Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
It's been a rough few years for the Kings, who haven't qualified for the postseason since the 2005/06 season, and have had five different coaches patrol the sidelines since that point. After they finished the 2011/12 season with a 22-44 record, it wasn't realistic to expect the Kings to formulate an overnight fix this offseason. The best one could hope for was a few smart decisions that put the team on the right track.
With that in mind, it was a moderately successful offseason for the Kings. Heading into the draft, Thomas Robinson was considered perhaps the most sure-thing prospect not named Anthony Davis, so nabbing him at No. 5 was viewed as a coup. Sacramento also got a good price for Aaron Brooks, who returned from an impressive stint in China to ink an affordable two-year deal. And in exchange for a future second-round pick, the Kings acquired James Johnson, an all-around contributor on a small salary whose career PER had been steadly on the rise. If Sacramento decides Johnson isn't a part of the team's long-term plan, his contract expires at season's end, so the club could trade him or let him walk.
The Kings' new contract with Jason Thompson was a little more perplexing. A $6MM annual salary for even a modestly productive big man isn't a bad price by any means, and with few free agents clamoring to come to Sacramento, retaining players is important for the Kings. Still, five years is a significant commitment for a player who has yet to show he can be more than a decent rotation piece. By comparison, J.J. Hickson signed a one-year, $4MM deal with the Trail Blazers. Hickson is two years younger than Thompson, and their numbers over the last three seasons are fairly similar -- Hickson has posted 10.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and a 15.3 PER against Thompson's 10.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 14.8 PER.
Even if Thompson's contract is questionable compared to the team's other fairly solid moves, it's Thompson's deal that more accurately reflects the decisions the Kings have made in the past few years. Sacramento's cap is weighed down by a number of bad contracts, such as John Salmons', Francisco Garcia's, and Travis Outlaw's. Even the players on reasonable contracts don't mesh well together, with Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, and DeMarcus Cousins among the other Kings vying for shots.
There are certainly talented players on the Kings' roster, but bad contracts and poor fits have kept the team from developing into a real postseason contender. Disregarding chemistry and simply bringing in talent hasn't worked for Sacramento yet, so it was a positive sign to see the team not rushing to extend Evans this summer. Since his standout rookie season, Evans' specific role with the Kings has been unclear, with his development slowed by the lack of a true position or complementary personnel around him. It's possible the Kings could still lock Evans up next summer if he takes a step forward this year, but the team was wise to keep its options open, and could field trade offers at February's deadline.
With Salmons, Thornton, Chuck Hayes, and many more players on this year's roster under contract through next season as well, the Kings don't have the cap flexibility going forward that you'd like to see from a rebuilding team. Their best chance at turning things around may involve building around Cousins, and bringing in the pieces necessary to support him. If Evans and Fredette can't be those guys, they represent Sacramento's most valuable trade chips.
Outside of a surprising long-term deal for Thompson, the 2012 offseason didn't include any real head-scratchers for the Kings, and Robinson has a chance to be a very good NBA player. But given the bad contracts and bad fits that were already in place before the offseason began, this summer's moves don't change the Kings' outlook a whole lot. This is still a club headed for the lottery in 2013.