Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise heading into the summer.
State Of The Franchise
If nothing else, the Kings should have a more harmonious locker room in 2016/17.
Controversy swirled around coach George Karl and star player DeMarcus Cousins throughout last season. Karl nearly got fired midway through the campaign and finally got the ax after it ended. A disconnect between the front office and Karl added to the turmoil enveloping the franchise.
“There were too many distractions on and off the court,” said point guard Rajon Rondo, no stranger to controversy himself.
There are signs of better days ahead for a franchise that hasn’t visited the postseason for 10 years. They hired a much less contentious head coach to replace Karl in Dave Joerger, who guided the Grizzlies to three straight playoff appearances. They’ll also be playing in a brand new arena, the Golden 1 Center, which should boost attendance and create some positive energy.
The next step is to reshape the roster and give their fans a reason to keep coming back.
Point Of Contention
The Kings may have to find replacements for their top two point guards, Rondo and Darren Collison.
Rondo revived his career after a woeful stint with the Mavericks in 2014/15, leading the league in assists at 11.7 per game. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Kings want him back, but apparently don’t want to get into a bidding war for his services. Rondo, who made $9.5MM in the final year of his contract, will explore all his options, though he’s not averse to re-signing as long as he’s convinced of a culture change in the organization.
Collison has a team-friendly $5.23MM contract for next season but he could face a lengthy suspension after domestic violence charges were filed against him over a May incident. Collison wasn’t a typical backup, as he averaged 14.0 points — third most on the team — and 30 minutes despite starting only 15 games.
The Kings ranked third in points scored and fourth in assists with Rondo and Collison being the main distributors. Even if they manage to re-sign Rondo, they’ll have to acquire another point guard who can play regular minutes if the league cracks down on Collison.
Building Block Or Blockbuster?
VP of Basketball Operations and GM Vlade Divac tried to quell speculation about a possible Cousins trade this summer, saying in recent interview, “He’s not going to be traded — this year for sure.”
Joerger echoed that sentiment by saying he wouldn’t have accepted the job if the team was in a full rebuild mode.
“There’s still some heavy lifting to do but some of the heavy lifting has been done,” he said. “This is not a blow it up, let’s start all over again situation.”
That still won’t end all the rumors about Cousins’ status, considering the Kings have never won more than 33 games with the big man as their centerpiece. Teams such as Celtics and Sixers have been angling to acquire a superstar for years and could put together impressive packages for Cousins, who averaged 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds last season.
The mercurial Cousins has said all the right things since his frequent verbal sparring partner, Karl, was sent packing.
“I want to bring us back to those glory days,” said Cousins, who has two years remaining on his contract.
Free Agent Targets
The Kings will be hanging up a “Help Wanted” sign and with only $61.3MM committed to guaranteed salaries, they’ll have plenty of salary cap space to pursue top free agents.
Naturally, they’re not a prime destination and some free agents may not want to put up with the volatile Cousins. Thus, the Kings may have to overpay to land a player they covet.
Would Mike Conley consider joining his former head coach in Sacramento? Unlikely, but Joerger’s presence gives the Kings a glimmer of hope toward landing the top free agent point guard on this year’s market.
The Kings, who gave up the most points in the league last season, also need to acquire some veteran defenders to instill toughness. A player like shooting guard Courtney Lee, whom Joerger coached in Memphis, would be a good fit.
Even if the Kings live up to their vow to retain Cousins, they will likely be active on the trade market.
Rudy Gay, who will make $13.3MM next season and holds a player option on the final year of his deal, will be easier to move with the salary-cap jump coming this summer. Ben McLemore could also get sent packing to a suitor willing to take a chance on the disappointing lottery pick.
Marco Belinelli has two years left on his deal but with shooting at a premium around the league, he could also draw interest.
- First-round pick: No. 8
- Second-round pick: No. 59
The Kings brass is reportedly enamored with Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, who would be an immediate upgrade at shooting guard. However, there’s certainly no guarantee he’ll still be on the board when the No. 8 pick comes up. They may have to trade up to get him.
Otherwise, the Kings are expected to shop the pick for a more experienced rotation player.
There’s a lot more stability along the sidelines than on the roster, as Joerger signed a four-year, $16MM contract. He has promised to work closely with the front office and end the discord that was so prevalent during the Karl era. How he’ll mesh with Cousins is the big unknown. The jury is still out on whether Cousins will respond better to a players’ coach like Joerger or a no-nonsense type like ex-Kings coach Michael Malone.
The Kings seem content to build around Cousins for the time being and hope that he matures into a true leader. They can always explore trades for him during the season if that doesn’t happen.
The bigger issue is that they have question marks at every other spot on the roster. The front office will have make a series of shrewd moves to obtain quality pieces and end the playoff drought. It’s easy to be skeptical of that happening.
- DeMarcus Cousins ($16,957,900)
- Rudy Gay ($13,333,333)
- Kosta Koufos ($8,046,500)
- Marco Belinelli ($6,333,333)
- Darren Collison ($5,229,454)
- Ben McLemore ($4,008,882)
- Willie Cauley-Stein ($3,551,160)
- Omri Casspi ($2,963,814)
- (Wayne Ellington $882,630) — Salary remaining from release via stretch provision
- Total: $61,307,006
- Caron Butler ($1,551,659)
- Duje Dukan ($874,636)
- Seth Curry ($1,215,696/$1,215,696)1
- Eric Moreland ($1,180,431/$1,180,431)
- Totals: ($2,396,127/$2,396,127)
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
Other Cap Holds
- No. 8 pick ($2,451,200)
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.