Domantas Sabonis and the Kings' success
Now, we move on to the Kings. If Indiana was a middling team without direction before the trade, the Kings would have been the laughing stock of the NBA. Always seen as a team with talent that couldn't make it work, the Sacramento Kings were staring at a 16-year playoff drought before the fateful trade.
Since the trade, however, the Kings' fortunes have turned around for the better, and they have firmly set their place as a legit playoff team. Before we talk about this, however, we must talk about Domantas Sabonis himself.
At the time of the last update, Sabonis played 68 out of a possible 81 games for the Kings and essentially picked up right where he left off in Indiana, albeit on a much better offense and around much better players.
Through those 68 games, Sabonis averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 6.7 assists on 59/33/75% splits and was second in rebounds per game and first in total rebounds. Sabonis' 61% from the field that season also ranked 12th in the league and his true shooting percentage of 67% was good enough for 12th.
Since then, he has only gotten better. Since February 12, 2023, Sabonis has played in 75 of a possible 76 games, averaging 19.9 points per game, 12.9 rebounds, good for second in the league since that date, 8.1 assists, good for eighth in the league since that date, on impressive 62/43/70 shooting splits.
Sabonis is currently leading the league in rebounds in the 2023-24 season, averaging 13.1 per game and total rebounds with 656. Speaking of shooting, Sabonis' 62% from the field is good for eighth in the league this season, and his true shooting percentage of 66% is good for 10th in the league. Clearly, Sabonis has also improved quite a bit after getting acclimated to his surroundings.
In the 68 games that Sabonis played in Sacramento before the update, the Kings had a record of 35-33 and, at the time, were looking to make a playoff run, sitting at 31-24 and the third seed in the West on February 12.
Sacramento would hold onto that third seed for the rest of the season, finishing 48-34 and matching up with the Golden State Warriors in the first round. In the first round, Sabonis averaged 16.4 points, 11 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.4 steals on 49.5/20/57% shooting splits, a noticeable drop off from his much more productive regular season.
Unfortunately, Sabonis' first playoff campaign as a legitimate star will not be remembered for his play on the court, but rather for when he was stomped on by Golden State's Draymond Green in the fourth quarter of Sacramento's Game 2 win.
Unfortunately, this 2-0 series lead was as good as it got for the Kings, as Golden State quickly nabbed three straight wins and closed out the series in Golden 1 Center with a Game 7 blowout.
Currently, the Kings sit at a 29-21 record and have the seventh seed in the West, which is play-in territory. Despite staying a solid team and showing some improvements, mainly from De'Aaron Fox, who has garnered many Haliburton comparisons himself, the Kings seem to have stagnated this year compared to the last, with no major improvements in sight and content with running it back in a stacked Eastern Conference.
In the 75 games he has played since the last update, Sabonis has helped lead the Kings to a 45-30 record, more impressive than Haliburton with the Pacers. However, it is important to note that Sacramento has been noticeably more healthy during this period as well, with De'Aaron Fox playing 66 games to go alongside Sabonis (Sabonis has a 7-9 record for the Kings in games without Fox).
Either way, the addition of Sabonis has completely turned the Kings' fortunes around from a team without direction and completely used to being the third most important team in California, to a team with legitimate playoff aspirations. Kings fans who are currently upset at the team for staying pat should at least be grateful that they have a playoff team to cheer for, unlike the Kings fans of old.