NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Will the Sacramento Kings Continue Their Strong Run?

Sacramento Kings NBA Preview 2023 2024
 

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A Playoff Berth After 16 Years of Absence

Last season was historic for the Sacramento Kings as they secured their first Playoff victory since 2006! With a record of 48 wins and 34 losses and a 3rd-place finish in the Western Conference, Coach Mike Brown, who was named Coach of the Year, defied expectations. They boasted the NBA‘s top offense, organized around De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, both of whom were All-Stars and made it to the All-NBA Teams at season’s end. Surrounding them, role players such as Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and Trey Lyles, along with rookie Keegan Murray, showcased their skills, especially from long range, in their debut season in the elite league.

Unfortunately, their playoff journey came to an end in the first round, facing off against the Golden State Warriors in an epic series. Despite being eliminated in seven games, including a porous defense and a red-hot Stephen Curry, the Kings exited with their heads held high and aim to perform even better in the 2023-2024 season.

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Offseason Moves

Departures

  • Richaun Holmes (Mavericks)
  • Chimezie Metu (Suns)
  • PJ Dozier (Free Agent)
  • Matthew Dellavedova (Free Agent)
  • Terence Davis (Free Agent)
  • Neemias Queta (Celtics)

Extensions

  • Domantas Sabonis
  • Trey Lyles
  • Alex Len
  • Keon Ellis (two-way)

Arrivals

  • Sasha Vezenkov (Olympiakos)
  • JaVale McGee (Mavericks)
  • Chris Duarte (Pacers)
  • Colby Jones (34th pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • Jalen Slawson (54th pick in the 2023 Draft, two-way)
  • Skal Labissiere (Free Agent)
  • Jordan Ford (two-way)
  • Jaylen Nowell (Exhibit 10 contract)

Sacramento Kings Starting Five

De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes, Domantas Sabonis

Bench Rotation

Point Guards:

  • Davion Mitchell
  • Keon Ellis (two-way)
  • Jordan Ford (two-way)

Shooting Guards:

  • Malik Monk
  • Chris Duarte
  • Colby Jones
  • Jaylen Nowell (Exhibit 10 contract)

Small Forwards:

  • Kessler Edwards
  • Jalen Slawson (two-way)

Power Forwards:

  • Sasha Vezenkov
  • Trey Lyles
  • Skal Labissiere

Centers:

  • Alex Len
  • JaVale McGee

Weaknesses and Strengths

Weaknesses

Defense has not been reinforced, despite being a major issue for the team last year. They ranked 25th in defensive rating last season, and it’s unlikely to see significant improvement in this area based on the offseason acquisitions. Players like Vezenkov and Nowell (if he’s retained) are considered weak defenders, and Duarte and McGee are not known for their exceptional defensive skills. Rookies are also typically inexperienced on the defensive end. While Davion Mitchell remains as the team’s primary defensive asset on the perimeter, he is the only defensive specialist on the team, and he may not be a starter.

Strengths

Continuity in the starting five and key players off the bench. Apart from minor adjustments, the Kings have made almost no changes to the core group that fueled their success last year. Unlike other competing teams, such as the Lakers or the Warriors, who have revamped their rosters or traded major players, Sacramento won’t need a period of adaptation and has all the ingredients to start the season on a strong note. The reigning Coach of the Year, two All-Stars, and sharpshooters surrounding them make for a formidable ensemble that should kick off the season with confidence!

Player to Watch: Sasha Vezenkov

Arriving from Olympiakos, Sasha Vezenkov was one of the top performers in the EuroLeague last year. The 28-year-old power forward even earned the MVP title in the competition. This indicates that the Sacramento Kings made a wise decision in retaining his rights since 2022, thanks to a trade with the Cavaliers. Drafted in 2017, the Bulgarian-Greek-Cypriot player has made a late entry into the NBA and must once again prove himself to his coaching staff, much like a rookie, despite his age. However, the Kings’ front office has shown faith in him by offering a 3-year, $20 million contract.

But who is Sasha Vezenkov, really? For those who primarily follow the NBA, he might be an unfamiliar name. He’s commonly referred to as a “stretch four,” a power forward who excels at long-range shooting. He has maintained an average of around 40% three-point shooting over his last four seasons in the EuroLeague. Last year, he averaged 17.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 53.6% from the field, including a 37.8% success rate from beyond the arc. Clearly, he’s a sharpshooter with exceptional technical skills. However, he has a significant drawback for anyone aiming to succeed in the NBA: a lack of physical attributes.

Despite his tall stature (6 feet 9 inches or 2.06 meters), Vezenkov is far from the muscular athlete that the NBA often favors. Instead, he is known for his cerebral and technical style of play. This is likely to pose challenges for him on the defensive end, where opposing teams are likely to target him. Kings’ coach Mike Brown is aware of this and has cautioned the player that he must earn his playing time. Vezenkov currently has no guarantee of making it into the Kings’ rotation at the beginning of the season. Will he be a genuine offensive threat or a defensive liability? That’s what will determine the European player’s playing time and impact in the NBA this season.

Season Prediction: 5th in the Western Conference

With continuity, intriguing additions, and no issues in the locker room or the front office, the Sacramento Kings appear to have transformed into a stable franchise, poised to make the Playoffs consistently. The editorial team’s forecast places the Kings at the 5th spot in the highly competitive Western Conference, reflecting a strong vote of confidence in the California-based team.

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