Devastating injury news for Nuggets' potential Western Conference playoff opponent

Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks
Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The NBA’s Western Conference playoff race has been a tight one all season. While the Denver Nuggets seem to be locked into a top-three seed, a lot is still up in the air. Their first-round playoff opponent is anything but set.

One potential first-round foe, or playoff foe in general for the Nuggets is the Sacramento Kings, the Kings were a good story last year as they made the playoffs for the first time in years as a three-seed, but fell in the first round to the Golden State Warriors in seven games.

Up and down season for the Kings

The Kings have had a solid season, but failed to build on their success from last season, trending towards a play-in team while battling to stay in the top six for most of the season. They’ve been led by stars De’Aaron Fox and Damontas Sabonis. 

Sabonis has made headlines recently for his incredible double-double streak, while also leading the league in triple-doubles. He’s one of the more underrated offensive players in the entire NBA.

Kevin Huerter out for the season

But those stars will have to take on even bigger roles down the stretch if they hope to make any noise in the playoffs as they were dealt some very rough news injury-wise recently. First, on Friday, the Kings got word that Kevin Huerter would undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. 

Huerter has been a key rotation player in and out of the starting lineup who has provided key shooting, and secondary offense for the team. He has missed the last five games with the injury, but there was hope he’d be able to return.

Malik Monk out 4-6 weeks

Then, leader in the clubhouse for the Sixth Man of the Year award, Malik Monk got injured and left their game on Friday night. It was confirmed on Saturday that Monk suffered a sprained MCL that will require surgery and he’ll be out 4-6 weeks.

There is a chance that Monk could return if the Kings are alive in the playoffs, but without these role players, that would mean making an unexpected Western Conference finals run from a lower seed. It’s safe to say Monk’s season is most likely over.

These are devastating blows for a team that was really hoping to make some noise and finally win a playoff series this season. They still have their stars and plenty of other good players, but Huerter and Monk were two key players and two of their best shooters. 

Uphill battle for Sacramento

They will find it very hard to replace the offensive burst that those two were able to provide. Monk is also facing a free agency decision this off-season so there’s a chance he’s actually played his last game for Sacramento.

It’s a sad ending for what was a promising start to the Kings’ season. They had a lot of momentum and there were a lot of good vibes and positive feelings in Sacramento. But this is just a lesson that as soon as expectations kick in things can get tough. 

Last year, the Kings were playing with house money and a three-seed, even with the first-round exit was viewed as a great season. But the expectation was that they’d be able to build on that success, and possibly make a deeper playoff run this season. 

Now that looks unlikely, and there will start to be some questions asked of the Kings as they look to grow and move forward in the future.