After trading DeMarcus Cousins during the 2016/17 season, the Kings appeared poised to embark on a full-scale rebuild. However, they hedged their bets to some extent in the 2017 offseason, inking veteran free agents like George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter to lucrative contracts in order to reach the salary floor.
Those free agent additions didn’t help much on the court in 2017/18, as the Kings fell out of playoff contention early and focused on developing their young players in the second half of the season. Now, Hill is gone and Carter seems likely to follow, as another year of rebuilding gets underway in Sacramento.
Here are five key questions facing the franchise this summer:
1. What will the Kings do with the No. 2 overall pick?
The Kings hadn’t had much luck in the draft lottery up until this week. Despite years of futility (Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006), the franchise hadn’t secured a top-three pick since 1991. That streak ended this spring, as the Kings jumped up from No. 7 to No. 2 in the lottery standings, putting them in position to grab a potential franchise player.
Now the Kings’ front office will have to decide how to maximize the value of that second overall pick. Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are widely considered the top two prospects in this year’s draft. Should Sacramento simply be happy to take whichever one of those two doesn’t go No. 1? Will Marvin Bagley III or another player receive serious consideration? Would the Kings explore the possibility of trading down to pick up more assets?
Sacramento is only two years removed from making Georgios Papagiannis a lottery pick, so the front office hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt. Still, given the Kings’ prime position and the relative strength of this year’s class, it seems safe to assume that the team should come out of the draft with another building block to complement De’Aaron Fox.
2. Can the Kings get back into the first round of the 2019 draft?
If the Kings do decide to move down in the draft, last year’s Celtics/Sixers swap should serve as a template. In fact, the asset Boston picked up in that trade for moving down two spots will likely end up being Sacramento’s 2019 first-round pick. Missing their own first-rounder for 2019 is bad news for the Kings, who figure to remain a lottery team a year from now, but if they can find a way to acquire another ’19 pick, that would soften the blow.
The Kings could also look to the Nets as a reference point as they go shopping on the trade market. Despite having sent their own first-round picks to other teams for several years in a row, the Nets found ways to get back into the first round or to pick up other selections, either by trading their own veterans or taking on another teams’ unwanted contracts. The Kings can head into the new league year armed with cap space and expiring contracts, so they should have some options.