According to ESPN.com's Chad Ford, there's very little consensus on this year's draft class beyond the top six prospects -- Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, and Otto Porter. It seems likely those six players will be selected in some order to start the draft, which means the Kings, picking 7th overall, could be the draft's first real wild card. As we look forward to see what the new regime in Sacramento decides to do with that pick, let's round up a few items out of the Pacific Division....
Free Agents / Cap Holds
It was a memorable season for the Kings, but not for what they did on the basketball court. In fact, their 2012/13 was pretty unremarkable, ending in a 28-54 record and their seventh straight playoff-less season. Instead, their major battles were fought in front of pulpits and inside of courtrooms. At one point, it seemed like a mortal lock that the Kings would move further up the west coast and become the "new" Seattle SuperSonics, but ultimately, mayor Kevin Johnson and the city of Sacramento came out on top.
They'll be staying put, but with a new cast of characters. The Maloofs - who aren't the most beloved people in Sac-Town, have sold their controlling interest to Vivek Ranadive. Keith Smart was removed as head coach after compiling a 48-93 mark across two seasons and replaced by former Warriors assistant Mike Malone. President Geoff Petrie was let go and Pete D'Alessandro was appointed as the club's new GM, though he was brought in after Malone's appointment.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk some basketball. We know that this year's free agent class boasts not just one, but two elite talents in Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. While a number of teams have been linked to one or both megastars, the Kings aren't one of them. Malone mentioned Paul in his introductory press conference (and got the team fined for it, whoops), but the Kings are a long way from contending and they won't get consideration from him or D12.
So, the Kings can take a page out of the Mavericks' playbook from last season and spread the wealth on a handful of free agents on short-term contracts. They currently have about $41.4MM committed to nine players for next season and can loosen the belt even further by clearing John Salmons' $7.58MM salary off of the books with the amnesty clause. Sacramento may not be the most appealing free agent destination, but money talks and the mid-tier types rarely get picky over what city they'll play in.
Alternatively, they can sell off some of their more attractive pieces and make an attempt to start from scratch. Depending on what week it is, the Kings may or may not be willing to part ways with troubled big man DeMarcus Cousins. D'Allesandro may prefer to keep the talented Kentucky product and Malone is excited to work with him, but make no mistake about it: the phone lines will be open and the right package can pry him loose. We know that the Bobcats are one of the many teams with serious interest in Boogie and with pressure to get something going in the near future, their No. 4 pick could certainly be involved in a deal.
As it stands, the Kings hold their own No. 7 pick in next week's draft and no one seems to have the inside track on what they're planning to do. Part of that has to do with the general chaos of the entire draft board (heck, we don't even know what the Cavs are thinking at No. 1) but it speaks more to the lack of clarity we have on what the rest of the roster will look like. However, several draft gurus (most notably, ESPN.com's Chad Ford and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress) have them pegged to take Michigan's Trey Burke. He may be undersized, but Burke would give Sacramento a true one guard who has shown the ability to perform under pressure.
We saw the winds of change completely overhaul the Kings' franchise off the court, it'll now be interesting to see where the summer takes their on-court product.
Up to this point, we've heard that the Cavaliers are weighing a number of options for their first overall pick. Assuming they don't trade the pick, it's possible the Cavs could select Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, or Anthony Bennett. Previous reports have suggested Cleveland isn't tipping its hand, but Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is hearing that Len appears to be the frontrunner for that No. 1 spot (Twitter link)
As we wait to see whether Smith is right, or whether the Cavs' top choice turns out to be someone else 10 days from now, let's round up a few draft items....
Over the weekend, the Kings reached an agreement to hire Pete D'Alessandro as their new general manager, and it appears as if the team could add another new name to the front office. According to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, the Kings have offered Chris Mullin a position as a consultant, and sources tell Jones that Mullin is likely to accept the offer.
As Jones notes, Mullin and D'Alessandro worked together in the Warriors' front office for several seasons back when Mullin was Golden State's head of basketball operations. Sacramento's rumored plan throughout the process has been to pair a veteran, big-name executive with a lesser-known but respected general manager, so hiring Mullin to work with D'Alessandro would provide that sort of partnership.
Jones also points out (via Sulia) that if Mullin were to officially come aboard, it would add more fuel to the rumors linking the Kings to Monta Ellis, since it was Mullin who drafted Ellis in the second round of the 2005 draft. Sacramento will still need to determine whether or not to bring back Tyreke Evans before a pursuit of Ellis becomes a reality, but multiple reports have broached the possibility, and Ellis has history with Mullin, D'Alessandro, and new Kings coach Michael Malone.
Manu Ginobili said before the Finals that he would consider retirement after the series, and he reiterated that sentiment today in speaking to reporters, including Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. "There's a small chance," Ginobili said. "It's not that I'm really considering, but I can never say 'no' for sure, because I sometimes consider it." If the soon-to-be free agent returns next season, it seems overwhelmingly likely he'll do so with the Spurs, notes Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com. Here's more from a busy Saturday around the Western Conference:
3:40pm: The Kings still want to add a consultant to the front office mix, USA Today's Sam Amick reports, adding that he doesn't think they'll hire "one of the usual suspects who was interviewed." In any case, D'Alessandro is expected to lead the front office, Amick says. (Twitter links).
2:33pm: TNT's David Aldridge and USA Today's Sam Amick have confirmed Wojnarowski's report (Twitter links). Ken Berger of CBSSports.com hears the Kings are still deciding whether to hire another front office executive to pair with D'Alessandro and says Wallace would be the leading candidate for that position. Wallace remains under contract as GM of the Grizzlies, but he's been pushed to the side under the new, analytics-driven leadership of owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien.
2:09pm: The Kings and Pete D'Alessandro have reached an agreement on a deal that would make him Sacramento's new GM, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. D'Alessandro has been serving as vice president of basketball operations for the Nuggets, and was the chief assistant to former Denver GM Masai Ujiri. The Nuggets were reportedly leaning toward D'Alessandro for their GM vacancy, but it appears they'll have to move to other candidates.
The hire is somewhat of a surprise, since D'Alessandro's name wasn't one of several that were said to be in the mix as recently as two days ago. Chris Wallace, David Morway and Scott Layden appeared to be the front-runners at that point. Perhaps one of them or another executive will join D'Alessandro in the front office, since new owner Vivek Ranadive has indicated he might want to hire a tandem of someone with experience and a relatively fresh face to lead the team's basketball ops.
One possible front office partner for D'Alessandro could be Chris Mullin, the former Warriors GM under whom D'Alessandro served from 2004 to 2008. Mullin's name came up in connection with the Kings job via multiple reports.
Earlier this afternoon, I asked for your thoughts on which prospect would be drafted first overall two weeks from tonight. While I provided five names in the poll, it appears I omitted one more viable option, as Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio reports that Anthony Bennett is also under consideration for the Cavaliers at No. 1 overall. While several opposing GMs tell Amico that they don't believe Cleveland would draft Bennett (or Alex Len) first overall, the Cavs aren't tipping their hand, so plenty of options still remain in play. Here's more from Amico's latest collection of NBA news and notes:
11:31am: According to Amick (via Twitter), Wallace, Morway, and Layden are currently atop Ranadive's list.
8:30am: Earlier this month, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Chris Wallace appeared to be the favorite to be hired as the Kings' new general manager. Since then, plenty of other candidates have surfaced, but Wallace continues to remain firmly in the mix. According to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, Wallace met with team ownership for the third time on Wednesday.
Despite meeting several times with Wallace, the Kings continue to explore other options. Stein reports (via Twitter) that Sacramento will interview Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden, while Sam Amick of USA Today says (via Twitter) that new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has been doing extensive background work on former Hawks GM Rick Sund. If Sund, who has interest in the job, was picked by the Kings, he'd serve as the more experienced addition in a partnership with current Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk, according to Amick (via Twitter).
Although Larry Bird is no longer in the mix for a position in the Kings' front office, there are still plenty of other names connected to either the team's president or GM roles. Chris Mullin, Mike Dunleavy, David Morway, and Kenny Smith are among Sacramento's other potential targets.
Earlier today we got the latest on the Clippers' coaching search and no matter who gets hired in L.A., it's sure to be a big name candidate. Owner Donald Sterling is said to be a fan of Lionel Hollins and and the club has already met with Byron Scott and Brian Shaw. The biggest fish of all could be George Karl, but it's not clear if the team has scheduled a pow wow with the future Hall of Famer yet. Here's more out of the Pacific Division..
TUESDAY, 4:01pm: The third team fined for tampering was the Kings, according to Amick. Sacramento confirmed as much, telling USA Today that the team "accepts the league's decision regarding this matter, and regrets any infraction of the policy."
Stein tweets that the violation occurred when head coach Michael Malone mentioned Paul during his introductory press conference.
MONDAY, 5:29pm: The NBA has sent out a leaguewide memo notifying teams that three clubs have been fined for violating the Association's anti-tampering policy, according to Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Amick and Zillgitt report that the Hawks were one of the three teams penalized, while ESPN.com's Marc Stein says the Rockets were another.
According to the USA Today report, the NBA memo read in part: "The conduct at issue involved statements by a team employee to the media, a team email to prospective season ticket purchasers, and articles posted online on a team website, each related to players who are currently under contract to other teams but who will become free agents this summer."
The email sent to prospective season ticket purchases is a reference to a letter sent out by the Hawks, in which Chris Paul and Dwight Howard were specifically named as potential free agent targets for the team. According to Stein, the articles posted on a team website refers to material on the Rockets' official site. Houston was fined a "small" amount for the infraction, says Stein.
The identity of the third team fined isn't known.