17 years. That was the last time the Sacramento Kings had a winning record. The Kings posted a 44-38 win-loss record all the way back in 2005-2006. That season also marked the last time they made the playoffs where they lost the in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs.
Since then, the Kings have been the league's whipping boys bottoming out with a 17-65 record in 2008-2009. Despite nearly two decades in the cellar, the Kings have been mostly unlucky in the NBA draft where they've had high picks who were unable to carry the franchise back to relevance.
These players include Tyreke Evans (2009), DeMarcus Cousins (2010), Bismack Biyombo (2011), Thomas Robinson (2012), Nik Stauskas (2013), and Marquese Chriss (2016). All these picks were in the Top 10 but were mostly draft busts.
The Kings remained in the doldrums because of years of underspending and poor ownership. The current owner, Vivek Ranadive, has churned through numerous executive and coaches translating into several years of losing. Ranadive is reportedly impulsive and impatient, micromanaging a team with a dysfunctional culture.
Even former player and Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who ran the team from 2015-2020, was constantly usurped by special advisor Joe Dumars and assistant general managers who would suck up to Ranadive instead of looking out for the team. Divac, of course, was highly criticized for drafting Marvin Bagley in 2018 to fill the void of Cousins whom he traded to New Orleans in 2017. Divac drafted the center ahead of perennial MVP candidate Luka Doncic.
The winds of change started when the Kings hired Monte McNair in September 2020. McNair was an essential cog in the Houston Rockets' successes staying with the franchise for 13 years. While working for the Rockets, the team reached the NBA playoffs for eight consecutive years, including two Western Conference Finals appearances. Reportedly, McNair has gained the trust of the head shed and has complete autonomy in running the team.
It has been a slow turnaround but the Kings may have finally gotten back their magic sauce. After some controversial trades (Tyrese Haliburton to the Pacers for Domantas Sabonis), the Kings now have a complete starting line-up that can run with the best of them. The team is now the highest scoring team in the league putting up 121 points every game day. Their defense still needs a lot of work since they give up 118 points (27th in the league).
The Kings are being led by All-Stars De'Aaron Fox (25.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists) and Sabonis (19 points, 12.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists) and both are putting up career numbers.
Despite their shortcomings, the Kings are surprisingly No. 3 in the Western Conference, ahead of other powerhouses Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. If they keep this up, they will have their first playoff appearance. Yes, the Kings are back.
SIDELINES. The Kings had their best season in 2000-2001 when they had a 61-21 record and reached the Western Conference Finals. The team was composed of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby, and Doug Christie.