Since the Warriors downed the Cavs to take the 2017 NBA title back on June 12, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason.
NBA.com’s Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise — from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2016-17 to the team with the best regular-season record — as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.
Today’s team: Sacramento Kings
2016-17 record: 32-50
Who’s new: George Hill (free agency), Vince Carter (free agency), Zach Randolph (free agency), De’Aaron Fox (Draft), Frank Mason (Draft), Harry Giles (Draft), Justin Jackson (Draft)
Who’s gone: Rudy Gay, Arron Afflalo, Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore, Langston Galloway
The lowdown: For the 11th straight season the Kings missed the playoffs, an abomination of a streak. At least they couldn’t blame it all on DeMarcus Cousins, who was dealt at midseason.
The Kings have never been shy to make major moves. It’s just that in the past, most of those moves fell flat and set the franchise back. Well, once again, the Kings were quite busy this summer and conducted the kind of facelift that would make a Beverly Hills surgeon jealous. And this time, there’s at least the whiff of success.
This season’s team could have five or six faces in the playing rotation, a significant number considering most teams play only nine at a time. It will be a mixture of very young and very old, and the chemistry of these extremes will dictate the direction the Kings will travel soon.
Embattled GM Vlade Divac spent a guaranteed $72 million on Hill, Carter and Randolph, hoping to get performance and leadership from the trio. It appears to be a safe bet, since none of the three are running on empty just yet. Even Carter, at 40, showed sprinkles of youth last season with the Grizzlies, where his teammate was Randolph, who’s still able to deliver forcefully in the blocks on occasion. Finally, Hill was very good in his only season with the Jazz and at one point, before injury, was in line for free agent riches this summer.
That’s not to say the senior citizens can’t or won’t hit the age wall hard and never get back up. But the investment made by the Kings shouldn’t hurt the franchise flexibility-wise next season.
Before free agency, the Kings attacked the Draft, making trades to add additional first-round picks in what was considered a strong and deep Draft. All of their picks came from strong programs — Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas — and therefore did a fair share of winning, something that has eluded the Kings for over a decade.
They’re high on Fox and if the quicksilver rookie point guard impresses early, he could force Hill to shift to two-guard. At the very least, the Kings see Fox as someone capable of splitting the minutes almost right away.
Jackson looked surprisingly mobile and clever during summer league play and could be a wild card for the rotation. There’s less anticipation for Giles, who has had knee troubles, while Mason, the college basketball player of the year, could be a victim of a numbers crunch at point guard.
The plan, after the Kings finally rid themselves of Cousins, was to create a more positive environment and rebuild through the Draft. Sacramento also has other young players in Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere and Georgios Pappagiannis. Only Hield, who came over in the Cousins trade, showed to be serviceable last season. He’s the Kings’ top returning scorer (15.1 ppg), which means either he must become a more volume scorer or Sacramento must find a designated go-to player elsewhere on the roster.
Sacramento smartly figured out it went as long as it could with the core of the last few years and finally gave up on players who were originally pegged to be franchise keepers. Remember when the Kings drafted McLemore? He was hailed as a future star, yet never established any traction or consistency and the Kings didn’t even try to retain him this summer. Same for Evans, who returned for a second tour of duty via the Cousins trade, yet the Kings wouldn’t even make him an offer.
The Kings have been mismanaged for a while, pinning their hopes on an All-Star center and Olympic gold medal winner who simply couldn’t control his behavior. Not that it was all Cousins’ fault as the Kings never surrounded him with talent, saddled him with faulty coaches, and created an atmosphere that brought out the worst in him. The parting of the ways had to happen and perhaps it came a year too late.
And so once again, the Kings are pushing the reset button and hoping for better days. Yes, this sounds like a broken record, although the addition of solid vets and intriguing rookies is sweet music to Sacramento’s ears.
Coming Next: Dallas Mavericks