Don’t do anything silly. Do not jeopardize the future.
That approach by the Kings hasn’t yielded any significant additions to the roster this off-season, Tuesday’s trade notwithstanding.
That may not be a bad thing — for now.
The Kings haven’t botched the off-season to this point. Some might argue they could have if the Chicago Bulls didn’t match the offer for shooting guard Zach LaVine.
The $78 million offer sheet was no small sum, but at least LaVine met criteria the Kings were seeking (young and athletic), even if he plays a position at which the Kings have multiple options.
But there’s understandable angst from a fan base that has watched 12 consecutive losing seasons and questionable decisions from the front office for more than a decade.
The challenge for general manager Vlade Divac and his staff will be to stick to the plan while figuring out how to add draft assets and improve a roster that is still in need of upgrading.
It’s not for a lack of effort.
Sacramento’s attempts to upgrade the roster via unrestricted free agency (Mario Hezonja) and restricted free agency (LaVine) haven’t panned out. A trade that could yield a 2019 first-round draft pick has yet to materialize.
The LaVine move was aggressive and ambitious, but the team could have added a young, cheaper shooting guard (Gary Trent Jr.) by keeping its second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft rather than trading Trent’s rights to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Meanwhile, former Kings executive Scott Perry was able to lure Hezonja to the New York Knicks and away from his former team, which has eyed him for some time.
The Kings made a lackluster trade Tuesday, sending veteran swingman Garrett Temple to the Memphis Grizzlies for shooting guard Ben McLemore — a player Sacramento drafted No. 7 overall in 2013 — center Deyonta Davis, a 2021 second-round pick and cash.
Following that deal, the Kings have 14 guaranteed contracts, approximately $20.5 million under the salary cap and some work to do. The deal with Memphis has NBA executives wondering what the Kings will do now with the most space under the cap in the league.
There has to be another move coming, right?
The Kings do not want to tie up long-term money in older players but are willing to pay big for young players.
Sacramento could be in play for restricted free agents again. The team hasn’t shown strong interest in guard Marcus Smart, who is reportedly close to returning to the Boston Celtics, and appears to be lukewarm on Cleveland Cavaliers forward Rodney Hood. They are two of the best available.
Golden State Warriors guard Patrick McCaw is another young wing who is a restricted fee agent and would fit some of the Kings’ needs. They could also look at veterans, such as Michael Beasley or Nick Young, to offer one-year deals.
The only name of note would be Houston Rockets restricted free agent Clint Capela. But he’s a center, and just how many centers do the Kings need?
Prior to making a play for LaVine, the Kings were exploring the trade market and will continue to do so, but the one deal they’ve made isn’t significant.
The Brooklyn Nets struck last week with the kind of trade the Kings could benefit from, taking on two unwanted contracts from the Denver Nuggets in order to land a protected first-round draft pick. The Kings traded the rights to their 2019 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015 in an ill-fated salary dump to “win now” that season.
Some NBA executives believe the 2019 draft class isn’t as deep as the last two years. That’s no excuse to ignore the draft, especially in Sacramento’s position.
The Kings are likely to miss out on a top-10 pick or better, especially without any moves to upgrade the roster. So if they can add a first-round pick, they need to.
There’s still time to do that. That pick could be added during the year, just as the Los Angeles Lakers did this past season. But there’s nothing to be gained by losing this season without a draft pick.
The Kings are poised to have plenty of money in free agency next year, but it’s unlikely they can attract top talent with another season winning fewer than 30 games.
So the Kings should continue to upgrade the roster and remain committed to making their young players compete and earn playing time. Improving now will only make it easier to add in the future.