This past Sunday, after suffering a 11-point loss at the hands of the Houston Rockets, the Sacramento Kings were officially eliminated from the 2019 playoffs.
This is the team's 13th straight season missing the playoffs, the longest active postseason drought in the league.
Despite being the holders of that dubious record, this past season has been nothing short of impressive. Here's why:
Season of positives and improvement
With five games to go, the Kings have already won 11 more games than last season. Their current win total of 38 is the tied for the most since their last playoff appearance in 2006 when they had 44. Their 9th seed this season is the highest since 2006 as well.
It's not just the wins. The numbers don't lie and they indicate the Kings have adapted to the new NBA's fast-paced three-point shooting tempo.
|Last season||2018-19 season|
|Points per game||98.8 (30th)||113.9 (10th)|
|Pace||95.59 (30th)||103.97 (3rd)|
|Field Goal %||45.0% (22nd)||46.3% (15th)|
|Points off turnovers||15.2 (24th)||19.2 (2nd)|
|Points in the paint||43.5 (22nd)||51.7 (6th)|
|Fast break points||10.4 (20th)||21.2 (1st)|
As shown above, in key stats, the Kings have improved from being in the bottom third of the league to being in the top 10 this season.
Although there is still room for improvement as a complete package on both ends of the floor, the Kings did make a sizeable improvement in their offensive rating - 29th to 18th.
Given the team's great showing this year, Dave Joerger is bound to finish off this season as their head coach. That makes his current tenure of three years as the longest by a Kings coach since Rick Adelman [1998-2006].
This stability to an up-and-coming young roster is bound to help them make another leap next season.
Young backcourt is the driving force
At the end of the day, the team's numbers are what matter and the Kings' starting backcourt has been a huge reason behind their improvement this season.
De'Aaron Fox might not be a frontrunner but he is certainly a player who might be on the Most Improved ballet. He was probably the best sophomores this season after Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell with season averages of 17.4 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on 45.4% shooting from the field and 36.9% from beyond the arc [all career-highs].
Fox's backcourt mate, the start shooting guard, Buddy Hield has been magnificent this season as well. He is averaging career-highs across major categories as well - 20.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on 45.9% shooting from the field.
His three-point shooting has been the most remarkable feature of this season. So far, he has made 265 three-pointers this season [4th-most], making those at an efficiency of 42.9% [8th-best].
Bringing the show to India
Both these guards are on the team's books for the next season. Barring any trades, the duo is set to bring their show to India when they face off against the Indiana Pacers in two preseason games on October 4th and 5th at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai.
Marvin Bagley III, 2015 NBA Champion Harrison Barnes, Willie Cauley-Stein and Bogdan Bogdanovic are among the other exciting players on the Kings to watch out for when they make their trip to India later this year.