30 Teams in 30 Days | 2022

30 Teams in 30 Days: Kings hoping they've found a solid piece in Keegan Murray

Sacramento has a new coach, a new rookie phenom and, perhaps, a chance at positive progress in its latest rebuild project.

Domantas Sabonis, Davion Mitchell and De’Aaron Fox have Sacramento optimistic about this season.

Sacramento Kings2021-22 record: 30-52

Key additions: Kevin Huerter (trade), Malik Monk (free agency), Keegan Murray (2022 draft), coach Mike Brown

Key subtractions: Justin Holiday & Mo Harkless (trade), Donte DiVincenzo (free agency), interim coach Alvin Gentry

Last season: There are teenagers across the nation who have spent their entire lives watching the Kings in the draft lottery. It’s now 16 years — and counting? — since the Kings made the playoffs, a scathing streak that continued in 2021-22. As such, yet another shakeup became necessary as the Kings welcomed a new coach and — of course — another lottery pick in yet another effort to prevent the tailspin from, well, spinning.

Summer summary: For a franchise that makes the Draft lottery a habit, the success record of the Kings is rather disappointing — and that’s putting it mildly. The last player chosen by the Kings to make the All-Star Game was DeMarcus Cousins in 2017. And the last drafted player not named Cousins to be an All-Star while still with the Kings was Peja Stojakovic in 2004 (he was drafted in 1996).

You’d think the probability rate of that would be in the Kings’ favor, and yet Sacramento has seemingly always chosen the wrong player one spot ahead of the right player. So let’s fast-forward to the summer of 2022 when the Kings, holding the fourth pick, selected Murray — and the NBA gallery howled once again. The draftniks in the basketball world favored Jaden Ivey over Murray, and wouldn’t you know, Ivey went No. 5 overall to the Detroit Pistons. If several years from now there’s a sizable difference in the careers of these two players, those experts will merely say told-you-so and chalk it up to the Kings being the Kings.

But suppose Murray turns out to be the right choice? This can actually happen, no? If the early returns mean anything — particularly based on his play in the NBA Summer League — then there is indeed a flicker of hope. Murray was tremendous in Las Vegas and earned MVP honors for his shot-making, efficiency, presence and all-around poise. Kings fans showed their approval and exhaled.

Enjoy Keegan Murray's top plays from his MVP run at NBA 2K23 Summer League in Las Vegas.

Of course, the graveyard is littered with other Summer League standouts who flamed out in the NBA, so those Kings fans should wisely (for now) keep those fingers crossed. It goes back to probability and how it’s nearly impossible for a perpetual lottery team to get it wrong, year after year. With Murray, maybe it’s time to give the Kings the benefit of the doubt. The kid, if nothing else, has the tools to be special.

Still, there’s no urgency to be a savior because the Kings once again are in the throes of rebuilding. They made two other deals to add promising young players in trading for Huerter and signing Monk in free agency. Both are 24 and under-the-radar types who should be factors in the rotation next season. Neither cost an enormous amount in either assets or money as Sacramento didn’t break the bank for Monk and the 2024 first-rounder surrendered for Huerter is top-14 protected.

By doing so, the Kings remain salary cap flexible in case a delicious deal falls their way at some point. By protecting that future pick, they didn’t ruin their chances of possibly drafting a star in the future, either.

Huerter brings good shooting range and can create for himself off the dribble so he’s not your typical 3-point specialist. Last season, he averaged 12.1 points per game in 59 starts for Atlanta.

Monk (13.8 ppg) was one of the few rotational bright spots for the Lakers last season, and in a perfect world, the Lakers would’ve re-signed him. But he headed north for more playing time and a bit more coin. Could Monk average 16 or 17 points with steady minutes and a bigger role? Perhaps.

That said, he’s suddenly in a similar situation to when he was with the Charlotte Hornets earlier in his career. He got lost in the shuffle with the young Hornets, and while the Kings could use help at shooting guard after trading away Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton last season, nothing is guaranteed for Monk.

Kings coach Mike Brown discusses his early impressions of Keegan Murray and expectations for Sacramento ahead of next season.

The other significant newcomer is Brown, who left a favorable spot on the bench of the defending-champion Golden State Warriors to become a head coach again. Brown had reasonable success in that job in Cleveland, winning 50 or more games five times from 2005-10. He was solid, too, with the Lakers (2011-13) before the ax fell there as well. Sacramento could’ve given the job to a number of other candidates who were looking to get that first crack at the position, but instead went with experience.

Overall, Sacramento seems poised to take a step in the right direction, and Murray in particular will be closely watched by the home fans for any signs of twinkle. If he’s deep in the running for Kia Rookie of the Year, Sacramento might throw a parade. Yes, it’s been that tough from a Draft standpoint.

The Kings have had some shaky summers in the past, and while this might be going out on a limb, the summer of 2022 doesn’t appear to be following that path.

Up next: Phoenix Suns | Previously: LA Clippers

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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