The Kings continue to face a lot of questions about their roster and coaching staff as they look set for another season in the lottery.
After finishing 28-54 last season, it has been eight years since the Sacramento Kings made the NBA playoffs. After another offseason with another lottery pick, are the Kings any closer to making a coveted return to the playoffs?
Coaching – 13/25
The Kings have been a revolving door for head coaches over the past several years, Mike Malone is their sixth head coach since 2006, and it is still unknown if he’ll be a good head coach in the league or not. Last season was the first year Malone ever spent as a head coach after spending over a decade being an assistant for multiple NBA teams. Malone didn’t make the Kings any worse, but he didn’t make them any better either. In fact, the Kings finished with the exact same record last season that they did the year before. This summer, Malone added former Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin to the staff as an assistant, a move that could be very beneficial for the team. For now I’ll give Sacramento’s coaching an average rating, but if they don’t make some noticeable improvements this year the Kings could start next season with yet another new head coach.
Free Agency & Trades – 14/25
The biggest question the Kings were faced with this offseason was what to do with Isaiah Thomas. The young PG was looking for a new contract with a significant pay raise, and he seemed to be wanting a little more than what Sacramento was willing to pay him. To resolve the issue the team agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Pheonix Suns. The Kings sent Isaiah Thomas and his new four year, $28 million deal to the Suns in exchange for Alex Oriahki (who probably won’t even make the team) and a $7 million trade exception. The 7 million trade exception could be helpful for a team in need of cap space like Sacramento as they could now add or subtract salary in a deal. Still, the Kings received nothing relevant for one of the more young and exciting guards in the league so I wasn’t a big fan of the deal.
To make up for the loss of Thomas, the Kings signed veteran PG Darren Collison to a three year deal worth $16 million. This was a pretty solid move for the Kings. Collison isn’t quite as good as Thomas but they’re committing less money and less years to a guard who will be a solid stop-gap while they look for a PG of the future. Sacramento is trying to create future cap flexibility, and this move will help them do that a few years down the road. Thomas is a fun player to watch and root for, but they didn’t lose a future superstar. For the most part I believe Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro handled the situation decently.
More Rudy Gay trade rumors also began to rumble this offseason, but nothing really ever amounted from that. Keeping Rudy Gay for the time being is smart (more on this below).
Draft – 16/25
Let me start by saying that I do love Nik Stauskas, but the Kings spent the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft on shooting guard Ben McLemore. Fast forward one year and with another top-10 selection they take yet another shooting guard, which makes this pick slightly underwhelming. Taking a player like Noah Vonleh to pair with DeMarcus Cousins in the post would have been more ideal, but Stauskas is a phenomenal talent. You could make a strong argument that Stauskas is the best shooter to enter the draft since Stephen Curry, he can pull up or spot up and knock down shots from anywhere on the floor, and Stauskas and McLemore’s games complement each other nicely. McLemore is super athletic and an exciting player who could be better suited to come off the bench anyways. Stauskas is far from an elite athlete, but he can score at will and also knows to create for others. Overall, I was a fan of this pick and all of a sudden the Kings have a really interesting duo of two young shooting guards.
Current Player Core – 15/25
I’m really fascinated by the new potential wing duo in Sacramento of Nik Stauskas and Rudy Gay. Rudy Gay had to carry the scoring load on the wings for Sacramento last year, and that doesn’t suit his game at all. Gay is a lock-down defender who could be a tremendous third or fourth scoring option. Add Stauskas into the fold and you have a guy who can help stretch the floor and gives the Kings an instant big time scoring threat at the two. This should allow Gay to fall back to a role that suits his game much better. Yes, I do realize that Gay is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and he could look to play elsewhere but there’s no reason not to consider him a part of their core right now. He’s still only 28, and if the duo of Stauskas and Gay fit together I could see Sacramento look into re-signing him.
The prize in Sacramento is star big man DeMarcus Cousins who has established himself as one of the best young players in the NBA. After some trade rumors, DMC recently committed to Sacramento long-term by agreeing to a max contract of four years worth over $65 million. This is a huge step in the right direction for Sacramento and aside from Anthony Davis there’s not a big man in the NBA under the age of 25 that I would rather have. Cousins alone makes Sacramento’s future core exciting, and that doesn’t even include the likes of young guards such as Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum and Nik Stauskas.
However there are still a few pieces missing here. There’s no franchise point guard in the roster and the Kings really need to find another young big to pair with DMC. Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams are decent role players, but neither will elevate Sacramento back into the playoffs.
Franchise Outlook – 58/100
The Kings have some interesting young talent, and Cousins is one of the most valuable young players in the league. However there are still a few pieces missing in the outlook of this team for the long term. The Kings aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, and that may be a silver lining as they should receive another lottery pick.
They’ll face an interesting decision soon on Rudy Gay. I really want to see how Gay and Stauskas mesh, but even if they do hit it off the chances of Gay playing in Sacramento again next year are slim. The Kings front office seems to be intent on clearing more cap space, and I’m not sure Gay wants to spend the last part of his prime on a rebuilding team.
Sacramento has some things going for them but there are a lot of questions remaining about this team that make it difficult to be more optimistic about their future.