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Vlade Divac seeks drastic improvement with overhaul of Kings

Kings general manager Vlade Divac, left, owner Vivek Ranadive, center, and Dean Oliver, director of analytics talk during a Kings pre-draft workout at their practice facility on Thursday, June 4, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac, left, owner Vivek Ranadive, center, and Dean Oliver, director of analytics talk during a Kings pre-draft workout at their practice facility on Thursday, June 4, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. rpench@sacbee.com

The mandate for Vlade Divac was clear.

The Kings must improve drastically in 2015-16.

So the vice president of basketball and franchise operations has been overhauling the roster in an effort to boost the Kings from Western Conference doormat to playoff contender.

Adding point guard Rajon Rondo, small forward Marco Belinelli and center Kosta Koufos in free agency and drafting center Willie Cauley-Stein give the Kings a new look and appear to address the Kings’ biggest weaknesses.

Divac isn’t necessarily done. The Kings will try to add wing depth, which Sunday night entailed the re-signing of Omri Casspi, who confirmed via Twitter a two-year deal worth $6 million.

And All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins could be traded, as his issues with coach George Karl have not been resolved.

But as the roster is, the Kings expect to improve. Maybe not enough to make the playoffs but to win more than the 29 games they did last season.

With the new downtown arena set to open for the 2016-17 season, the Kings need an improved product to sell tickets.

The Kings wanted better passing, perimeter shooting and defense. Rondo was brought in to improve the passing and give Karl another ballhandler and facilitator.

Belinelli will be expected to help Sacramento’s shaky three-point shooting. Koufos and Cauley-Stein add depth, size and defensive versatility.

With the new downtown arena set to open for the 2016-17 season, the Kings need an improved product to sell tickets.

If Cousins stays, he and forward Rudy Gay are the only players certain to start. Divac has said Gay will play “a lot” of power forward this season, which necessitated adding another small forward.

Darren Collison was signed last summer to start at point guard, but with Rondo set to make $9.5 million next season, it seems unlikely the four-time All-Star will be a backup.

Karl wants to run more sets with two point guards, but Collison is only 6 feet, and Rondo is 6-1.

Ben McLemore started at shooting guard last season but could come off the bench or play small forward if Gay starts at power forward.

Marco Belinelli will be expected to help Sacramento’s shaky three-point shooting. Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein add depth, size and defensive versatility.

Karl also wants to see how Cauley-Stein and Cousins complement each other. Cauley-Stein could earn a starting job with his athleticism and defensive ability.

Overall, the Kings believe they have upgraded the roster. The only hold-overs who played significantly last season are Cousins, Gay, Collison, McLemore and point guard Ray McCallum.

Power forward Derrick Williams last week agreed to join the New York Knicks, and power forwards Jason Thompson and Carl Landry and shooting guard Nik Stauskas recently were traded to Philadelphia to create salary cap space so free agents could be signed.

The changes also give Karl more flexibility. He will be able to use a small lineup when he wants and a bigger one against teams like Memphis.

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

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