NBA Draft: A Royal Plan

DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins and the Kings might have something to smile about.

Do you remember when the Sacramento Kings couldn’t get over the hump in the Western Conference Finals all those years against the Los Angeles Lakers? Now the Kings can’t even get over the hump of making it back to the playoffs. Over the years, this team has fallen apart due to retirement and free agency. The city of Sacramento almost lost their team, until Mayor Kevin Johnson stepped in. This team has fallen a long ways since those playoffs days. Will the Kings climb out of the cellar anytime soon?            When Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie decided to retire and Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, and coach Rick Adelman decided to move on, Sac-town was left with nothing. Since then, the Kings have struggled and it’s not like they haven’t drafted well, either. They drafted Spencer Hawes, Tyreke Evans, and DeMarcus Cousins. OK, maybe Cousins is a little immature and Evans is always hurt, but those players have bright futures if they keep their heads on straight. They haven’t hired a solid replacement since Adelman. They have gone through five head coaches since 2006 (Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westpahl, and now Keith Smart). Figuring out their coaching situation needs to be the first thing on their list this offseason. I think they should bring back Smart because Smart did a good job in Golden State last season and a pretty decent job this season.

This offseason, the Kings have three players who are set to be free agents: Jason Thompson, Donte Greene, and Terrence Williams. Thompson and Greene are restricted free agents and have qualifying offers (Thompson $4.1 mil and Greene $3 mil). Williams is a restricted free agent who made only $269,000 last season. The Kings have some bad contracts: John Salmons $8 mil, Francisco Garcia $6.1 mil, and Travis Outlaw $3 mil. Two players that don’t have guaranteed contracts for next season are point guard Isaiah Thomas and center Hassan Whiteside. If they guarantee their contracts, the Kings will have $44,092,374 under contract for next season. If the salary cap stays at $60,000,000 for next season, the Kings would have $15,907,626 to spend on draft picks, free agents, and re-signing players. If they decide to keep Thompson and Greene, the Kings would leave themselves around $8,000,000.

The improvement of Cousins was huge for the Kings this season. He is proving that he might be worth the trouble, but I think he still needs to work on his attitude. I think he can be a very good player in this league. He could be their center for the next 5-7 years. I am not so sure about Evans. The Kings think Evans can play the point, but I think Evans is more of a two-guard. At 6’6, Evans has more size than any other point in the league, but he doesn’t have the “skills” of a point guard. I think if they move Evans to the two-guard, it would be a better fit for him and the rest of the team. The problem is this: the Kings already signed Marcus Thornton to a four-year deal last season and he plays the two-guard spot. Thornton is a pure scorer and used to be a sixth-man. I think they should move him back to that role so their bench produces some points.

With their center and shooting guard positions locked-up, the Kings need to focus on obtaining a small forward who can play defense and/or a point guard who knows how to lead and play defense. There is a very good chance the Kings will have a top five draft pick in the draft. So who are some of the potential future Kings? I have the Kings slotted to get the fifth pick and I project that they will take Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist would bring energy, hustle, and defense to a team that gave up the most points per game last season (104.4). He won’t come into the league and be a lock-down defender right away, but he will help improve Sacramento’s team defense. Oh, and Kidd-Gilchrist is a team player and I think he can help change the culture in that locker room. With their second round pick, the Kings should add depth to their roster. I know it might be a “reach” in the second round, but the King’s should pick Iona’s point guard Scott Machado. Machado was a four-year senior and led the nation in assists per game. I think he will bring experience and leadership to a team that desperately needs it.

The Kings are not going to fulfill all their needs in the draft and that’s where free agency comes in. I don’t think [Isaiah] Thomas is the solution at point guard, but I think he could be a good backup. The Kings should focus their free agency attention on the point guard and power forward spots, if they don’t re-sign [Jason] Thompson. Some possible targets for the Kings are Jordan Hill (PF), André Miller (PG), Ersan Ilyasova (PF), Kris Humphries (PF), and Jordan Farmar (PG; Farmar has a player option for next season).

Of course the Kings may totally do something unexpected, but those are some players who, I think, can help them.

The Kings have some nice pieces, but they need to focus on their improving their team defense before they can focuse on making it back to the playoffs.


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