Offseason In Review: Sacramento Kings

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.



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Waiver Claims

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Draft Picks

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports Images

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports Images

The Kings are rapidly becoming known more for their behind-the-scenes drama than for what the team accomplishes on the court. Head coach George Karl has seemingly been on the hot seat since being hired late last season, and this front office soap opera has made it difficult for the franchise to make any forward progress whatsoever. The team’s power structure has been in a perpetual state of flux, and the bulk of Sacramento’s offseason moves have raised more questions about the team’s future than providing much-needed answers.

Nine of the 15 players that began this season with the Kings were not on the roster when the 2014/15 campaign came to a close, which is a level of turnover only matched by the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference and is unmatched in the East. New vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac used the trade market, the draft and free agency to reconstitute 60% of his roster this summer, firmly placing his own stamp on the team, for better or for worse. It remains to be seen just how long Divac will be in power, with team owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly continuing to flirt with the idea of making a run at Kentucky head coach John Calipari. The Kings denied a report over the summer indicating that they reached out to Calipari, and Calipari has continually maintained that he isn’t interested in returning to the NBA, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

Sacramento began reshaping its roster with a pair of trades that cleared salary cap room, but the team also raised some questions about its direction. Shipping young point guard Ray McCallum to the Spurs for a 2016 second-round pick isn’t a team-changing event, though it was a bit puzzling that the Kings would give up on such a young player who had little impact on their cap figure given that he makes the league minimum. McCallum can hit restricted free agency next summer, but he’s not likely to spark a bidding war, and in the event that he did, the team could have simply chosen not to match the offer and just let him walk.

The other trade that Divac engineered over the summer was even more troubling for me. The Kings dumped Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and Nik Stauskas on the Sixers to clear the decks for a pursuit of point guard Rajon Rondo, swingman Wesley Matthews, and possibly Monta Ellis, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The team whiffed on both Matthews and Ellis, and while the players shipped to Philly are far from irreplaceable, the draft assets Sacramento gave up may very well become an issue. I also question the team moving on from Stauskas after just one season. While I don’t believe that “Sauce Castillo” will amount to much more than a reserve in the league, if that, it’s troubling to see a franchise giving up on a former lottery pick so quickly.

Sacramento may have missed out on Ellis and Matthews, and I do think that’s a good thing for the long term considering the size of Matthews’ deal with Dallas, and Ellis’ penchant for being a stat sheet player and little more. The team did manage to land Rondo, who has been a triple-double machine thus far in 2015/16. While Rondo has always shown the ability to contribute in multiple ways, it’s his history of being a difficult player to coach that is the major concern. Karl’s situation is already volatile, and the addition of Rondo could be akin to pouring gasoline on a blazing fire if things between him and the embattled coach were to turn sour. The Kings signed Rondo to a one-year pact, which mitigates much of the risk, but it also could serve to throw out any continuity developed if the playmaker departs as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Kings made a number of interesting additions over the summer via the free agent market, including signing center Kosta Koufos, veteran swingman Caron Butler, combo forward Quincy Acy, and shooting guard Marco Belinelli. The additions of Belinelli and Koufos were solid moves, and both players bring talent and experience in much-needed areas for the team.

The only issues that I have with the Kings inking Koufos is that he may end up being a redundant piece if 2015 first-rounder Willie Cauley-Stein develops as expected, and I also think handing him a four-year pact is a bit of a risk based on his mediocre track record in the league thus far. But big men always seem to end up getting paid on the open market, and with the expected jump in the salary cap next season, giving Koufos approximately $8MM per season isn’t exorbitant, and that contract likely wouldn’t be a difficult one to move if the need arose. Speaking of Cauley-Stein, I love the selection of the former Kentucky big man, and his versatility and athleticism coupled with his defensive prowess make him an ideal running mate for DeMarcus Cousins.

But it still remains to be seen if Cousins will be with the organization for the long term. Cousins reportedly doesn’t trust Karl, and their relationship has been rumored to be beyond repair. The Kings haven’t admitted that they shopped the center, but Wojnarowski reported that they asked the Lakers for Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, the No. 2 pick that became D’Angelo Russell and other draft assets. Plus, Wojnarowski added that the Kings also wanted any team that would receive Cousins to also take on Landry, since traded to the Sixers. Such a high cost kept the Celtics from even asking about Cousins, as Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported.

The Kings’ offseason was one of mixed direction as they sacrificed a number of assets that could have helped them in the future for a shot at relevance this season. The problem is that the now doesn’t appear to be especially grand, and until the team’s power structure and coaching situation are solidified in some way, Sacramento will continue to flounder and fill up back page headlines with dysfunction. Turmoil seems to repeatedly stalk the Kings, and the moves they made this summer don’t bode well for the long-term future of the organization.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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