Tonight, the Wolves will take on perhaps their only companion in bumbling around the dregs of the NBA for the last decade. The Kings’ illustrious record of recent failures have allowed them to become the laughingstock of the NBA intelligentsia, from the owner’s insistence that the Kings try out a 4-on-5 approach with permanent fastbreak opportunities, to the drafting of center after center, to trading DeMarcus Cousins for Buddy “the next Steph Curry” Hield, to just a few days ago trading for Bruno “two years away from being two years away” Caboclo and releasing Georgios Papagiannis, the Kings lottery pick just last year.
In short, the Kings have been bad for the last ten years, they are bad today, and they will be bad for the foreseeable future.
During the trade deadline, the Kings also traded George Hill, who supposedly was signed with the intentions of helping make a playoff run, and brought back Iman Shumpert (who is currently injured) and Joe Johnson, who was promptly released.
Meanwhile, they also have a few injuries to Skal Labissiere and Frank Mason.
The Kings have an odd assortment of players who all receive between 18 and 27 minutes per game. Almost their entire team (with a rotation basically 12 deep) runs that gamut, with the odd veterans of Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, young players like De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, and some NBA randos like Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple. It’s an interesting situation.
Unsurprisingly, this has not led to a lot of great results on the court. The Kings have the worst offensive rating in the league and the 28th worst defensive rating. They have the worst simple rating system and are tied for the least wins in the NBA.
However, the team that the Kings are tied with for the worst in the NBA, the Hawks, have a recent victory over our very own Minnesota Timberwolves. Just two nights ago the Wolves also lost to another NBA cellar-dweller in the Chicago Bulls, adding to their losses against the Magic, Nets, and the Suns (twice). Perhaps the only solace for optimism for this game (other than, you know, the overwhelming talent disparity) is that the Kings reside in the Western Conference, as the Wolves seem determined to lose to every bad Eastern Conference team this season.
But the Wolves have proved their resilience time and time again this season. They have not lost three games in a row at any point and although the team defense seems to have slipped back to October levels, the Kings should hopefully provide an opportunity to right the ship.
Some key matchups to watch tonight:
Jeff Teague vs De’Aaron Fox (and running): Fox is the Kings’ recent lottery pick and he should be getting even more minutes with Hill traded to the Cavs. Fox is likely to run around a lot (he is also very fast). Jeff Teague would probably prefer to not run around a lot. Fox is a pretty bad shooter, shooting 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from deep, so Teague’s strategy of not running might work out tonight.
Zach Randolph vs Taj Gibson: Fans of wily veterans working in the post are in for a treat tonight. Randolph, stuck on a bad lottery team, has no other motivation other than to get up shots. Gibson has no motivation other than to stop him getting up shots. Who shall win?
Jimmy Butler vs iso-ball: I don’t think that the Kings have anyone who can remotely stop Butler from doing whatever he wants. However, if the Kings somehow make it close in the fourth quarter, the prevent offense will certainly make an appearance.
Andrew Wiggins vs the rim: Wiggins’ favorite opponents are the Raptors, Cavs, and Kings. Perhaps he was convinced during his rookie year that in route to the trade to Minnesota the Kings had a chance to land him and decided that one round of the Rudy Gay experience was enough. I would put my money on Wigs over the rim in this one.
KAT vs defense: Willie Cauley-Stein is no one’s idea of a dominant center on offense. Will KAT be able to make him look like the next coming of Wilt Chamberlain? 50/50 odds.
Projected Starting Lineups
Prediction: Wolves 115 - Kings 102. Talent wins out.