The Sacramento Kings have finally snapped their 16-season playoff drought and clinched the third seed in the Western Conference with a 48-34 record. They now prepare for a matchup with the defending champion Golden State Warriors, being the all-important higher seed. The higher seed will give the Kings home-court advantage, a huge factor given the Warriors’ 11-30 record on the road this season. The Kings will have a max of four opportunities at the Golden 1 Center to light the beam in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
A number of factors will play a huge role in determining who moves on between the Kings and Warriors. The sole focus of the series will be on the Warriors’ Stephen Curry; albeit Golden State’s struggles in the regular season, they will always have a chance to win it all as long as they have the greatest shooter of all time. The other half of the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson, and the polarizing Draymond Green will work alongside role players Jordan Poole, Kevon Looney, Donte Divincenzo and the return of Andrew Wiggins in joining Curry in an upset bid of the Kings.
Meanwhile, the Kings have been led by the duo of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis in returning to the NBA Playoffs, and will be the main scorers for this Sacramento team. They will also look to guards Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk for some buckets, while Harrison Barnes and Davion Mitchell aim to continue their play as key assets on both sides of the floor. However, if the Kings are going to win this series, none of these players will be the primary reason. There is one key X-factor for the Kings in this first-round series. So, what is the Kings X-factor against the Warriors?
Keegan Murray is the Kings’ X-factor in the first-round matchup against the Warriors in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
*Stats via StatMuse
Keegan Murray: X-Factor Against Warriors
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Keegan Murray had high expectations coming into Sacramento. On Wednesday, March 29th, Murray cemented why he had such high expectations, all the while eclipsing any standard the Kings could have asked from him in his rookie season.
In a game against the Portland Trailblazers, Murray made his 188th 3-pointer on his 462nd attempt of the season, a scorching 3-point percentage of 40.7%. More importantly, this shot made him the NBA single-season rookie holder for most made threes. He surpassed then Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who set the record with 187 in the 2017-2018 season. Coincidentally, Murray secured the record in the same game the Kings clinched the playoffs. It is simply a metaphor for the intrinsic success between the Kings and Murray.
In the first round against the Warriors, this success will again be linked. The stats are staggering when Murray is hitting his three-point shots, as the Kings find ways to win those games. This season, the Kings are 16-5 when Murray has made four or more three-pointers. Even more impressively, the Kings are 10-1 in games that Murray has made five or more. These are two big totals, but it shows a clear correlation between Murray’s output and the Kings success.
Besides Murray’s ability to hit the three and how it helps the Kings win, he has made incredible strides on the defensive side of the ball during his rookie season. Head Coach Mike Brown recently commented on Murray’s keen ability to steal without gambling, and how his overall consistency on that side of the floor has improved game over game. Heading into the playoffs, Murray is shooting the ball lights out and proving his worth on defense.
Against the Warriors, if Murray plays like he can, the Kings should find success. Murray will be a matchup nightmare for the Warriors, as Wiggins will most likely get the first crack at him. Wiggins is far from being in NBA condition, and Murray will look to exploit this matchup.
In general, Murray will never have much attention paid to him due to emphasis that Fox and Sabonis will command, especially on a Warriors team that really struggles on defense. Fox and Sabonis will be hounding the small Warriors in the paint all series long, creating plenty of space on the perimeter. This is where Murray can take advantage and drill those three-point shots he has been hitting all season long.
The first-round matchup between the Kings and the Warriors is sure to be one of the more entertaining first-rounds of the NBA Playoffs. If the Sacramento Kings are to dethrone the defending champion Golden State Warriors, Keegan Murray will be the X-factor in the series.