 defense if they want to topple the Lakers in a seven-game series. L.A. is peaking at the perfect time despite not having LeBron James since the end of February. He expects to return before the end of the regular season to ramp up for the most critical juncture of the season.
The Lakers will likely need to go through the play-in tournament to advance to the playoffs, so the Kings must hope they have a better matchup like the Minnesota Timberwolves or Oklahoma City Thunder. The offensive power led by Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox will be tough to stop, but the Lakers have ascended to second in defense since the All-Star break.
The pace will be slower for Sacramento, so the transition opportunities of Fox, Malik Monk, and the rest of the crew will plummet. They will rely heavily on their dribble handoffs, with Sabonis or Fox creating through screen and roll actions. The Lakers will likely put Davis against Sabonis and limit his ability to bulldoze himself in the paint. L.A. has Dennis Schroder or Austin Reaves to alternate, sticking onto Fox for 48 minutes.
When the game slows down, it can be a problematic scenario for the Kings. Conversely, the Lakers have LeBron James, who thrives with halfcourt schemes wherein he can maximize his excellent Basketball IQ. Furthermore, the Lakers have two terrific secondary shot creators in D'Angelo Russell and Dennis Schroder, along with an incredible interior finisher in Anthony Davis.
To cap it all off, AD is healthy for the playoffs, and LBJ is fresh, so Sacramento would not want a legendary duo to face them in their first playoffs in 17 years.