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San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings

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The Spurs look to close out their road trip on a positive note in Sacramento.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

One year ago today, the Sacramento Kings were in the midst of winning their third straight game. Success hasn’t really been the modus operandi of the Kings recently, but this win streak is a perfect encapsulation of all their fanbase has had to endure over the past decade. Long win streaks followed by even longer losing streaks. Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins feeling like the next franchise cornerstones, only to never pan out. All of the false hope.

In spite of all that, I can’t help but believe in Sacramento’s future. Sure, they’re losing at a rate comparable to their last ump-teen years, but something feels different about this go-round. They finally ended their toxic relationship with a generational talent in Cousins and have decided to rebuild from the ground up. The Kings are loaded with talent and have the potential to be a contender in a few years’ time, but for now...

San Antonio Spurs (22-11) vs. Sacramento Kings (11-20)

December 23, 2017 | 9:00 pm CDT

Watch: KENS HD; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI

Spurs injuries: Danny Green (groin), Pau Gasol (groin)

Kings injuries: De’Aaron Fox (quadriceps), Harry Giles (knee)

They are wholly, incredibly mediocre

Without looking it up, guess who’s Sacramento’s leading scorer. If you said Zach Randolph, congrats for somehow remembering that he plays for this team.

But yes, Z-Bo leads his squad with an adequate 15.2 points per game. Only two other players on the roster even hit double-digit point averages: Buddy Hield (12.5) and Willie Cauley-Stein (10.2). It should come to no surprise then that the Kings have the 29th scoring offense in the league.

Usually, offensive problems nowadays can be attributed to poor three-point shooting. That’s not the case for these Kings, who hit 38.3% of their threes, good enough for third in the league.

The problem is, in fact, almost the exact opposite: they attempt the fewest threes in the league. To make up for that, Sacramento takes the 4th most shots inside the arc and connects on 46.6% of them, dead last in the NBA. The Kings attempt the most mid-range shots in the league despite the fact that they only hit 36.9% of them. If any team could and should re-orient their schemes to the typical modern-day offense, it’s Sacramento.

Things don’t get much better on the other end of the floor. They are 28th in opponent three-point and field goal percentages, 19th in points allowed and 28th in defensive rating. Their poor defense is a slightly more excusable because the core is young and largely inexperienced in terms of defending NBA players. Kings fans should have hope because

The talent is there

Sacramento has one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, with an average age of about 25.5 years old. However, age isn’t necessarily indicative of a team’s future; the Chicago Bulls have the youngest roster in the NBA, and you certainly shouldn’t envision them as a perennial contender anytime soon.

The Kings could be special because they have the perfect blend of youth and talent. De’Aaron Fox (20 years old) and Frank Mason III (23) have shown flashes of brilliance. Bogdan Bogdanovic (25) has smoothly translated his Euro-style to the NBA. Willie Cauley-Stein (25) and Buddy Hield (26) have progressed to solid contributors, too. It also doesn’t hurt that they have veteran leadership in Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Garrett Temple and George Hill to mold it all together.

I even left out guys like Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, all of whom have the potential to be average to above-average role players in the not-so-distant future. But if these lower-tier prospects never turn out to be more than that, it just seems like there’s too much talent here to mess this up. The Kings have been the laughingstock of the league for the better part of this century. It’s finally time that they shut this narrative down.

Matchup to watch: Kawhi Leonard vs. ???. The Kings don’t have much in the way of above-average or even average defensive wings. Their best option may be Jakarr Sampson who recently played some great defense on LeBron James. He hasn’t gotten much playing time so far this season, so I’d expect a lot of favorable mismatches for Kawhi. This is a great opportunity to get him back in game shape.


Vegas line: Spurs by 8.5.

Game prediction: Spurs by 15.

For the King fans' perspective, visit Sactown Royalty.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

PtR's GameThread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR's Twitter feed.