The Sacramento Kings won their one and only championship in 1951, as the Rochester Royals. The streak of 55 seasons without hoisting a championship trophy is the longest in the NBA, and one of the longest in all of sports. The King’s faithful came maddeningly close in 2002 when Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovich and friends were on the verge of winning the Western Conference championship series and advancing to the finals, where they would have been prohibitive favorites. But Robert Horry, a fourth quarter Kings meltdown, and plenty of (cough cough) questionable calls by the referees saw the Kings sent home early. They never recovered, and have floundered as one of the NBA’s worst franchises over the last decade.
But things are changing in Sactown. The Kings are on the verge of taking a huge leap forward and eventually will compete for an NBA championship. Sound crazy? People said the same thing about the Cleveland Cavaliers before they broke their own drought and won it all last season. While we don’t have a player named Lebron James, we do have 10 compelling reasons why the Kings will win the championship. It won’t be this year (of course) but I do make my educated prediction that the end of this blog. So when will the Kings win the NBA championship? Read on, and GO KINGS!
10 Reasons why the Kings will win the NBA championship in the year…
1. DeMarcus Cousins
The Kings have not only the best center in the NBA but the best young center in the NBA in DeMarcus Cousins (he’s still only 26!), a rare and valuable asset. In fact, Cousins is the perfect centerpiece for building an NBA championship-caliber team and the scary thing is that he probably hasn’t even reached his prime yet. In 2015-16, Cousins scored 26.9 points per game (career high) with 3.3 assists/game (career high), 1.6 steals per game (career high), 1.4 blocks per game, pulled down a monstrous 11.5 rebounds per game and even shot 3-pointers at a respectable .333 clip. He ranked 4th in the NBA in scoring and 5th in rebounding.
Cousins is the consensus best center in the NBA. Outside of possibly Anthony Davis and Karl Anthony Towns (who are more natural power forwards) there really isn’t a big man in the NBA as talented, powerful, mobile and versatile as “Boogie” Cousins. Point blank the NBA is a star league, and Cousins is a generational talent.
Cousins also played admirably for the USA Olympic team in Rio in 2016, bringing home the gold. That’s helped him make great strides with his maturity, leadership and playing team basketball. New coach Dave Joerger is expected to be the stabilizing force and personality match that Cousins has long been looking for.
Will all of that add up to an NBA championship trophy on his mantle anytime soon? Sacramento Kings fans are betting on it.
2. An improving supporting cast
In the offseason, the King’s had some sneaky-good signings, including speedster point guard Ty Lawson (who’s been playing amazing so far and looks like a huge steal), Aaron Afflalo (12.8 points per game), feisty journeyman Matt Barnes and consistent locker room presence Anthony Tolliver. No one is saying the 2016-17 Kings will resemble an all-star team, but with Cousins leading the way, Lawson and Collison shoring up the point guard position, a backlog of talented young Bigs (see below), and plenty of role players off the bench, the Kings have potential to compete on any given night.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Kings trade veterans Rudy Gay and Kosta Koufus to NBA contending teams this year to shore up more young talent and draft picks. It seems like the Kings are only one more star from being perennial playoff contenders, and a rapidly-developing Skal Labissière or a pick in the spectacular 2017 draft could be that player.
In the NBA, great teams are built on 2 or even 3 superstars, but after that the right supporting cast is invaluable to making a championship run, with plenty of role players providing outside shooting, rebounding and tough defense to complement those stars (just ask the Spurs, Cavs, Heat, etc.). Sacramento still needs another star or two, but it looks like they supporting cast of role players who can do just that is coming along nicely.
3. New coach Dave Joerger
When the Kings named Dave Joerger their new coach in the offseason it was a signing that flew under the radar, but one that will pay huge dividends. Joerger is a hoops “lifer”, winning 5 minor league championships in the Developmental League before becoming the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 until 2016. In that time, he guided a team with decent but very limited players to a record of 246-147, a .599 winning percentage, that included three straight trips to the playoffs. Now at the helm of the Kings, he arguably has more talent and pieces to build around, and his focus on defensive principles and team basketball could very well add an additional 10 games to the King’s win total this season alone. George Karl was a mess and didn’t match with the King’s personnel, but Joerger will get full “buy in” from Boogie and his teammates.
4. Championship droughts can’t last forever
Like we mentioned, the Kings haven’t won a championship since 1951, the longest active title-less streak in the NBA. But statistics reveal that sooner or later, they will end that 63-year drought and come out on top. Remember that the Cavaliers hadn’t won an NBA championship for 52 years until Lebron and company hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy. The same goes for the Boston Red Sox, who faced an 86-year drought before winning not one or two but three championships starting in 2004. Either the Cubs or Indians have a good chance of winning the World Series this year, ending their 106 and 66-year championship droughts, respectively. Every drought has to come to the end, and the Kings have the centerpiece superstar, committed and wealthy ownership, and the best arena in the NBA to help them start working towards ending that drought.
5. Young “Bigs”
The Kings find themselves with a glut of versatile big men, including the uber-talented Cousins, freakishly athletic defensive stalwart Willie Cauley-Stein, 7’1” young Greek center Georgios Papagiannis, pick-and-pop specialist Kosta Koufus, and especially Skal Labissière. In fact, Labissière might turn out to be the steal of the 2016 draft after a couple seasons of development, and his jump shot and outside-in game will be a perfect complement to Cousins, leaving opponents lamenting that the Kings have so many good young Bigs that can also interchange on defense and spread the opponent’s D with their jump shooting. Even if they don’t all get run with the Kings, trading one or more of these emerging big men can yield valuable assets on the way to a title run.
6.The western conference will cycle through
Things go in cycles in the NBA, and that’s also true for the strength and competitiveness of the respective eastern and western conferences. But if we take a look at the best teams in the NBA in the western conference where the Kings play (and their road to the championship finals every year), the Kings have the potential to make some noise a few seasons down the road.
There’s no denying that the Golden State Warriors are now one of the most talented teams ever, but time (and salary cap restrictions) will eventually end their run of potential championships. The Spurs have a superstar in Kawhi Leonard, but won’t be the same without Tim Duncan, and don’t have young talent once Ginobili and Parker retire, too. Who’s next in line? The Clippers? Chris Paul isn’t getting any younger and many think Blake Griffin will bolt in free agency if the Clippers can’t break through in the playoffs once again.
Who else is left? The Thunder have been grounded with Durant’s disappearance and no one expects the Blazers, Lakers, Suns or Nuggets to compete anytime soon, while the Rockets, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Mavericks, are all going in the wrong direction. Interestingly, the young and talented Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves may be the King’s biggest competition in the western conference down the line.
7. The NBA’s best arena
The moment the doors opened on the Golden 1 Center, Sacramentans witnessed a modern marvel of sports arena construction with iconic outward-facing windows, aircraft hangar doors and tree-lined balconies and plazas spanning four city blocks downtown. Not only will the Golden 1 Center reenergize the fan base but the Sacramento Kings as well. The Golden 1 Center is the greenest and smartest arena ever constructed, but still will be an intimate setting for fans to experience a game, as the 17,500 seat capacity for Kings games makes it the second smallest arena in the NBA (The New Orleans Pelican’s stadium holds only 16,867 fans, while most stadiums have 18-20,000+ capacity.)
But the new center does boast 34 luxury suites that are twice as big as the suites at the Sleep Train Arena, as well as three exclusive clubs and two Skyboxes with a view of the concourse below and a panorama of the city.
Suddenly, Sacramento goes from after-thought and second city to the proud host of the best NBA arena in the world, and that pride will echo throughout the city – and soon show up with more wins on the court.
8. Sacramento will become a respected free agent destination
It used to be a near-certainty that NBA free agent superstars sign with huge market teams like the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls or Heat, etc. But that’s no longer the case, as free agents are being smarter about positioning a good fit to maximize their play and the possibility of a championship. They’re also seriously considering their brand, which is no longer tethered to the city where they play. The Knicks and Lakers haven’t gotten a huge superstar free agent in a long time, yet the small market Spurs (Lemarcus Aldridge), Cavaliers (Lebron James), and even Bucks (Greg Monroe) have recently signed big free agents, while Kevin Durant decided to go to the Warriors instead of a bigger market team where he’d be the feature.
All of that fares well for the NBA when it comes to recruiting free agents in the future, especially after the entire fraternity of NBA players cycles through to witness the new arena in 2016-17. There will be plenty of quality players and even superstars that want to get on board with a new era of Kings basketball in the new arena, playing side by side with the best center in the game.
When it comes to the ever-important salary cap, Sacramento is in a great position, as well. DeMarcus Cousins is under team control for two more seasons at a very reasonable 16.9 and 18 million. It will be hard for any other team to sign him away from the Kings then since they’ll be able to offer him a more money and more years than anyone else on his next contract. Rudy Gay is the second-highest paid player at $13 million this year and $14 million next year, but that contract is highly valuable for a good second scoring option if the Kings decide to trade him and move up in this 2017’s stacked draft, or they can just keep playing him as a bargain contract. Ty Lawson is basically an NBA starting point guard playing on a risk-free rookie contract, and the abundance of rookies and young players means the Kings also have control over quality players at low salaries.
Since the King’s total team salary is only $99 million this season, they’ll have plenty of leverage and salary cap space to sign marquee free agents over the next few seasons.
9. Committed ownership and front office
The Kings front office has been a mess in recent years, defined more by power struggles, bickering and indecision than by putting out a winning product. But ownership is firmly in place with tech billionaire Vivek Ranadivé committed to blazing a trail into a more successful future. Ranadivé has put a strong front office in place with Vlade Divac now entrenched as our general manager (Vice President of Basketball and Franchise Operations) and several other former NBA players and plenty of seasoned NBA execs rounding out the Kings hierarchy. Ranadivé is a smart businessman and has owned a franchise before (minority owner of the Golden States Warriors, which he sold to purchase the Kings) and knows what it takes to win. With the new arena, he has a golden opportunity to build something special in Sacramento, and he won’t squander that. Similar to Mark Cuban in Dallas, Ranadivé will spend freely but wisely and do everything possible to ensure that the Kings become a championship-caliber franchise.
10. The best fans in the NBA
The #10 reason why the Kings will win the championship in coming years is YOU – and all of the other fans in Sacramento. When the Kings went through their successful run in the early and mid-2000s with Chris Webber, Jason Williams, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, etc., the Kings fans came out in droves for every game, setting the NBA record for the most sold-out games in a row. Very soon the Sacramento faithful will have something to cheer for once again, with cowbells ringing and a new arena to celebrate. The energy, optimism and support of the fans will help launch the Kings to one of the elite teams in the NBA, and eventually a championship!
But when exactly will that be?
Ok, no more stalling. We promised you a championship prediction and we’ll deliver.
Based on these 10 factors, we predict that your Sacramento Kings will win the NBA championship in….
the 2019-20 season.
That’s less than 4 short years away, so get excited and enjoy the ride!