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.
- Carl Landry: Four years, $26MM. Signed via cap space.
- Hamady N’Diaye: One year, $884K. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Acquired Greivis Vasquez from the Pelicans, along with the Knicks’ 2016 second-round pick (31-37 protected) from the Blazers and the rights to swap 2018 second-round picks with the Blazers, in exchange for Tyreke Evans (signed-and-traded to the Pelicans).
- Acquired Luc Mbah a Moute from the Bucks in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick (more favorable of Pelicans’ and Kings’ picks) and the right to swap 2019 second-round picks.
- Ben McLemore (Round 1, 7th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
- Ray McCallum (Round 2, 36th overall). Signed via cap space for three years, $2.29MM. Third year is non-guaranteed.
- Brandon Heath
- DeQuan Jones
- Trent Lockett
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
There isn’t much the Kings could have done this summer to turn off their fans. All that mattered to many in Sacramento was that the Kings weren’t headed to Seattle. The battle to keep the team in town had drawn more headlines than the team’s uninspiring play, and just as it seemed the team was gone, a new ownership group emerged and won NBA approval over the Seattle investors who’d already struck a deal with the Maloof family. New principal owner Vivek Ranadive quickly made his mark, installing Michael Malone as the new coach even before he replaced longtime GM Geoff Petrie with then-Nuggets executive Pete D’Alessandro. It was odd to see the team hire a coach a couple of weeks before bringing a new GM aboard, but it spared D’Alessandro one task among the many he has as he reshapes the roster.
The first decision D’Alessandro made might have been the easiest, as one of the presumptive top six picks in the draft fell to the Kings at No. 7. Ben McLemore is truly a shooting guard, as witnessed by his 42% accuracy from behind the arc during his lone season at Kansas. Outside shooting wasn’t really a need for a team that finished 11th in both three-point accuracy and three-pointers made last season, but there was no reason for the Kings, who won just 28 games in 2012/13, to pass up the most capable player remaining on the board. He averaged 5.2 rebounds per game at Kansas in spite of his 6’5″ frame, and that will come in handy for the Kings, who were 25th in total rebounds last season.
McLemore’s arrival didn’t bode well for the return of incumbent shooting guard Tyreke Evans, and indeed the fourth pick from 2009 wasn’t long for Sacramento. D’Alessandro sent Evans to New Orleans as part of a three-way deal that netted point guard Greivis Vasquez. The Pelicans had extended an offer sheet to Evans while the Kings made a lucrative play for Andre Iguodala, who was hesitant to sign with a non-contender before D’Alessandro hastily withdrew the team’s offer to the ex-Nugget. That seemed at the time to be a signal that the Kings were preparing to match the Pelicans’ offer to Evans, but instead D’Alessandro used a small portion of the cap space that would have gone to Iguodala to absorb Vasquez’s rookie contract. That left plenty of money to go after other targets.
Ranadive and Malone were both involved with the Warriors last season, and the Kings took on an even stronger Golden State feel when they poached free agent Carl Landry from their Northern California rivals. The Kings exercised their superior financial flexibility to outbid the Clippers, who were also in pursuit, and give the power forward more than the Warriors could. I’m not sure any other teams would have spent quite as freely to land the 30-year-old even if they had the means. Landry will see a guaranteed $6.5MM each season through 2016/17, quite a commitment for a player who’s never been a full-time starter or a serious contender for Sixth Man of the Year.
By contrast, Luc Mbah a Moute spent most of the last five seasons as the starter at small forward for the Bucks. He’s on a contract that owes him slightly less than $9MM for this season and next, but Milwaukee was willing to give him up for just a pair of second-round picks. The five-year veteran isn’t seeing heavy minutes to start the season, but Mbah a Moute and his 7’1″ wingspan could provide the team with a relatively inexpensive way to improve its ability to stop opposing teams. The Kings gave up 108.6 points per 100 possessions last season, the 29th worst mark in the league.
The Kings were even worse when DeMarcus Cousins was on the floor, per NBA.com. That didn’t stop the team from going all-in with the hot-tempered former fifth overall pick, giving him a four-year, maximum-salary extension a month before the October 31st deadline to do so. D’Alessandro and company were willing to go even farther and give Cousins a fifth year on the deal, which would have made him the team’s designated player, but the 6’11” center preferred the shorter arrangement. Cousins has plenty of talent, as his scoring (17.1) and rebounding (9.9) averages last season attest, but the Kings are gambling that he can improve defensively and achieve the sort of dominance at his position that would make him the centerpiece of any contender. He’s shown glimpses of his capability of attaining that status, and while that alone makes him a commodity, there are plenty of doubts about whether he has the focus and drive necessary to fulfill his promise. There’s at least one executive from a rival team who believes the Kings might look to trade Cousins if he doesn’t show progress this season, but the decision to give him a max contract will likely be the defining move for the Kings’ new regime for years to come.
The Cousins deal overshadowed extension talks with Vasquez, who finished third in the league in assists per game as part of a breakthrough performance last season. The Kings looked past the defensive shortcomings of Cousins, but Vasquez’s inability to stop opponents surely played a role in the team’s decision not to extend the point guard’s deal. The 26-year-old also turned the ball over plenty last season, and it seemed that the Kings weren’t convinced that he’s the sort of top-flight point guard that last year’s assist numbers suggest, since he had to battle Isaiah Thomas in preseason for a starting job. Still, the team reportedly plans to match any offers he gets in restricted free agency next summer, so perhaps D’Alessandro simply didn’t want to bid against himself.
The Kings, unlike every other team in the NBA except the Wizards, had a third player eligible for a rookie scale extension, and while there were talks with Patrick Patterson, D’Alessandro passed on a deal with him, too. Yet the most galvanizing choice the Kings front office made at the Halloween deadline was turning down Jimmer Fredette‘s 2014/15 option, which will make him an unrestricted free agent next summer. D’Alessandro called it an “agonizing” decision, but the former BYU sharpshooter has yet to give the NBA a taste of the scoring touch that made him a star in college and convinced Petrie to use the 10th overall pick on him in 2011. Fredette draws frequent mention as a trade candidate, and the ability to offer him to other teams as an expiring contract probably played into D’Alessandro’s decision not to pick up the option.
A trade of some sort appears to be on the horizon for Sacramento, whether it involves Fredette or someone else, since the team has reportedly advanced past preliminary talks with multiple other clubs. The Kings are aggressively seeking young prospects and draft picks in exchange for their veterans, and the front office wants to do a deal well in advance of the trade deadline in February. D’Alessandro knows he doesn’t have a finished product, and he probably won’t even after his next move. The jubilation over the team remaining in Sacramento won’t last forever, and the Kings face a long climb after years of losing and failed lottery picks. D’Alessandro has made Cousins the face of the franchise, proverbial warts and all, but fans might not recognize the rest of the team before too long.
Luke Adams contributed to this post.