The Sacramento Kings used to be on par with the Clippers. In the team’s first thirteen seasons in Sacramento the team never won more than 39 games in a season. Year after year the Kings played well enough to earn a trip into the NBA’s draft lottery. Year after year these assembled lottery picks were unable to become a serious playoff team. In other words, the Kings were the Clippers of Northern California.
In 1998 the Kings acquired a reluctant Chris Webber. In 1998-99 the team won 27 games, which in the 50 game strike-shortened season resulted in the first winning record in the history of the Sacramento Kings. Over the next five seasons Webber produced 54 wins and posted a Wins Produced per 48 minutes [Wp48] of 0.214 (average WP48 is 0.100). As a team the Kings averaged 55 wins across this time period and began competing with LA’s other team, the Lakers. Although the team could not get past the Lakers of Shaq and Kobe, the Kings certainly were considered contenders each year for the NBA title.
And then Webber got hurt. Initially the team did not appear to suffer. In 2003-04 – with Webber only playing 23 games – the Kings won 55 games, a mark only four wins off the pace the team offered the previous campaign. Although Webber was missing most of the season, Brad Miller had arrived on the scene and was able to offer 13.7 wins his first year in Sacramento.
In 2004-05 the team slipped a bit more, only winning 50 games. Webber was traded in mid-season to Philadelphia and Miller missed 26 games. Despite these issues the team only slipped five games in the standings.
Last season – as one can see HERE – the Kings slipped a bit more. Part of the problem is with leading wins producer, Miller. For four seasons, beginning with the 2001-02 campaign and concluding with the 2004-05 season, Miller produced 45 wins and posted a 0.235 WP48. Last year Miller did produce 9.9 wins, but his WP48 slipped to 0.162. Although Miller still is an efficient scorer and still generates assists, his rebounding has slipped. For much of his career he was above average on a per-minute basis. Last year Miller only captured about one rebound every five minutes (average for a center is one every four minutes). Consequently his overall productivity numbers fell.
The major news from last year was the trade of Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest. As noted in the review of the New Orleans Hornets, Stojakovic has generally been above average across his career, although he was not above average last year in Sacramento. Artest has posted a career WP48 of 0.100, a mark that is exactly average. Given his career record, it is not likely that Artest can offer a level of productivity equal to what Stojakovic offered from 2000-01 to 2003-04. In these four seasons Stojakovic averaged a 0.186 WP48. It should be emphasized, beyond the injury to Webber, Stojakovic’s drop off with the Kings also factored in the team’s decline.
In the off-season the Kings lost Bonzi Wells, whose outstanding performance was discussed in the review of his new team, the Houston Rockets. Replacing Wells is John Salmons. Where Wells posted a WP48 of 0.244 last year, and has generally been above average during his career, Salmons has never been above average in his career. Yes, the Kings are replacing an above average player with a player who is consistently below average.
Given that this is the only major move this team made; one suspects that a further decline is forthcoming. The team still has a few productive performers and might contend for one of the final playoff spots in the West again. But the days of the Kings competing with the best in the west has passed. Of course, it might still be competitive with the Lakers. But then again, that doesn’t have the same meaning it had in the years of Shaq and Kobe.
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts