Summer agenda: Sacramento Kings
The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the offseason plans for teams that didn’t make the postseason.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Check the temperature on Cousins
Time is ticking to decide whether DeMarcus Cousins is part of the solution.
The debate is not over Cousins’ talent, but whether he is a franchise player with whom free agents want to play.
Under contract for the next two seasons and in the prime of his career, Cousins’ value remains high. However, if the Kings want to move the All-Star, this summer would be the time to do so. Waiting until next year or even during the season would lead to diminishing assets in return. Teams were scared off by the expiring contracts of Al Horford and Dwight Howard this past trade deadline. The Kings would be wise to avoid the same fate.
The one thing Sacramento cannot do is give Cousins away. If Sacramento were to trade him, it should ask for draft picks and an established player or two.
What Sacramento should follow is the playbook Boston used the past two years. The Rajon Rondo trade to Dallas is the best example. Not only did Boston get an established player in Jae Crowder, but also the Mavs’ No. 16 pick in the first round. Considering that Rondo at the time was in the last year of his contract, one would think the return for Cousins would be almost double.
Stop the rotating door
The first question any coaching candidate will ask during the interview process is: “What is the commitment from ownership and how am I different from previous coaches let go?” Until there is a clear answer, the same pattern will continue in Sacramento.
What draws free agents to teams is not an All-Star center or a new building, but playing for an organization that is structurally sound from top to bottom.
Finding that stability starts with having a coach that fits with the direction of the organization and the plan going forward.
Sacramento does not need to find a coach who sells tickets, but someone whom ownership and management can give freedom without any outside interference.
How do you sell a fan base yearning for wins on being patient for another year?
The answer is to be open and honest with the long-term plan without giving away any top secrets.
A new arena on the way, not being in the playoffs since 2006, and having the reigning NBA champions nearby shouldn’t force the Kings to rush things.
The knee-jerk reaction is always instant gratification. However, there is plenty of evidence over the past few years that short-term success and quick fixes will always lead to long-term failure.
It’s OK to rollover cap space
Just because the Kings have money to spend – perhaps as much as $23 million if Rondo, a free agent, doesn’t return – doesn’t mean they have to use it all in one offseason.
Sacramento doesn’t need to get into a bidding war for Rondo. Although the market for quality point guards is thin, the Kings would be wise to let Rondo go if they cannot bring him back on a short and manageable contract.
The Kings don’t need to use cap space for the sake of using it. Building a roster doesn’t end two weeks into July. It continues throughout the course of a season. Opportunities to improve will always present themselves.
Sacramento needs an identity, some defined roles and mental toughness.
The Kings’ roster is one filled with a lightning rod of an All-Star (Cousins), an enigma at small forward (Rudy Gay), a young and promising center (Willie Cauley-Stein) and role players who fill out the bench. Yet none of those players have defined roles.
The roster also lacks mental toughness. Throughout a game or during the course of a losing streak players will often hang their heads and let bad habits creep in.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1. DeMarcus Cousins
2. Rudy Gay
3. Kosta Koufos
4. Marco Belinelli
5. Darren Collison
6. Willie Cauley-Stein
7. Ben McLemore
Eligible for rookie extension
8. Omri Casspi
9. Caron Butler
10. James Anderson
11. Duje Dukan
FA cap holds
12. Rajon Rondo
13. Seth Curry
Restricted; non-Bird rights
14. Eric Moreland
Restricted; early Bird rights
15. Quincy Acy
16. No. 8 pick
Dead money: Wayne Ellington, $882,630
FA cap holds
PROJECTED CAP SCENARIO
Sacramento currently projects to have $10 million in room.
Cap space can increase based on the Rondo cap hold. The Kings will not get any salary relief with Curry and Acy opting out of their contracts. Both players will have cap holds until they either sign with another team or return to Sacramento.
Sacramento will be limited in what they can pay Curry. Although he will be a restricted free agent, non-Bird rights will restrict what Sacramento can offer. One advantage however is that the Kings can match offers for Curry, but they must have available cap room to do so.
If Rondo signs with another team and Butler opts out, the Kings could have $23 million in room.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
Fist round: Own at No. 7. Philadelphia can swap picks post-lottery.
Second round: Have San Antonio’s pick at No. 59
2017: Chicago has rights to pick Nos. 11-30. If no pick to Chicago, Philadelphia can swap Nos. 1-10.
2018: Own pick if first-rounder goes to Chicago in 2017. If no first to Chicago, then Philadelphia has pick Nos. 11-30.
2019: To Philadelphia (unprotected) if Chicago has 2017 first.
Own all first-round picks starting in 2020 but cannot trade a first until 2021.
Rights to: Arturas Gudaitis (Pick No. 47, 2015), Luka Mitrovic (Pick No. 60, 2015), Alex Oriakhi (Pick No. 57, 2013)
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