credits: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings finished as the ninth seed in the loaded Western Conference last season.

After defeating the Golden State Warriors in their first play-in game, the Kings were unable to light the beam and succumbed to the New Orleans Pelicans just a few days later.

The Pelicans would go on to get swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder

That just goes to show how legitimate the Western Conference is. This offseason, the arm’s race has been alive and well at the top.

The Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks loaded up by signing Klay Thompson. The Thunder landed Isaiah Hartenstein to anchor the interior of their young core. The Warriors added Kyle Anderson and Buddy Heild. The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers are running it back.

All of those teams had better records than the Kings. So it’s obvious why they felt the urgency to add the best free agent available, DeMar DeRozan, to complete a big three with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. 

The Kings gave DeRozan a three-year deal in a sign-and-trade that sent Harrison Barnes to the San Antonio Spurs and Chris Duarte to the Chicago Bulls with two second-round picks and cash.

The headliner is undoubtedly DeRozan, with the other pieces in that deal being fillers. He was already introduced to the Kings faithful during their California Classic game on Saturday night, where he was introduced to thunderous applause. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Kings fans being pumped about this trade. It’s arguably the biggest offseason transaction in the history of their franchise. DeRozan is a California native and six-time NBA All-Star. Kings fans have watched 20 years of bad basketball, and they finally have a fun, lovable team to embrace.

At 34 years old, DeRozan averaged 24 points per game last season. He’s seemingly the veteran wing needed to take the Kings over the hump. 

And DeRozan can probably take the Kings over the hump. But can he bring them to the mountaintop? That’s going to be difficult because of how loaded the Western Conference is, and it’s only improving. 

Not to mention, the playoff lineups of Fox, Sabonis, DeRozan, Malik Monk, Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter are still a little clunky. 

The Kings got better. There’s no debating that. They need to be an actual NBA playoff team this season. But just cracking the playoffs versus actually contending are two very different things in the NBA. Oftentimes, it takes multiple playoff appearances before a team cracks through at a conference final.

And with their new superstar in the final years of his career, the Kings do not have much time to waste.

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