Kings Blog

Kings Q&A: Progress report on the young core; checking the pulse of a culture change

Throughout the season, Jason Jones answers readers’ questions about the team in a weekly Twitter mailbag. Tweet your questions with the hashtag #JonesHoldsCourt.

Q: For the last 12 seasons the Kings teams have all looked identical: No defense, no heart, losers. It remains the same through different owners, FO, coaches, and even gyms. What is wrong with this team? Is it something about Sacramento?

– Memphis Mini Amp, @RickDavisBlues

A: If only it were so easy to blame the 916 area code. One problem has been poor decisions with the roster. Start with the draft, which has had it’s share of misses. The Kings used recent lottery picks on players who aren’t even rotation players or who are out of the NBA (Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas) and the team’s four best picks over that time (Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Isaiah Thomas) all have found success in new uniforms.

The Kings simply have not had the structure and support to cultivate and develop young talent. Vlade Divac believes the Kings now have the tools in place to help young players grow and reach their potential.

The Kings have also been hurt by poor decisions by ownership, struck out with coaching hires (George Karl), prematurely firing coaches (Michael Malone), free agency and trades.

The 2015 trade with Philadelphia – Divac’s first major move and a salary dump to clear space for free agency – did not result in more wins. Instead, it winds up haunting them. The Kings gave up their first-round pick in 2019, which barring a miracle will be a lottery pick, and gave Philadelphia the right to swap picks in last year’s draft. That allowed the Sixers to trade up to No. 1 overall.

The Kings like De’Aaron Fox, but without that swap would Sacramento have wound up with Jayson Tatum?

The Kings have some semblance of stability now with Divac in place and Dave Joerger at coach. That doesn’t mean the Kings will be in the playoffs in 2020, but the Kings must remain patient and see how things play out. If the Kings go into panic mode and make a hasty deal, that would be a sign things will remain the same in Sacramento.

Q: How is the #sackings character and culture process going?

– Toni, @cancanlane

A: Here’s the thing about that: Over the last two seasons the locker room morale has been much better, even before Cousins was traded. The last time the locker room had a true toxic feeling was the 2015-16 season, when all the players had their issues with Karl. The character of the players has been solid.

But we’re far from a winning culture. Simply assembling a collection of nice guys does not dispel a culture of losing. When the Kings start showing consistent defensive tenacity, that will be a sign the culture is headed in the right direction.

What happens after the All-Star break will provide a litmus test. It’s assumed the Kings will enter full youth mode. In previous seasons, the veterans have disliked being benched so the Kings can improve their draft position while the youngsters get minutes.

Can the Kings keep those players engaged? It’s a tough situation for Joerger. Players last season realized the “rest” games were decisions from the front office, not from him, but it doesn’t help reinforce a winning culture.

Q: How would you measure & rate the current development of the young core? how are they doing relative to their respective draft class peers?

– Hayash, @askhayash

A: Of the core 10 players with three years of experience or less, Willie Cauley-Stein, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield have done the most to show they have a place in the NBA. The rest of the players really have not played enough or are still figuring out the NBA game.

Hopes are still high for Fox, but he hasn’t been an impact rookie like Tatum or Donovan Mitchell. That said, it’s still too early to assess any of the Kings’ rookies or second-year players, like Georgios Papagiannis, because they haven’t played enough.

I wouldn’t measure any of them against their peers just yet. Tatum ended up in an ideal situation on a good team. Mitchell also ended up in a stable situation with veterans who already know their roles.

Landing with the Kings, a team that has been in flux so much, isn’t as easy of an adjustment.

Now for this week’s non-Kings question:

Q: You have a choice: 1 million dollars OR Seats next to Nicholson for a lifetime at Staples

Choose one....

– Bob in East Sac, @BobNEastSac

A: Considering the Lakers have the worst record in the Western Conference, I doubt Jack Nicholson is going out of his way to be at every game or that I could sell those seats, unless the Cavs or Warriors are in town.

So give me the cash, and I’ll pick when I sit next to Jack.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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