Today we’ll be taking a look at the Kings. You can find past entries here but I’ll warn you now, there’s only thirteen: Lakers, Cavs, Wizards, Pelicans, Suns, Wolves, Mavs, Hawks, Magic, Hornets, Knicks, Bulls, and Grizzlies.
I’ll take a look at three things they did well, three things they failed at and three things they could do this summer to improve. I’ll issue one of two grades based on my findings: Oh hell yeah (good) or Oh no (bad). This is the internet, things are classic or trash with no in between. You wouldn’t expect nuance on Twitter so please do not expect it here. Thank you.
Sacramento Kings (39-43, 9th place Western Conference)
1. Young talent galore
De’Aaron Fox almost got all three “Good Things” but I wanted to be fair. They’ve got young star talent, solid role players and a ring chasing vet on the last legs of his career in Buddy Hield.
DAF improved at everything his sophomore season. His TS% and AST% shot up but his TO% went down. His FG % from every zone on the court improved and he went from a terrible defender to a competent one. He only played about 3 more minutes per and nearly doubled the number of points he created (755 vs 1400). He’s a jolly John Wall and if the rest of the Kings pull the “get better at everything” summer move, he’ll have a running mate with star potential (Marvin Bagley IV), young-ish guys with room to grow (Buddy Hield, Harry Giles) and veteran guys that know their role (Bogdan Bogdanovich, Nemanja Bjelica, potentially Harry Barnes).
2. Great cap situation
They have $25 million in contracts expiring this summer as is, and if Barnes opts out then Bagley becomes their highest-paid player next season. They have enough cap space to take on big salary along with an asset (the way they did with Alec Burks) or take on a solid but overpaid player (the way they did with Barnes). Willie Cauley-Stein is a RFA this summer and Bogdanovich can hit UFA next summer but they have enough freedom/flexibility to re-sign both if they please.
3. Offensive identity
It may go for naught with a new coach, but the Kings took a step in establishing an identity of what kind of team they want. In 2017-18, the Kings were 30th in team PPG and pace. This season, they jumped to 9th in PPG and 5th in pace. They took more three’s and free throws but turned the ball over less. Their offensive rating was average this year (16th) but it was awful last year (29th) and the jump from godawful to average might be tougher than the jump from average to good. “Let DAF play fast and surround him with shooters” might be something Luke Walton wants to consider keeping in the playbook.
1. Front Office
They’ve made some nice moves but this is still the Kings. They’re starting to earn the benefit of the doubt but they don’t have it yet. Bagley is good, but Luka (and JJJ) may end up being great. Barnes is a solid piece but if he opts out and leaves, you gave away Justin Jackson for nothing. I don’t hate firing Dave Joerger after his strange obsession with publicly lusting over other jobs/players and I like the balls it took for Vlade to make that move after the Kings best season in ten years. But replacing him with Luke Walton amidst some awful allegations isn’t a great look. Maybe the allegations are just that and this is forgotten about sooner rather than later, but the early reports don’t sound good. Shaking things up unnecessarily might have been Vlade trying to get cute. We’ll see.
2. Defensive Identity
For their various skills, none of Bagley, Giles or Cauley-Stein is or projects to be much of a rim protector. Hield and Bogdanovich compete but I wouldn’t call either of them defensive stoppers. Fox defended much better this season but his size will limit his versatility on defense. Their first-round pick goes to Philly/Boston so there’s no hope of a Brandon Clark falling to them. They’re a young team who improved from last year to this year, but Walton has his work cut out for him with building a good defensive team.
3. Can they attract free agents?
They’ve drafted reasonably well and have plenty of cap space to make a splash this summer if anyone will take their money. Of course, someone will but if it’s $75 million for Allen Crabbe then what’s the point? Is a big time FA going to get in a room with Vivek and ask himself “what the fuck am I doing here?” when Vivek repeatedly insists on the Kings playing “6-on-5″ basketball next season despite the blatant illegality of it? Who knows.
Trilly’s Summer Prescription
1. Keep the momentum going
The 2013-14 Suns won 48 games, missed the playoffs and were thought to have next in the West. They’ve won <25 games four times since then.
The 2016-17 Heat started 11-30, before finishing 30-11 and becoming the trendy pick for a good 2017-18 season. They won three (3) more games the next season and got their doors blown off by the 76ers in the first round.
This year’s Jazz team started 20-21 before winning 30 of their next 40 games. The Rockets smoked them in five games.
This does feel like a different culture in Sacramento, but let’s see how they respond when they can’t sneak up on teams anymore.
2. Cap space is dangerous
I don’t think there’s a single (realistic) signing the Kings could make this summer that vaults them into contender status. Durant and Kawhi aren’t walking through that door. But I do think the wrong signing could destroy all the goodwill built up thus far.
I love WCS but he’s a RFA and overpaying to commit to this core (a la Wiggins/Dieng in Minnesota or Otto Porter in Washington) is neither the right move now or long term. It may sound reasonable now but in two seasons, you’re attaching assets to get off the contract.
DeAndre Jordan would probably take the Kings money but he wouldn’t fix their defensive issues despite his reputation. Neither will overpaying for a Marc Gasol to teach the young guys. You could end up with $64 million dollars of Ian “Put it on the board” Mahimni because you put an urgency on finding a rim protector ASAP.
I say that to say this, don’t spend money just to spend it. Roll it over. Let WCS get an offer and match if it’s fair, but don’t overpay in dollars or years. I’d rather let Bagley/Giles play through their mistakes again in hopes of tightening up on defense rather than bet a max deal for Playoff Enes Kanter.
3. Hit the RFA market hard
The Kings did this last summer signing Zach Lavine to a deal the Bulls were forced to match. Force the Bucks into a tough decision on Malcolm Brogdon, and maybe they have to let Brook Lopez or Niko Mirotic walk. Make Dallas match on a max offer sheet for Porzingis. You might be able to snag Ivica Zubac or Alex Caruso if the LA’s are maximizing cap space for a star. You don’t have to hit a home run this offseason, or even take a swing. Next year’s RFA class could be loaded (The Simmons/Ingram/Jaylen/Jamal Murray class) and you have your own first rounders back next year. You’ve waited 13 years for a good season, no need to rush now.
Rebuild status: Oh hell yeah