Windhorst claims NBA playoff teams ‘smell weakness' on Kings


Ah, another day, another blathering take about the Kings.

Despite being the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with a little over a week remaining in the 2022-23 NBA regular season, the Kings (45-30) continue to be doubted and disrespected from the outside.

And on the brink of the Kings snapping their notorious 17-year NBA playoff drought, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst believes other teams are targeting Sacramento and its inexperience in a first-round playoff series.

“The Kings are the mark. The Kings are stuck in the No. 3 seed, that’s where they’re going to finish,” Windhorst said on “Get Up” Wednesday morning. “The Kings are the mark. All of these teams smell weakness on the Kings, not only because they haven’t been to the playoffs in 17 years but because they’re not a good defensive team.

“And if you’re the [Golden State] Warriors, who are planning on a long playoff run, they love the idea of being able to drive [to Sacramento] in a first-round series, that’s an advantage. The Warriors want the six, which is why coming back from 20 down last night was one of the biggest wins of the season. To get and stay in that sixth seed.”

If the Kings remain in the No. 3 seed, they will face the No. 6 seed in the first round of the playoffs, which would be the Warriors if the season ended today. 

Warriors veteran forward Draymond Green said on his podcast that would be an ideal first-round matchup for him, but not for the reason others might think. 

"I'm not upset if the standings shook out how they did today and we met Sacramento in the first round," Green said on the latest episode of "The Draymond Green Show." 

"Not because I think Sacramento is a weak team, because the travel is so much easier ... The only place we can fly and get to in 45 minutes in the Western Conference is Sacramento."

But the jam-packed standings in the West really are a wild card. The No. 4 seed and No. 11 seed currently are separated by only 3.5 games. The teams within that group are: the Phoenix Suns (No. 4), Los Angeles Clippers (No. 5), Warriors (No. 6), Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 7), New Orleans Pelicans (No. 8), Los Angeles Lakers (No. 9), Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 10) and the Dallas Mavericks (No. 11).

Four of those teams are in the Pacific Division with Sacramento, where the Kings are well in first place. They have the best record (9-6) against their division and Western Conference opponents (29-16).

Yet somehow, none of that matters to Windhorst.

RELATED: Kings' playoff berth delayed again after Warriors' comeback win

The hesitation to believe in the Kings early in the season is understandable. But this team isn’t the same one the world has watched (or hasn’t) in previous years. Compiled by two All-Stars and perhaps All-NBA players in De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, a rookie also on the cusp of making NBA history in Keegan Murray, a Coach of the Year candidate in Mike Brown and a team with the highest offensive rating (118.9) this season and ever in NBA history -- this team is special. 

Sacramento officially can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at Moda Center, a Timberwolves loss or a Clippers loss. 

The Kings have faced adversity over the years and all season long, and proving people wrong isn't anything new. 

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