It has been 11 NBA seasons since the Sacramento Kings have last appeared in a playoff game. This falls second only to the Minnesota Timberwolves, whose playoff drought has lasted an additional 2 seasons. With the recent trade for 3-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, the T-Wolves seem ready to end their losing streak and reach the postseason next spring. If all goes according to plan for Minnesota, the Kings will soon be handed the title for NBA irrelevancy.
Now that Sacramento enters their first full season under the post-DeMarcus Cousins regime, do they have the potential for a brighter future? How long will their postseason absence continue? A closer look at their own offseason rebuild might give us some clues.
First, let’s remind ourselves how that “horrible” trade return for Cousins is developing. Essentially, the Kings received rookie first round pick Buddy Hield and the Pelicans’ first round pick this year. Since Omri Casspi, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway were minor movements in the deal, but have since left for other teams, their impacts on the Kings aren’t as significant.
Even though Buddy Hield had a rough start with New Orleans before the trade, he has since performed a lot better on his new team, earning an improved stat line. In his 25 games played as a King, Hield averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 29.1 minutes per game on the court. As a secure starting shooting guard on a team looking for a leader, Hield figures to see even more action.
The first round pick the Kings also inherited was suddenly split into two as they traded the 10th overall pick to Portland for picks 15th and 20th. This allowed Sacramento to bring in a draft haul of PG De’Aaron Fox (5th), SF Justin Jackson (15th), PF Harry Giles (20th), and PG Frank Mason III (34th) respectively. All four of these rookies are expected to join a young organization with a league high NINE players on NBA rookie contracts after their arrival.
This doesn’t even include incoming Serbian rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic, who agreed to an expected 3-year deal worth 27 million dollars. While this is a lot of money for someone who has never played a minute in the NBA, the Kings had a lot of cap room to spend and could not pass up on his youth and potential.
Having a roster with 10 players under the age of 25 is a great sign towards the future, but what about now? How will the Kings develop these young men and lead them forward to a competitive culture? The answer is veterans. Before free agency, the Kings had just Garrett Temple (31) and Kosta Koufos (28) acting as the upperclassmen. That all changed when Sacramento used their remaining cash to lure in 3 high character players.
Starting off with the biggest move, the Kings signed proven PG George Hill to a 3-year deal amounting a total of $57 million! I admit this is a big stack of cash for a position invested in 5th overall pick De’Aaron Fox, but when you’re the Sacramento Kings, you have to make yourself a bit more appealing than others. There is no question Hill will be a great mentor and role model to Fox as the 19-year-old transitions from college to the pros. The sharing of minutes between the two shouldn’t be a problem as Hill can play the 2 spot alongside Fox when needed.
The final two roster spots were filled with the additions of big man Zack Randolph and pre-historic baller Vince Carter. Not only can they bring beneficial leadership to the team, but they also have prior chemistry playing under head coach Dave Joerger. For 3 seasons, Joerger coached the Memphis Grizzlies where he had the chance to utilize these veterans as starters, as well as role players. Being receptive to coaching and doing whatever is asked and necessary to win are two qualities the Kings have been BEGGING for. It’s about time they acquired teammates with the right mindsets.
Sacramento now has a 15-man roster with a more balanced mixture of youth and experience. Staring up at powerhouses in the Western Conference, the Kings seem content to ease their rookies along and play for the future. However, tanking isn’t a word I would consider when evaluating this depth chart. The team might require a season or more for the rookies to become fully comfortable, but the veterans in the locker room will instill a winning attitude early on. They certainly are a better team now than at the end of last season, so wouldn’t their record improve as well? The level of competition in the West continues to rise, however, leaving this question up for debate.
To conclude the postseason drought discussion, the stars point to another losing season for Sacramento. Nonetheless, the stars are bright, and are getting brighter! Don’t be surprised if the Kings’ rebuild is short-lived, with Sacramento as a playoff contender in 2 to 3 years time. If that is indeed the case, a new team will take the Kings’ crown as the biggest loser in the NBA. If you’re curious, the Phoenix Suns are next on that list, so let the rivalry begin!