Coppola’s Column: Sacramento Kings end playoff drought – who’s still waiting? 

Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis dunks against Portland Trail Blazers forward Drew Eubanks, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 31, 2023. The Kings won 138-114. Photo by Steve Dykes/AP

New York is now home to the longest playoff drought in major league sports. Originally the Sacramento Kings held that title, having gone 16 seasons without the playoffs, which was an NBA record. But that concluded last Wednesday, with a 40-point victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. 

The Kings have had one of the most exciting teams all season. They’ve been carried by their offense, which at the time of writing, is ranked first in the entire league. De’Aaron Fox is the head of this attack, leading the team in points per game with 25. The best season of his career also earned his first all-star selection, and he has the potential of growing that success even further with the third-best record in the west.  

Domantas Sabonis continues to be a significant part of the Kings roster in his first full season with the team. With his third all-star selection, the big man also leads the team with 12 rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes round out the group of key scorers on the team, both averaging over 15 points on great shooting efficiency.  

The last time they went to the playoffs was in 2006, when they had a streak of eight straight playoff seasons. That team also featured a stellar offensive unit, headlined by Mike Bibby in a career year averaging 21 points. The trio of Peja Stojakovic, Metta World Peace and Brad Miller all also averaged over 15 points per game apiece. The following year, despite the emergence of Kevin Martin, the regression of Miller and the loss of Stojakovic via trade midway through the prior season was too much to overcome, and they hadn’t recovered since. 

To circle back, the New York Jets now have the longest drought in sports. It’s been 12 seasons since they’ve last seen the postseason, a streak that doesn’t look like it will end soon even with the strides they’ve made in the last year. 2010 was the last season they were in the playoffs, and they made it all the way to the conference championship, before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Similar to their present construction, they were led by a stifling defense and an offense with significant questions. 

Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter, left, blocks the shot of Portland Trail Blazers forward Trendon Watford during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 31, 2023. The Kings won 138-114. Photo by Steve Dykes/AP

The young team has a boatload of talent offensively, and can finally come together if Aaron Rodgers ends up coming to town. Meanwhile, the defense, was a top five unit last year, and that core still remains intact going into this season. If they weren’t in the AFC East, I’d assume they’d make the playoffs next year. Unfortunately, they have to compete with a Buffalo Bills team that’s due for a run, and a Miami Dolphins squad that boasts one of the scariest offenses in the league. It might be a few more seasons before this core has a shot at removing themselves from the list. 

A drought that’s one year shorter is another team from New York: the Buffalo Sabres. That 2011 team only had 96 points, barely squeezing into the playoffs by five. Thomas Vanek had the most points on the team with 73, while Drew Stafford and Jason Pominville both had 52. Vanek never returned to those heights; and was traded just two seasons later. Stafford had his best season, before dipping in play each year after. Pominville, meanwhile, notched over 70 points the following season, but was traded shortly after. 

This year’s Buffalo team doesn’t look like it will break that drought, but they are only four points away from making the cut. They wouldn’t get far even if they did, as the top six teams in the conference are significantly better. Regardless, it would still break the streak. The team is built with youth, led by UConn alum Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt. All five are 26 or under, and have put up at least 50 points this season. Thompson nearly has 90 by himself. Jeff Skinner, a veteran left winger, is also on the team and is second in points with a career high 73. 

The third and fourth largest streaks are both baseball teams with eight seasons out of the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers are far from breaking that drought, with many considering them the worst team in baseball. They have a 40-year-old Miguel Cabrera, 30-year-old Eric Hause, and 28-year-old Austin Meadows on offense. While they also have talented young outfielders in Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter, they will likely need more time to get adjusted. Meanwhile, three relievers are the only pitchers with less than a five ERA, and two of them are in their mid to late 30s. 

Despite having two of the best players of the last decade in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels still haven’t gotten close to the playoffs for the past eight years. They definitely have the best shot they’ve ever had thanks to that duo, though they are still only expected to win 82 games. They still have a strong offensive lineup, and their pitching has appeared stable so far as well. Who knows, if they can keep it up, they might finally break this curse that’s plagued them. 

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