Kings Notes: Defense, Sabonis, Barnes, Vezenkov, Murray

The Kings‘ 118.6 offensive rating this season was easily the best mark in the NBA, but their 116.0 defensive rating was the worst of any of the 16 teams that made the playoffs. It’s no surprise then that general manager Monte McNair identified upgrading the defense as a top priority for Sacramento this offseason, per Eduardo Razo of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Still, McNair made it clear that he doesn’t want defensive upgrades to come at the expense of the Kings’ NBA-best offense, stressing that the front office will need to find a way to balance those efforts.

“You always want to continue to shore up your deficiencies, but you don’t want to pull on one string and you lose another,” McNair said. “So we’re going to have to do it in a way that we were able to put all the things we need on the floor for both offense and defense. So, yeah, I don’t know, delicate balance. Everybody has the same challenge, but yes, we need to maintain and improve. We can’t just make trade-offs that keep us in the same spot.”

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Domantas Sabonis will be extension-eligible this summer and the new CBA will allow the Kings to give him a 40% raise (instead of 20%) in an extension offer. Still, that may not be enough to entice him to sign a deal, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. An extension for Sabonis could be worth up to $27.1MM in 2024/25, whereas his maximum salary as a free agent that summer may exceed $42MM. “Domas is a huge part of what we do,” McNair told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re going to do all we can to keep him here and build around him.”
  • Asked about Harrison Barnes‘ possible future in Sacramento, McNair referred to the free-agent-to-be as “a pretty fantastic part of our team,” per Slater, and suggested the Kings will have conversations in the coming weeks about retaining Barnes.
  • McNair praised the season that draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov has had in Greece for Olympiacos and told reporters that a decision on the standout EuroLeague forward will be made later in the summer (Twitter video link via Deuce Mason). Vezenkov is under contract with Olympiacos through 2025, but could be bought out of that deal.
  • Keegan Murray didn’t come close to averaging 20 points per game in his first NBA season like Rookie of the Year winner Paolo Banchero, but McNair made the case this week that the Kings forward was the standout player in his draft class for another reason. “A rookie who started seven games in a playoff series, was, I believe, the most winning impact rookie on the court this year,” McNair said, per Tristi Rodriguez of NBC Sports Bay Area. “While we didn’t ask him to come in and shoot 30 shots, he certainly could have, he was the leading scorer in college basketball last year. But to come in and know what we need, which was to actually defend multiple positions, hit shots, cut to the basket, play off of our veterans, I thought it was a fantastic year for him.”
  • Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee explores whether it’s realistic for the Kings to attempt to emulate the Warriors’ championship blueprint.
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