Now the proud owners of the longest active playoff drought and the third-longest drought in league history, the Sacramento Kings have been the absolute pinnacle of a poorly-run franchise over the past decade. With nine coaches in the last 12 years, Dave Joerger will be the longest-tenured coach of the last dozen years if he makes it to the eighth game of the Kings’ 2018-19 season without being fired. The result of 12 years outside the playoffs: seven players on Sacramento’s roster are still on their rookie contracts and a further three are playing on their first NBA contract. Of the players who are currently rostered for the 2018-19 season, only Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, and Garrett Temple are playing on their second contract or later. While not the youngest team in the league due to the age of these veterans, the Kings have a host of inexperienced players on their team for whom the next season or two will serve as a learning experience and a chance for Sacramento to evaluate which players fit on their next playoff-caliber squad.
As is the case with most teams near the bottom of the 2017-18 standings, the Sacramento Kings will have substantial money to spend this summer. Of course, that was also the case last summer and they came away with Randolph, Vince Carter, and George Hill on a total of $89 million over six years, so having cap space in Sacramento isn’t always a positive. Those mistakes will not repeat themselves this time around, simply because the Kings don’t have the type of space this summer to put themselves in that hole. Fortunately, Hill was shipped to Cleveland (though they’ll have to eat $11.0 million of Iman Shumpert’s contract) and Carter’s deal expires as of June 30, so of the $89 million they gave out last summer, only $53.3 million will actually hit their books.
General manager Vlade Divac and his staff will have more than $17 million to spend this offseason after securing Marvin Bagley with the second overall pick in Thursday’s draft and watching Carter and mid-season acquisition Bruno Caboclo walk on expired contracts. This assumes that Garrett Temple doesn’t walk away from his $8 million player option for next season; the 32-year-old shooting guard would be hard-pressed to find money like that on the open market this summer. Even if he were to opt out and get more years from another team, it’s not likely that he’ll be able to make up that $8 million over playing out this season in Sacramento and hitting free agency next year, when more teams will have money to spend. Temple also benefits from a defined role with the Kings; this past season was the most productive of his career.
Due to their abundance of youngsters, the Kings have depth at every position and don’t have any must-fill holes in free agency, which will allow them to hunt for bargains or take on another team’s bad contract to obtain a future pick or two. They’re already out their 2019 first-round pick to either Boston or Philadelphia and while they have a host of seconds coming their way, getting back into the first round in 2019 would behoove them as they continue to build out their young core. $17.3 million in space (with another $1.4 million available to them at any time due to Nigel Hayes’ non-guaranteed contract) should be enough to get in on the trade market should there be multiple teams looking to dump money.
On the other hand, this is Sacramento we’re talking about, and the Kings have never been shy about spending cash when they see an opportunity they believe will improve the team. With just DeAaron Fox and Frank Mason in their point guard ranks, Divac may target another ball handler in free agency, preferably someone who could both play on the ball with backup units and with Fox at the end of close games. He’ll have offers all over the league and Toronto has match rights, but Fred VanVleet would be a fantastic complement to Fox’s game as a high-level three-point shooter who can also run pick-and-roll and take the playmaking load off of Fox in certain situations. The Kings did some of that last year with Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic as secondary playmakers and Bogdanovic in particular was very strong in that role, but teams can never have enough passers and playmakers out of pick-and-roll and spot-up drives.
With so many players early in the NBA careers, the next year or two is all about evaluation for the Kings. Who belongs on this team long-term? Which of the big men will be the core of their rotation moving forward? Who has the most value and should the Kings cash in on them while they do? These are all questions Divac and the Kings front office will have to answer in the short-term future as they evaluate their squad in relation to the rest of the league and watch their youngsters develop new skills and hone old ones.