What Kings’ No-Playoff Roster Would Make Today’s Playoffs?


With the Sacramento Kings amidst the playoff hunt after missing the postseason for the past 16 years, the organization has finally put together a roster that can be competitive with some of the best in the NBA.

That is not to say the Kings have not had talent for the better part of two decades. Despite only having a single player make an all-star appearance during this time, an argument can be made that the caliber of players from the franchise was never reflected in the win column.

I want to look back at the rosters during this 16-year drought and create the best-possible roster that would have the best shot at being contenders in today’s NBA.

The team selection is based on modern NBA play and will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Minimum 50 games played.
  • How they performed while on the Kings since 2006. (Players like Rajon Rondo and Zach Randolph will be based on the merit of their singular season on their team, not their career.)
  • Intangible qualities (leadership, chemistry, etc.)




The Kings have had some exciting and talented players at the guard position throughout the playoff drought. The position has been defined by youth and volume scoring.

De’Aaron Fox leads the group in both categories and is the clear starter at point guard for this fictional roster. His pace is ideal for the modern NBA, a terrific midrange shot, elite finishing in the paint, and he has just enough outside shooting to make defenses honest in their coverage of him.

In reserve at the one spot, there are two different types of players, Isaiah Thomas and Tyrese Haliburton. Thomas would bring instant offense off the bench. Before he departed from the Kings, he had his best offensive season. He kept offenses off balance with a reliable jump shot and tough finishing at the rim. Additionally, Thomas’ reputation as a clutch performer started in Sacramento.

In contrast, Haliburton was much less flashy than Thomas and would bring a different type of playstyle in reserve. Despite his age, Haliburton proved to be able to command the pace of the game with great IQ in fast-break situations and the potential to be a field general in the half-court.

Shooting guard has primarily been defined by sound offensive output and poor defense. Due to his defense and maybe some recency bias, Kevin Huerter secures the starting role. Huerter has shown a willingness to defend the perimeter and killer efficiency beyond the arc. While not a volume shooter, Huerter would play a crucial role in the starting lineup.

In reserve, two players have reputations for being in defensive turn styles Kevin Martin and Buddy Hield. Hield is the all-time three-point leader in Kings’ history and could be a deadly option off the bench to help spread the floor.

On the other hand, Martin is an interesting player to think about in the modern NBA. Known as a great isolation player in his time with the Kings, he also had an amazingly efficient — and ugly-looking — three-point shot averaging over 40% in his best season on only 5.5 attempts per game. In today’s game, he’d undoubtedly be expected to shoot more often, so there might be similar efficiency. If so, Martin would likely push Huerter for the starting position.




Forward has been a position of concern throughout the drought. Never having real star power and missing on some very high draft picks (see Thomas Robinson and Marvin Bagley) has often doomed the frontcourt. Based on the criteria, however, some quality players and two clear stars still emerge.

The last time the Kings appeared in the playoffs was on the back of an out-of-shape Ron Artest, and despite missing the tournament the next two seasons, the now Metta Sandiford-Artest sit had pretty good seasons that solidified his starting spot on this roster. While not an offensive superstar by any means, Artest’s patented defense and motor bring a type of play that is desperately lacking on the roster.

Starting alongside him in the lineup sits fellow all-star Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis’ ability to run the offense out of post brings a unique quality to the roster— his daunting offensive presence in the low block puts tremendous presence on defenses, and his ability to pass as a big man often finds shooters in position to score. He has the skill set to get a triple double every night he’s on the floor.

To back up the frontcourt, two similar players come to mind first— Rudy Gay and Harrison Barnes. Both are good candidates off the bench for modern, position-less basketball. Barnes brings better outside shooting complimentary play, while Gay brings tough defense and the ability to get a basket with good isolation play in the faces up and in the post.

Omri Casspi, his second-stint iteration, sits deeper on the bench and makes the roster for two reasons: three-point shooting and roster glue. Casspi was mostly a lights-out shooter in his second stint with the Kings as a role player and had a memorable three-point duel with Steph Curry in 2015; his sharpshooting ability brings some much-needed floor spacing to the front court.

Casspi’s intangible reputation as a good teammate and relationship with a certain — and somewhat temperamental — teammate helps solidify his spot on this roster as well.

Longtime King Jason Thompson also makes this roster for specific role reasons: rebounding and availability. Thompson ate up boards at a decent rate, but his true value lays in his availability. Thompson was rarely hurt, playing at least 75 games in six of his seven seasons in Sacramento.




During this drought, DeMarcus Cousins is the most talented player to put on a Kings jersey. The only player to get an all-star appearance during his time with the Kings, Cousins was the best offensive center in the NBA for a few years. His ability to back opposing players down, generate contact, and finish was unmatched. Additionally, Cousins could pass and eventually developed a respectable outside shot for a center.

If Cousins were paired with Sabonis on this theoretical roster, there would undoubtedly be comparisons to Vlade Divac and Chris Webber.

To immediately back up Cousins is fan-favorite Brad Miller. While past his prime during this stretch, Miller was still putting up respectable numbers as a King; he’d be a perfect stand-in while Cousins was on the bench.

To round out the 15th spot on this roster is a more unconventional pick in Chuck Hayes. A majorly undersized and offensively lacking player like Hayes may at first seem like an odd pick. Still, when looking for a third center, there should be something they do exceptionally well, and for Hayes, that’s defense and screen-setting. Being only 6’6 as a center, Hayes could out-leverage players with his lower center of gravity and body strength, making it hard for opposing bigs to get to their spots. Lastly, Hayes’ big horizontal frame was able to set crushing screens.


Michael Malone

While Mike Brown has done a great job with this year’s roster, and despite trying to follow the self-imposed criteria by eliminating foresight, Mike Malone still comes ahead as the best coach for this roster.

Eight years later, it is still astonishing that the Sacramento Kings fired Malone. Despite having no other star player and losing Boogie Cousins for five of the first 24 games to meningitis, the Kings were still in the playoff hunt in 2014. But by a still-quizzical move by Kings’ management, he was let go. Malone had Cousins playing his best basketball up to that point of his career. The team was playing better defensively than they had for the better part of a decade.

Looking at what the Denver Nuggets are doing today and what Nikola Jokić has become, there is no doubt Malone would be able to make this roster play the best possible basketball they could.

About Carlos Ganarial

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