Sure, the Warriors were without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, but the five-time defending Western Conference champs still had Steph Curry and Draymond Green, plus they added D’Angelo Russell.
And sure, the Kings missed the playoffs a year ago (by nine games, I might add), but they were a young team clearly on the up-and-up, that finished ninth in a conference where some playoff teams were going to take a hit.
It hasn’t gone according to plan for either squad.
You know the Warriors tale well by now: Curry was injured just four games into the year, Green and the depth disappointed, Russell proved incapable of carrying a team alone, and suddenly Golden State finds themselves with the worst record in the league, with four fewer wins than the next worst teams.
The Kings story has been somewhat similar. Injuries to bright young lottery picks De’Aaron Fox (20 games missed) and Marvin Bagley (43 games missed, and counting) have stagnated the team’s development, their free agent signings have disappointed, and former Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, in his first year with Sacramento, has gone away from the transition offense that drove the team to success a year ago.
Instead of being in the playoff standings, the Kings are 23-33 - just 4.5 games away from the eighth seed, but with five teams ahead of them.
Between the two of them, the Kings and Warriors have combined for 35 wins - probably closer to what each team was expecting individually this year.
While they both occupy the same boat in terms of disappointment, they’re trending in different directions at the moment. The Warriors have lost six straight games, and are still looking for their first win of the Andrew Wiggins era. The Kings, meanwhile, are finally finding their groove. They’ve won five of their last seven, and eight of their last twelve - with wins over the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Clippers (twice) in that span.
The Warriors also may be (even further) hamstrung by injuries, as Wiggins and Marquese Chriss are both listed as questionable.
Further advantage, Sacramento.
The Kings also have something to play for, and as we saw on Sunday, when the Warriors lost to the New Orleans Pelicans (one of the teams between the Kings and a playoff spot), that urgency can be the difference maker.
Even further advantage, Sacramento.
Given how this season has gone for both teams, I guess that means the Warriors will win. But don’t quote me on that.