Another Sacramento Kings season without a playoff berth (barring a miracle) is drawing to a close, and it’s finishing up even more disappointing for De’Aaron Fox, who hasn’t played in three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. The Kings have actually played reasonably well without Fox of late, but they’re still three games back of the 10th-seeded San Antonio Spurs with four games to play. It’s almost certainly a wrap for them.
The Kings came into this 2020-21 season with renewed aspirations after falling just shy of the play-in round in the bubble in 2020. With Fox leading the way, the hope was Sacramento could take that next step and become a playoff contender in the Western Conference. While the Kings have hung around in that play-in tournament race, a 30-38 record that has actually been beefed up lately without Fox is a bummer, especially considering the young point guard was putting up monster numbers before his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Currently in his fourth season in the league, Fox is averaging a career-best 25.2 points along with 3.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists through 58 appearances. He has yet to reach All-Star status, but he very well could be on his way to a selection if he keeps improving and Sacramento actually does better as a team.
Aside from Fox, the Kings have some other interesting pieces in place, including a fun rookie backcourt partner in Tyrese Haliburton. The 21-year-old has already become an all-around contributor and has emerged as one of the top rookies in the 2020 draft class after getting chosen 12th overall.
Sacramento also has a sharpshooter in Buddy Hield who was previously crowned as the 2020 NBA 3-Point Contest champion. The Oklahoma product is a dangerous threat from the outside who can also score in bunches and at ease. Harrison Barnes is a savvy veteran who can produce over 20 points on any given night. Marvin Bagley III has been disappointing in his career thus far, but he’s still very talented and has shown flashes. Richaun Holmes is an underrated big man.
It can’t be denied that these players all possess some talent, but a historically bad defense has helped waste this impressive Fox season. While the Kings have a borderline top-10 offense, that doesn’t mean much if you can’t stop a soul. As of this moment, Sacramento still needs to do some roster overhauling in order for them to become a legitimate playoff contender moving forward.
The Kings do have Fox locked up for the long haul thanks to the five-year max extension he signed last year. However, Hield and Barnes are both making over $20 million a year, and a decision must soon be made on Bagley. There are some more tough choices coming up when it comes to roster building. We already saw Sacramento lose Bogdan Bogdanovic for nothing last offseason.
Apart from the team’s struggles, Fox is also lagging on an individual basis compared to other young stars such as Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Trae Young, and Luka Doncic. These players have all enjoyed All-Star berths in addition to some level of team success.
It is safe to say the Kings have already wasted the first four years of Fox’s promising career. Choosing Bagley over Luka Doncic was an all-time mistake the franchise will never live down. Unfortunately, the Kings organization can only think about the what-ifs that could’ve happened in the past if they were more aggressive and simply better at adding talent around an impressive playmaker like Fox.
Though several campaigns have already gone down the drain and the NBA’s longest playoff drought carries on, the Kings can still work better in maximizing their pieces in order to reach their ceiling and achieve greater success moving forward with De’Aaron Fox at the helm.