2021-22 Kia Season Preview

2021-22 Season Preview: Sacramento Kings

Young and talented core brings optimism, but for Sacramento to end its long postseason drought, defense must improve.

For the Kings to end their playoff drought, De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III will need to play at an All-Star level.

De’Aaron Fox was 8 years old. Marvin Bagley III only 7. And Tyrese Haliburton was a wee lad of 6 the last time the Kings made the NBA playoffs. No one in Sacramento is happy about a 15-year streak of failing to reach the postseason, but if there is a bright side, it’s that the current players were too young to be traumatized or to carry that weight.

So what are the Kings going to do about it in 2021-22? Whether they snap the streak or add to it, these guys are going to have to improve their defense. A lot. They weren’t just the league’s worst last season, they were historically bad (116.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). Sacramento ranked dead last in opponents’ field-goal percentage, 29th in points given up in the paint, and 26th both in defensive 3-point percentage and second-chance points allowed. Whatever they were doing right offensively (12th overall) couldn’t compensate for what they didn’t stop.

The Kings drafted Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, a three-year collegian, and were promptly wowed in Summer League by his defensive work on the ball. More floor time for Tyrese Haliburton, the addition of Tristan Thompson to help on the boards (Sacramento ranked 30th in rebounds) and that first step toward grabbing a spot in the Play-In Tournament – defensive improvement – will get noticed throughout the NBA.


Will Buddy Hield be traded or will he have an even more important role with the Kings? Rather than moving Hield, which was the speculation for much of the offseason, Sacramento coach Luke Walton might want to use him off the bench as a Sixth Man with a green light. The career 40% 3-point shooter has been a reserve for almost a third of his appearances and has shot and scored better than when starting. The other benefit would be creating more opportunities to use Fox, Haliburton and Mitchell on the floor together, with Harrison Barnes at the four.


All hail Sacramento fans, who have hung in there through disappointment after disappointment. The Kings have drafted in the lottery 15 times in those 15 years, without getting enough of a bump from any one or group of the picks to end the streak. After last season’s 31-41, it will take two steps, not one, to get into the thick of a West playoff chase. That won’t be easy. Predicted finish: 38-44.


De’Aaron Fox: After putting up 25.2 ppg and 7.2 apg, super-quick guard’s next step is All-Star selection.

Tyrese Haliburton: The steal of the 2020 Draft pushed himself hard and isn’t about to stop after an All-Rookie start.

Harrison Barnes: Steady veteran in 10th season brings all-around help, most valuable to winning clubs.

Marvin Bagley III: Going No. 2 in the Luka/Trae/Porter Jr. Draft has added to his uphill climb.

Richaun Holmes: Minutes have brought production (and vice versa), which brought an affordable contract for a long-term piece.


Buddy Hield: Until the Kings’ defense improves significantly, Hield will be too valuable offensively to trade.

Davion Mitchell: Stepping on Fox and even Haliburton as a point guard option is fine, based on his defense and energy.

Terence Davis: Part of a backcourt log-jam after earning a new deal with his post-Toronto play.

Tristan Thompson: An insurance policy when acquired, he can provide experience, toughness and leadership.


How the Kings have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …

Season W L PCT OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2020-21 31 41 0.431 112.7 12 116.5 30 -3.8 24
2019-20 31 41 0.431 109.5 18 111.4 19 -1.9 21
2018-19 39 43 0.476 109.6 17 110.8 21 -1.2 18
2017-18 27 55 0.329 103.1 29 110.4 27 -7.3 29
2016-17 32 50 0.390 106.6 20 110.8 26 -4.2 25

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


51.5% — De’Aaron Fox was the only player with a usage rate over 50% in a game last season, registering a rate of 51.5% in a loss in Miami on Jan. 30. For the season, he accounted for 43.1% of the Kings’ clutch field goal attempts while he was on the floor. That was the fourth highest rate among 163 players who played at least 50 clutch minutes.

— John Schuhmann

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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