Last season had to be a bummer for Sacramento Kings fans. Not only did Sacramento fail to improve on its record from the season before (technically they did, but 22-44 to 28-54 isn’t exactly improvement), but midseason, the team traded traded their fifth overall pick from the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson, for Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas. Even if they realized they had make a terrible mistake by taking the undersized Robinson over Andre Drummond, Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes, they really couldn’t get anything more than a backup power forward and a marginal backup point guard? In retrospect, the move shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering the Kings have an odd hobby of collecting ex-Rocket big men (Patterson, Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry), but things like these are what we’ve come to expect from Sac-Town over the last handful of years.
Since the 2005-06 season, the Kings haven’t finish above .500, posting winning percentages of .207, .305, .293, .333 and .341 for the past five seasons. If all that losing wasn’t bad enough, the Kings have drafted poorly since the Chris Webber era and, even worse, compounded their draft mistakes by signing marginal players to long-term extensions. Example: With the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft, the Kings chose Jason Thompson. After four years without improving, they gave him a five-year contract extension worth more than $30 million. I’m not trying to rag on Thompson, but I’m just using his situation as a marker of the incompetence this franchise has shown since 2006. Year after year they march out the same kinds of players, hoping that something will change and to no one’s surprise, nothing has changed.
The Kings have drafted poorly (although they haven’t had much lottery magic either), they’ve wasted money on the wrong type of players and they’ve shown absolutely no ability to build around their star players. Tyreke Evans had a tremendous rookie season for an awful Kings’ team in the 2009-10 season. Evans played the 1 that season and despite all his success, the team moved him over to the 2. Instead of searching for the kind of point guard that would fit next to the ball-dominant Evans (the Eric Snow to his Allen Iverson, per se), they played Beno Udrih at the 1 the next season and then threw Isaiah Thomas next to him for the next two years. And you wonder why he was itching to get out of Sacramento?
Heading into the 2013-14 season, the question has to be whether the Kings are finally going to start building for a successful future or are they going to stay in the gutter for another handful of years? Right now, they have the tools to start turning things around, but they have their fair share of anchors as well.
The Kings need to make decisions about who exactly they are trying to build around and they need to show patience. Having a pass-first point guard like Greivis Vasquez should help their offense, but it’s unclear whether they see him as their point guard of the future. DeMarcus Cousins is polarizing to say the least, but they need to make a decision on him. If they don’t want him to be part of their future, move him before he’s a restricted free agent. If they want him to be in Sacramento long term, then they need to start looking for the right frontcourt mate for him. Maybe it’s Carl Landry, who they gave $27 million over four years this offseason, but I don’t think he’s anything more than a very good backup 4. Rookie Ben McLemore dropped right into their laps this summer and hopefully they name him the starter immediately and try to build around their backcourt and Cousins, but again, who knows with this team.
The rest of the roster looks like it’s been slung together with absolutely no plan in place, as spare parts like Marcus Thornton (one-dimensional, undersized scorer), Luc Mbah a Moute (good defender, useless on offense), Jimmer Fredette (no explanation needed), Jason Thompson (see above), Patrick Patterson (see above), John Salmons (yeah, he’s still in the NBA), Travis Outlaw (yeah, so is he) and Chuck Hayes (a 6’7″ center who can’t shoot, finish or jump) all have questionable roles heading into the season. If the Kings want to change the culture of their franchise, they need to stop stockpiling role players and start investing only in guys who they feel serve a certain function or are foundational pieces.
For Kings fans, this is going to be another bad season and that’s just the harsh reality at this point. The more you look into this roster and their contracts, the more you realize how clueless, aimless and hopeless they really are. There best chance is to go young, move any pieces that they can and figure out what they’re going to do with Vasquez and Cousins. There is a quick fix for a team in a hole like this one, but if they want to pick up the pieces, they’ll need to start making decisions about who they’re building around and how they’re going to do it.
It’s going to be a long year in Sacramento next season, but maybe by the middle of the year, there’ll be reason for hope. Maybe, but it doesn’t seem like it.