Biggest Issues Sacramento Kings Must Address This Offseason
No NBA team has an offseason as monumental as this upcoming one for the Sacramento Kings. While other teams may need to figure out questions surrounding the front office, coaching staff and players, none of them have queries surrounding which city they'll be playing in.
Of course, on top of the relocation issue, the Kings also have to address the same pressing needs of those other franchises: the front office, the coaching staff and player personnel.
Believe it or not, the team is on the right track, even if it's taking a long time to see improvements. That makes the next few months even more important. So how it handles this offseason will be a determining factor in the on-court product going forward.
Here are the biggest issues the Sacramento Kings must address this offseason.
This one could almost go without being said. Of course, the team needs to figure out where it’s playing next season. If it’s staying in Sacramento, there will be less things to organize…at least in terms of logistics.
However, if the franchise is moving to Seattle, it will need to get the arena prepared, figure out where it’s going to be practicing and move all of its pertinent equipment.
Of course, not all of this is up to the team to address. The NBA’s Board of Governors will make a determination on whether the Maloofs can sell the team to the Seattle ownership group. The BOG’s decision will determine where the team plays and likely who owns it.
Although, it’s possible the league could reject the sale to Seattle, and the Maloofs could refuse to sell to the Sacramento group.
But before it does anything else, the team needs to figure out where it will reside.
Once a determination is made for the team’s location and ownership, the next step in the process is figuring out who will run the front office.
Kings president of basketball operations and general manager Geoff Petrie’s contract runs out at the end of the season. It’s unknown exactly what will happen with Petrie, but Sam Amick of USA Today reported in December that he’s unlikely to return.
Amick’s report came out before news broke about the team’s sale and potential relocation. If anything, that won’t have much bearing on the franchise’s desire to go in a different direction. It may actually hasten the process, with a new ownership group likely wanting its own guy to run the team.
Figuring out who’s in charge of the front office is imperative. The team needs to get back on the right track, and making sound decisions is the best way to do that. Until someone is chosen to run the front office, no substantial work can be done in preparing for the draft or free agency.
We’ve been over this before, but the gist of it is that the Kings need to figure out who’s going to be the head coach next season. In normal circumstances, you’d assume it’d be Keith Smart. After all, Smart still has one year left on his contract, and he wasn’t dismissed following the conclusion of the regular season.
Yet these aren’t normal circumstances. And with a change of ownership almost assuredly in store, whomever ends up taking over the team is likely going to want their own head coach running it.
As is usually the case, the franchise will likely hash out whoever’s running the front office. From there, the lead executive will likely be in charge of selecting a coach, with some input from the ownership of course.
How the team handles the draft is one of the biggest questions of the offseason. For one, it needs to figure out where it’ll be picking. The Kings currently owe their first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the pick is top-13 protected, meaning if Sacramento’s pick falls in the first 13 selections, it’ll retain it.
The Kings finished the season with the sixth-worst record. While the draft order won’t be determined until the lottery on May 21, based on its positioning in the lottery, Sacramento can’t possibly fall out of the top 13 picks.
Once the Kings draft slot is determined, the next step is getting a quality player. Building through the draft is imperative for the Kings, especially since they don’t have much cap space to work with in free agency. Yet the team hasn’t capitalized on its last two first-round picks.
Jimmer Fredette from the 2011 draft, while making strides, hasn’t lived up to the promise expected from the 10th pick. Thomas Robinson, who the Kings selected with the No. 5 pick in 2012, has already been jettisoned to the Houston Rockets.
For now, it’s difficult to forecast a direction the team will go with its pick. Once we see the draft order, predicting players will become more realistic. But knowing the selection will fall somewhere in the top 10, the Kings need to make the most of it.
Tyreke Evans' Contract
Tyreke Evans is now a restricted free agent, and how the Kings handle that will be one of the pressing issues facing the team.
Sacramento could offer him a qualifying offer worth $6.92 million. In that scenario, the team would then have the right to match any free-agent offer he signs.
My guess is, and it’s only a guess, the Kings will extend his qualifying offer and then see what sort of interest he receives on the free-agent market. If he receives a reasonable contract, they’ll match it. If some team blows him out of the water with a deal, they’ll let him walk.
I’ve been torn on the Evans situation all season. It’s true that he’s coming off the best season of his career, at least in terms of advanced statistics. However, it’s also true that this is the first year Tyreke’s extended his game beyond what he showed as a rookie four seasons ago.
Therefore, I’m somewhat reluctant to invest in a player who’s not constantly progressing but making his biggest strides when faced with the prospect of a new contract.
Another area that concerns me is Evans’ health, which isn’t to say he’s had a lot of serious injuries—quite the contrary. However, he’s missed a lot of games with nagging injuries.
He missed 10 games as a rookie, 25 games in 2010-11—largely due to bouts with plantar fasciitis—only three games in 2011-12 and 17 games this season, first from a strained knee and later from a strained quad.
Ultimately, the stance I’d take with Evans is the one I laid out above: Extend the qualifying offer and see how the market plays out.
Nagging injuries and slow progression aside, he’s still one of the team’s best players. He’s also only 23 years old despite already playing four seasons in the league. Retaining him is the right thing to do, but only if it comes for the right price.
Isaiah Thomas will be back next season—there’s no questioning that. The unknown is whether he’ll be starting or coming off the bench.
He’s shown with his play this season that he’s a worthy starter. You could certainly do worse than a point guard averaging 13.9 points and 4.0 assists. But could you do better? That’s the question.
The way I see Thomas is as a starter on a bad team but a really good reserve on a good team. Obviously the Kings aren’t a good team now. But assuming that’s the direction they’re heading (God willing!), they may want to look at upgrading the point guard position.
It’s not a pressing need in the sense that the team’s getting nothing from the spot. Yet Thomas’s $884K salary next season affords them the financial flexibility to upgrade the position and relegate him to the bench. Even in that scenario, a player making his salary is an extreme bargain by NBA standards.
What to Do with DeMarcus Cousins
This may be the most pressing need...at least in terms of player personnel. Figuring out how to handle Cousins will be of the utmost importance.
On the one hand, he’s a transcendent talent—one who’s been hailed as the most offensively gifted big man in the NBA. He’s also still only 22 years old.
On the other hand, Cousins’ behavioral issues are well documented. For a more in-depth look at them, check out a recent article I wrote.
It would seem to me that one of two things need to materialize going forward. First, the new ownership group needs to set a precedent that it won’t continue to put up with Cousins’ immaturity. Second, if it continues to persist, the team should just trade DeMarcus for the best possible return.
Hopefully he figures it out. Players of his size and skill don’t come along very often. But putting that aside, you can’t continue to allow him to hold the organization hostage. At some point, it’s just not worth it—and it’s getting to that point with Cousins.
It’s true that an organization devoid of premier talent like the Kings can’t afford to lose one of the few assets it has. However, it’s also true that no single player is bigger than the franchise, especially a player who's accomplished as little as Cousins has.
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