There is plenty of excitement about the Kings’ extremely young roster.
So as Sacramento enters free agency, it will simply fill out its roster and let the kids do their thing, right?
That would be a mistake.
Nine players will have two seasons of experience or less and another, center Willie Cauley-Stein, will be entering his third season. The Kings need veterans who will push their youngsters for playing time and help them learn lessons as they take their lumps.
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The Kings have two established players under contract in guard Garrett Temple and center Kosta Koufos. Both figure to be in the rotation after accepting lesser roles late last season to allow young players more playing time. But if the Kings want to create a culture built on winning, that means creating competition for playing time.
“It takes a while but there’s a couple of really good human beings in Kosta and Garrett, just terrific teammates,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “Hopefully those guys will take to those guys and we need more than just those two, and those guys are going to need to play, so there has to be balance. So you just can’t have somebody sit on the bench and be a positive guy that’s a veteran; you’ve got to play to have a say.”
Premier free agents such as Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward won’t have the Kings high on their list when free agency officially opens at 9:01 p.m. Friday. But Sacramento has the financial flexibility to pursue players who can command respect and set an example.
The Kings had approximately $52 million available under the salary cap prior to reaching an agreement on a three-year, $27 million deal with shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Turkish League MVP last season. The value of the contract was clarified Thursday by a league source.
Adding a point guard should be a high priority, as the Kings have only rookies De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III. They could re-sign Darren Collison, who would instantly be the most viable option to start. If not, they would be wise to pursue veterans with starter potential, such as George Hill or Jeff Teague.
The Kings should seek experience at small forward, too. Rookie Justin Jackson is the only true small forward on the roster. He might eventually win the starting job, but handing it to him would be a mistake.
The Kings have seen what happens when young players are prematurely forced to carry the burden of high expectations. Shooting guard Ben McLemore’s struggles were compounded by the lack of reliable veterans around him and an unstable coaching situation.
It’s good to be excited about the future of the youngsters. But the Kings need to make sure that future is earned, or they could pay in the future.