With the Kings’ streak of losing seasons now at nine, the offseason theme in Sacramento remains the same.
Each summer since 2007, the Kings have looked to revamp their roster. The latest process began Thursday with the drafting of Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein to help defensively. But more is necessary for the Kings to improve drastically after a 29-win season.
The Kings have not had a 30-win season since going 38-44 in 2007-08.
Cauley-Stein appears slated to play backup minutes in the frontcourt rather than start at power forward next to DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings got bigger with the 7-foot-1 Cauley-Stein, but the plan remains to play at a fast pace.
“We know exactly what we need,” said Vlade Divac, the Kings’ vice president of basketball and franchise operations. “We definitely need somebody who can help us defensively at the three position (small forward) because Rudy (Gay), most of the time, is going to be playing the four (power forward).”
That’s an indication Cousins will not be traded and coach George Karl will not be fired. Speculation has grown about a change because the chasm between Cousins and Karl has widened in the offseason.
The All-Star center reportedly has been put off by word that Karl had independently shopped him in trade scenarios. This could make Cousins more amenable to a trade if it means not playing for Karl.
Divac said it remains to be seen how Cauley-Stein and Cousins might complement each other, but the rookie’s defensive versatility and running ability are needed in the frontcourt.
Karl experimented with Gay at power forward as part of his plan to play with a smaller, faster lineup last season. If that’s what Karl wants at power forward, the futures of Jason Thompson and Carl Landry are uncertain. Both are under contract for two more seasons.
Thompson, who was tabbed by Karl as a backup center, and Landry, who hasn’t fit in under the coach and is recovering from wrist surgery, figure to lose playing time to Cauley-Stein.
Either Thompson or Landry could be traded if it means bringing in a defensive-minded wing player, preferably one who can make three-pointers.
The other two players in the frontcourt rotation, Omri Casspi and Derrick Williams, will be free agents.
By selecting Cauley-Stein, the Kings passed on addressing another need: point guard. Darren Collison was last year’s big free-agent addition, but the Kings have made it clear they need another point guard.
Andre Miller, who was acquired in a trade in February and whom Karl leaned on heavily, is a free agent. He said during the season he was open to returning to Sacramento and playing for Karl.
Even if the 39-year-old Miller returns, the Kings want to add another facilitator.
“Obviously, Darren needs a little help at point guard because Coach likes to play sometimes two point guards,” Divac said.
The only other point guard under contract is Ray McCallum, but the team doesn’t think that’s enough. For the second consecutive summer, there will be a search for help at the position.
Divac will explore free agency and trades to add another point guard.
One free agent the Kings are expected to contact is Rajon Rondo. The former All-Star with Boston was banished from Dallas during the playoffs after clashing with coach Rick Carlisle.
That would seem to make adding Rondo under Karl a tricky proposition, as both, like Cousins, are strong-willed.
But Rondo might be interested in a short-term deal for a chance to rehab his image. One rumored suitor for Rondo, the Los Angeles Lakers, seems less likely after they drafted guard D’Angelo Russell on Thursday to go with All-Rookie first-team guard Jordan Clarkson.
The Kings also need depth on the wing and will consider veteran guards such as Danny Green and Wesley Matthews.