After finishing 28-54 for back-to-back seasons, the Sacramento Kings still have room for improvement.
The team could still use a facilitating point guard, or someone to help protect the rim. But one of those needs could realistically be addressed in the upcoming draft, in which the Kings hold the No. 8 pick.
However, a need that's just as important, and that must be addressed this offseason, is the the addition of a consistent three-point shooter. Bringing in a bona fide marksman would help the spacing of the offense, increase the team's assist totals and perhaps most importantly, it's something the Kings can accomplish without breaking the bank.
Room for Improvement
As an overall offense, the Kings were middle of the pack, finishing 20th in the league with 106.22 points per 100 possessions. They were also fairly consistent when it came to shooting, as Sacramento was tied for 18th with a .447 field-goal percentage.
However, one area where the team was decidedly below average was three-point shooting. The Kings finished tied for 27th, hitting 33.3 percent of their three-point attempts.
This was a team-wide problem for the Kings as well, as only Isaiah Thomas (.349), Travis Outlaw (.350) and Ray McCallum (.373) finished the season boasting a three-point percentage greater than the team average.
Here's the thing: Adding only one competent three-point shooter can make a sizable difference in the team's three-point percentage. Case in point was the Kings' shooting prior to buying out marksman Jimmer Fredette's contract.
The polarizing guard hit a remarkable 49.3 percent of his 73 three-point attempts with the Kings in 2013-14.
Fredette was with the Kings from the beginning of the season through Feb. 19. During that time, Sacramento made 34.4 percent of its three-point attempts, which ranked 24th in the league.
After the team bought out the BYU product's contract, the Kings' three-point percentage plummeted to 30.7 percent, which was last in the league over that span.
The loss of just one three-point shooter caused the team's percentage to drop nearly 4 percent. By bringing in a similar marksman, the Kings can see a similar increase.
Furthermore, the addition of a capable shooter would increase the spacing of the offense and provide more versatility.
The Kings averaged 64.5 two-point attempts per game, which was the seventh-most in the league. However, they were only 17th in two-point percentage, hitting 47.9 percent of their shots.
Adding another three-point shooter would mean fewer players clogging the paint, and consequently it would take another defender to the perimeter, allowing DeMarcus Cousins and other post players more room to work.
After finishing 30th in the league in assists last season, it's clear the Kings could use more team ball movement and a facilitating point guard. The addition of one three-point shooter won't change that. But it will cause the team's assists to increase.
After all, you can't get an assist if you don't knock down the shot. As Kings head coach Michael Malone pointed out to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, increasing the team's three-point shooting will also improve its assist totals:
We finished 30th in assists per game and, yes, we have to move the ball more and, yes, we have to demand the ball move from side- to -side, with less dribbling, and make a play for your teammate. But if you are 27th in three-point field-goal percentage, that is going to make it hard for you to get more assists. ...
If we have more shooters, and we don’t finish 27th in three-point shooting, and we can move up to the middle;, that’s going to be probably three or four more assists per game. Now instead of averaging about 19 assists, you’re up to 23, 24, and you’re very respectable in assists per game.
As Malone would go on to point out, this doesn't negate the need for more ball movement, but it's a step in the right direction.
The Kings aren't a catch-and-shoot team, in large part due to the composition of their roster. A lot of their players, especially those that demand the ball the most in Thomas, Cousins and Rudy Gay, like to do their work in isolation.
This bears itself out in the stats, as only 51.1 percent of the team's field goals were assisted. Only the Phoenix Suns had a lower percentage. Bringing in a three-point shooter won't drastically change the team's style of play.
However, as Malone mentions, maybe it increases the team's assist totals a few per game, which in turn takes it to a respectable level. That'd be an upgrade over finishing dead last.
An Attainable Goal
Yes, the Kings finished with a subpar record, but that doesn't mean the team has a ton of cap space to work with. In actuality, Sacramento is pretty tapped out, and it could be even more so depending on what happens with Gay and Thomas.
According to Sham Sports, the Kings have $47.9 million committed to salaries in 2014-15, but that's not including options.
If Gay picks up his $19.3 million option, that total increases to $67.3 million.
As for Thomas, he's a restricted free agent. The Kings will almost assuredly give him a qualifying offer. At that point it'll be up to the team as to whether or not it will match any offers to keep the point guard in Sacramento.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the salary cap is projected to be $63.2 million, with the accompanying luxury tax slated for $77 million.
There simply won't be much to work with.
However, the Kings could add a capable shooter on a relatively cheap contract.
Among the unrestricted free agents hitting the market are Matt Bonner, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Miller, Jodie Meeks and Luke Ridnour, to name a few. The Kings could even revisit the Jimmer Fredette experiment, although that may be more trouble than it's worth.
Some of those players would be more expensive than others, but none of them would break the bank, and all are capable three-point shooters.
Acquiring a shooter isn't the biggest need for the Kings, but it's one they can realistically address. Whomever the team drafts with the No. 8 pick will be selected with something more than one dimension in mind. Furthermore, they won't have experience playing in the NBA, where defenses are tougher and the three-point line is further.
What do you think is the Kings' biggest need to address this offseason?
But increasing the team's potency from long range will affect multiple aspects of the team. It'll obviously improve a weakness in the Kings' three-point shooting, but it should also increase Sacramento's assists and floor spacing.
Not to mention it's something the Kings can accomplish without swinging a blockbuster trade or breaking the bank with an expensive contract.
The bigger moves the Kings can make, like bringing in a rim protector or acquiring a pass-first point guard, are contingent upon too many factors, like availability in the draft or the ability to swing a trade. Getting a three-point shooter, however, doesn't require any of those things.
So while it may not have the same impact on the team as some other moves the Kings could make, it's one Sacramento must make given that it's a need and that it's attainable.
If you want to talk Kings basketball, you can find me on Twitter @SimRisso.