Bandwagons are by and large how we survive the dog days of the NBA season, those several months between the bright optimism of the early games until that time in March when every game has postseason seeding riding on it.
So far this season, there has been the Portland is really good bandwagon and the Phoenix is more than a fluke bandwagon (though with the injury to Eric Bledsoe, which was announced just before a long road trip), that one has gotten rickety fast. I’d imagine that Toronto, Golden State and both New York City teams are due for their bandwagon moments, but the team that interests me most is the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings are a most unlikely bandwagon candidate. They haven’t been to the playoffs in eight seasons and except for draft speculation, they haven’t been in the conversation as it pertains to the NBA since the questionable officiating robbed them of a chance at the Finals in 2002. A bandwagon for them would be a bolt from blue and confirm that the NBA has regained its ability to surprise.
The case for the Kings rests of three simple premises. For one they have played the elite teams in the NBA tough over the last couple of weeks. They have beaten Miami, Houston and Portland and lost a relatively close game in San Antonio. True, during this stretch their focus wavered and somehow they lost home games to Charlotte and Philadelphia, but they manhandled their last two creampuff opponents, beating Orlando and Cleveland by 20 and 44 respectively.
The Kings have an emerging superstar in DeMarcus Cousins. NBA fans have been waiting for Cousins to start taking the game seriously forever, and finally he has. His season averages 23.3 points and 11.5 boards in 32 minutes a game, are nice but consider what he’s done lately. Since Dec 1, DeMarcus is averaging 25 points on 51% shooting, with 12 rebounds, 2 steals in 33 minutes per game.
Yeah, I think the light finally went on and stayed on.
Cousins isn’t the only King playing at an all-star level. Point guard Isaiah Thomas is putting up 19.3 points 6.3 assists, and shooting 41% from behind the arc in 32 minutes a game. Lastly forward Rudy Gay an in season acquisition from the Raptors has played very well for his new team. His 20.6 points per game have come at a 52.3% shooting clip.
The Kings still have their negatives which could doom them. Their defense would have trouble stopping you, me, and three cats from the coffee shop on the corner. They rank 27th in Defensive Efficiency, points allowed per 100 possessions. And their bench is paper thin. An injury to their big three and this nice run ends immediately.
Tonight they play the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis and then on the 24th they play them again at Sleep Train Arena. In between they play a tough slate of opponents, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans and Houston, all on the road. If in two weeks the Kings are still barreling along, it’s going to be time to paint a banwagon purple and black.