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De’Aaron Fox can’t save the Sacramento Kings

One player can only do so much.

The 2019-2020 season has not been kind to Kings fans. The year has been defined by an 0-5 start, an eight game losing streak, multiple injuries, ineffective coaching, disappointing veteran contributions, and the worst showing of any team in the Orlando bubble. Amidst yet another lost season, a single bright spot showed through the gloom; De'Aaron Fox's steady transformation from potential star to star.

The shine of De'Aaron's growth quickly fades when contemplating the numerous disasters surrounding him. From Luke Walton casually strolling the sidelines, seemingly unconcerned about another poor performance, to Buddy Hield, the fringe All-Star candidate from just a year ago, riding the bench, slipping further and further out of the rotation, and likely headed to the trade block this summer, to Marvin Bagley, the purported second star for Sacramento, sitting at home nursing yet another foot injury. Just about every bit of support brought in to reinforce Fox's stellar play fell short one way or another this season.

Superimposed on those individual letdowns is the laughable five-year reign of Vlade Divac, a colossal failure of a General Manager who seems as secure as ever in his position as the visionary of this debacle. His most recent blunder, nearly on par with his tip to Robert Horry so many years ago, has forced Kings fans to watch Luka Doncic vault himself into the conversation of a top-5 NBA player at 21 years of age, while Marvin Bagley struggles to play in half of his games. Under Divac sits Luke Walton, Divac's hand-picked coaching candidate who has failed to improve the team he was gifted, in any measurable way, no matter how many hours of tape he watches. Above those two rules Vivek Ranadive, a leader who will likely refuse to make any changes this summer, not because they are undeserved, but because of the financial issues his organization is reportedly facing, issues that exist in part because of Ranadive's inability to stop hiring and firing the wrong people at the wrong time. The franchise is being led by the incompetent, the ineffective, and the indecisive.

Far below that mess, and with little to no influence on those above in power, resides one man who is expected to overcome the maddening levels of chaos swirling about him and still somehow find success: De'Aaron Fox. Because of the franchise's repeated failures over the last half-decade, and their refusal to address those failures, the team can no longer rely on De'Aaron to act solely as a franchise cornerstone, as would be appropriate. Instead, they must beg him to transform into a savior, and as history has proven time and again for the Kings, no player can bear that organizational burden alone.

Abandoned Saviors

As unique as the Fox situation may feel in the moment, the current climate in Sacramento is actually reflective of the status quo since the team's playoff drought began fourteen long years ago, starting with the first iteration of De'Aaron Fox, Kevin Martin.

Back in 2006, Martin enjoyed a breakout season for the Kings, a team fresh off its best 10-year run in franchise history. K-Mart used his elite foul-drawing abilities to nearly double his scoring from the previous year, jumping from 10.8 to 20.2 points per game, and it seemed as if Sacramento had already found another piece to build around in their post-playoff world. Unfortunately for Martin, the Kings were never able to effectively build around his skills, especially in the draft, as they blew their 2006 first rounder on Quincy Douby, their 2007 pick on Spencer Hawes, and their 2008 lottery selection on Jason Thompson. Between the myriad of wasted draft picks, inadvisable trades, organizational infighting, and poor free agent signings, Martin was never supported by high-quality players, much less a second or third star, and his talent level alone was never enough to drag his team to the eighth seed. By the time the next failed savior, Tyreke Evans, came along, Martin was 25 years old and in the midst of a contract extension, so he was dealt away in the hope of supporting Sacramento's second rebuild attempt in three years.

The 2009 draft saw another potential cornerstone drift the Kings way in Tyreke Evans. After an impressive start to his opening season, the Maloof brothers recognized a potential cash cow in their first year sensation. Instead of focusing on individual development, team basketball, or how to make Martin and Evans work as a tandem, the organization prioritized the Rookie of the Year title and a meaningless 20-5-5 stat line. Martin was shoved to the side and eventually traded, while Evans became the man of the hour, for a short while, at least.

The following year saw another star drop into Sacramento's lap in the temperamental DeMarcus Cousins. While Cousins and Evans were never a perfect pairing on the court, the Kings still had the opportunity to leverage two solid, young players, but they failed to do so. Instead, the same story repeated itself as with Kevin Martin. Ineffective coaches were hired and fired on an annual basis, low-quality players were pushed into starting positions, and most importantly, several busts were drafted. Jimmer Freddette was drafted over Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard in 2011, while Thomas Robinson was taken ahead of Damian Lillard in 2012. Even with an early-career Isaiah Thomas on board, the duo's best season together ended with just 28 wins and the 13th seed in the Western Conference. Before his rookie extension even kicked in, Tyreke Evans was shipped to New Orleans to try and establish a third rebuild solely around DeMarcus Cousins.

Boogie's All-Star level of play awarded him the longest tenure of any of Sacramento's hall of fallen heroes, lasting a couple of years into his second contract with the team. Cousins also enjoyed the highest level of talent around him of any of the failed cornerstones, both from a coaching and player perspective. DeMarcus, Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay, and Michael Malone appeared to be building something special together during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons before the team's egotistical General Manager tore it all part in the name of personal vendettas, and the franchise has yet to recover from those mistakes.

Over the next several years, the Kings failed to provide any sort of stability around the mercurial Cousins.  In a span of less than three years, the organization fired Malone, hired Ty Corbin, fired Ty Corbin, hired George Karl, fired George Karl, and hired Dave Joerger. In addition to the coaching carousel, the team also struck out on every opportunity to find young, quality players to put around Cousins. From 2013 to 2016, the Kings drafted Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, and Skal Labissiere: six consecutive first round prospects who failed to develop into quality rotation players, much less secondary and tertiary stars. Another round of bad decisions led the Kings down an inevitable path. As DeMarcus Cousins approached his supermax extension worth over $200 million, it was clear that the team didn't possess the talent around Boogie to justify such an investment, and he was shipped off to jump start Sacramento's fourth attempt at a rebuild. DeMarcus was dealt to New Orleans, a late lottery pick, and a smattering of salary fillers, including one-time savior Tyreke Evans.

Recurring Trends

Just as those few successes before him, De'Aaron Fox has managed to blossom despite the incompetence around him, but that progress has undoubtedly been hampered by Sacramento's inability to operate in a normal, intelligent manner. In an almost humorous imitation of the Kings worst decisions while DeMarcus Cousins was rising among the NBA's elite, the organization has done nothing but misfire in their attempt to establish a core around their young star.

The familiar tragedy finds its genesis in the same draft in which Vlade Divac deserves so much praise for selecting Fox among a minefield of poor performers. After snagging his franchise point guard with the fifth pick, Divac decided to gamble with his second lottery pick, the one gained in the Cousins transaction, and traded back to the 15th and 20th picks. Justin Jackson, a sharpshooter who couldn't shoot and a defender who couldn't defend, was taken 15th, while Harry Giles, a project player with loads of potential and a history of serious injures, was selected 20th. As has been the case for too many years under Divac's direction, unlike several of the players taken around them, neither Jackson nor Giles has managed to break through as even starting-caliber players three years into their individual careers.

After the 2017 draft passed, the Kings discovered perhaps their greatest luck in franchise history, moving up to the second overall pick in 2018. As the news broke, fans across the nation celebrated, as the organization was seemingly guaranteed a shot at one of two superstars, Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic. Unfortunately for anyone wishing to watch the Kings for the next 15 years, Vlade Divac blew the easiest layup of his career and selected the semi-permanently injured Marvin Bagley over the generational talent of Luka Doncic.

The 2019 draft, often forgotten amidst the more horrifying mistakes of Vlade's tenure, also didn't yield much, as Divac had already punted away the team's first rounder back in 2015 to sign Rajon Rondo to a one-year deal. Gary Trent Jr., one of the most exciting players in the Orlando restart, was originally drafted by the Kings before being dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for Vlade Divac's most prized possession: a pair of second round picks.

In addition to the constant failures in the draft, the Kings have also managed to parrot their previous foolishness in coaching hirings and firings. After Dave Joerger led the team to its most successful record since the postseason drought began, and after proving that he could get the most out of a roster full of middling talent, the Kings allowed one of their front office officials to undermine their head coach for an entire season before the team terminated both parties last summer. Joerger, the man most responsible for Sacramento's best season in over a decade, was dismissed, while Divac, the man most responsible for firing the man most responsible for Sacramento's best record in over a decade, was awarded with a lucrative four-year contract extension.

The decision to terminate Joerger wouldn't sit so poorly if Vlade Divac had followed any sort of traditional path toward finding his next head coach, but as has been typical with Vlade's reign, he threw caution to the wind and trust his gut, hiring Luke Walton without conducting a single interview. Despite numerous promises of greatness and high praise of Walton during the 2019 offseason, he has largely flamed out in Sacramento, as several players have regressed under his leadership, and the team looks less competent on both ends of the floor, even with an upgraded roster. The Kings gambled hard on another one of Divac's non-traditional decisions, and the results have been nothing short of disastrous.

Impending Financial Restraints

The combination of blown draft picks, bad coaching , and passable-at-best talent is worrisome enough when contemplating Fox's future with the franchise, but another serious issue will trouble De'Aaron Fox over the next few years, an issue that no one envisioned under Vivek Ranadive. Despite the unacceptable performances of both Vlade Divac and Luke Walton, the Kings are highly unlikely to make any large changes this fall, no matter how badly they're needed, because the organization doesn't want to spend any additional cash, a stance disturbingly reflective of the Maloof's final years. Sam Amick, perhaps the most connected media member in all of Sacramento, recently stated "I have nobody telling me that there is going to be a change" in reference to Vlade Divac's job security.

At best, fans can hope to build enough pressure to force Vlade to resign, which would result in either an internal promotion for Joe Dumars, or a cheap, external hire. Either way, no quality front office leaders are heading to Sacramento, and that's assuming that Divac is willing to give up the reigns to his mad project, as well as millions of dollars in salary, which is by no means guaranteed. On the coaching front, Luke Walton would be ridiculous to resign, and it's been said time and again that Walton isn't going anywhere with three years left on his contract. It's not that the Kings can't find better off-court talent to place around Fox. They simply refuse to do so.

Adding to the stress of Walton's and Divac's long-term deals are the upcoming player personnel expenses in Sacramento. There is perhaps no more frightening prospect to a cash-strapped NBA owner than a bad, expensive team, and that's exactly where the Kings area headed over the next few years. Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes already hold contracts in excess of $80 million apiece, Bogdan Bogdanovic is set to get paid this summer, and De'Aaron Fox is lined up for a five-year, max rookie extension somewhere in the range of $170 million in October. It's entirely within the realm of possibility that the team will be forced to sacrifice what little above-average talent it possesses to alleviate some of the financial's difficulties coming in the next season or two.

And this is where the burdens grow too great for De'Aaron Fox, despite his incredible level of skill and potential. As things stand now, not only will the Kings ask their star to drag a bottom-tier front office, an ineffective coaching staff, and a roster full of average players to the playoffs in an increasingly competitive Western Conference, they'll ask him to do so without offering any solutions to the problems currently plaguing the organization. Ownership will pretend that they're doing everything to help their franchise cornerstone and make this city Sacramento Proud again, while quietly dismantling his support on the back end.

And through no fault of his own, De'Aaron Fox will likely fail.

One player, no matter how talented, can only do so much, as the league witnessed with LeBron James and Luke Walton last year. If things don't change, and change quickly, the franchise will continue to flounder under Divac and Walton, their contracts will eventually expire, and a brand new management group will be brought into the organization. From there, just as Isaiah Thomas was never Pete D'Alessandro's draft pick, and just as DeMarcus Cousins was never Vlade Divac's first choice, the new General Manager will have no attachment to De'Aaron and his max deal. Fox will likely be the only available carrot to dangle in the trade market to galvanize Sacramento's fifth rebuild in a decade-and-a-half, and Kings fans will watch another of their favorites depart in the name of a new, old reset.

Glimmers of Hope

As disheartening as it is to discuss De'Aaron Fox's likely trajectory as Sacramento's lone star, all hope has yet to be lost. The Kings have a future multi-time All-Star and potential top-20 player on their roster, and they'll maintain control over his future for at least the next six seasons. Unlike in many years past, the organization has a legitimate piece to build around.

It's also important to recognize that this franchise's future is by no means set in stone, no matter how quickly the Kings seem to be hurtling down the path towards an inevitable rebuild. Vivek Ranadive has every opportunity to turn things around, as long as he acts, and acts quickly. Finally snagging that elusive eighth seed is the first step towards success, and for competent organizations, making the playoffs isn't just possible, it's technically probably, as more than half of the league's teams make the postseason each year. The Kings simply must start acting as a competent organization, and that means holding personnel accountable for poor performances, no matter how expensive that may seem in the short term. Vlade Divac must be immediately replaced with an experienced, high-quality candidate who will be provided with a fully flushed out front office and scouting staff, while also being granted the authority to do as he or she sees fit with Luke Walton, no matter how many years remain on his contract.

Those changes will cost cold hard cash in the immediate, but the rewards will return exponentially if ownership manages to hire the right people for the right jobs. The Kings have a chance to properly build around their young star, develop into a perennial playoff team, and earn tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue from those results. A window of opportunity is open for Vivek Ranadive, if he's willing to make the tough calls and seize the moment in front of him. Conversely, if he refuses to act in the name of financial flexibility, fans should expect to see nothing more than the status quo for the last 14 years: another star trade and another rebuild.

In addition to De'Aaron Fox's talent level and Sacramento's opportunity to still make much-needed changes, one other bit of solace remains when contemplating Fox's future with the Kings, and that's the determination of this franchise's young star. De'Aaron has stated time and again that he wants to be in Sacramento. De'Aaron has stated time and again that he wants to win in Sacramento. De'Aaron can win in Sacramento.

But as talented and and as driven as he may be, De'Aaron Fox cannot save the Sacramento Kings, at least not without some help.

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Kevin Lam
1 month ago

Boy, if our “GM” was actually smart he would’ve taken a player in the 2018 draft that could’ve shared the load….

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  Klam

That wasn’t me, Klam!

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  Klam

Me neither! I gave you a green thumb!

Last edited 1 month ago by Kosta
Rik Smits
1 month ago

Long Great read! Thanks.
 
If (big if) change will occur, it quite likely that Vlade will be replaced by Dumars, isn’t it? Might be an improvement, might be a lateral move…

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

And here we are…
 

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Scott Perbetsky
1 month ago

Barack Obama Applause GIF by Obama - Find & Share on GIPHY

Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  ScottyPop

I have nothing to add. Just a great breakdown of the decision-making that has got us to this point. Phenomenal article.

Ron Bull
1 month ago

Great job Tim. That is an amazingly accurate summary of how the Kings have navigated the last 14 seasons, with judgements that seemed more fact than opinion. Thanks for a fantastic read.

Rik Smits
1 month ago

Guys, I’m bored. Is it okay if I downvote every comment?

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Just one more reason to enact my TKH Commenter Advanced Analytics page idea. The 👍/👎 ratio advanced stat would show which commenters are excessive downvoters.

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

Great idea. I’m sorry I have to downvote this.

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

(In the analytics world we refer to this as a small sample size downvote)

G Naps
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

is that before or after the “20 games where a team goes 13-7 = PLAYOFFS!”
section?

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

What about us excessive upvoters?

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  Kosta

It’s basically the same as assist to turnover ratio. A high number means you’re willing to spread it around without hurting the team with sloppy play.

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Will my comment go red if I get 5 or more downvotes?

G Naps
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Not sure but I added to the down vote so need just one more

Rob Hessing
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

I’ll give you the 5th one just because I love science.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Maybe it would be nice if a comment gets enough down votes (10-15 perhaps) it just disappears.

Tom Cutter
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

There is a disturbing lack of positivity on the blog!
comment image

J Man
1 month ago

De’Aaron just finished reading this article:

comment image

Kevin Salvadori
1 month ago

A magnificent article. Well done. There are so many places one could drop the pin on our futility as a franchise. Maybe on the Horry tip. Maybe unceremoniously canning Adelman. Maybe passing on Dame, Kawhi, Luka, or Giannis. Maybe scalping our scouting and performance departments to a shoebox size collection of unproven people.

Whatever the case, there is a theme present throughout. Every time the team had an opportunity to double down and fight for or keep talent, and not get in their own way, they didn’t take it. They fired Petrie (2x Exec of the Year) instead of giving him one more year, with funding, to help the new owners get settled. They fired Malone despite commanding the room and a volatile All Star. They fired Joerger despite a unified team, great staff, and promising performances. They hired an unproven GM with no front office connections or real reputation as an executive of any kind, then extended him after a litany of bad decisions.

Again, Vivek can fix this. Only him. And it could happen immediately. But it will not be cheap and it will, at least in the near term, ensure Sacramento’s reputation as a B-list basketball town that has no idea what it’s doing. It will be worth it, but only if he makes the bold move and gets a proven NBA executive in right now and gives him free reign.

We don’t have to suck forever, but hard (and expensive) decisions need to be made immediately.

John Coelho
1 month ago
Reply to  KevinSalvadori

28 losing seasons out of 35 since the Kings moved to Sacramento. Based on history, chances are the Kings will continue to suck. Ineptitude is the DNA of the franchise.

John Coelho
1 month ago

Excellent and damning summary of the current state of the Kings. Well done, Tim!

karl swinney
1 month ago

Great article. Kinda depressing, though.

Matt Bohmbach
1 month ago

This makes me a sad panda.

Graham Caplan
1 month ago

My fear is that Fox will request a trade by next offseason unless Luke and/or Vlade are fired. Buddy too. And so the process repeats…

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  LandParkJimmer

Yeah, if things go downhill it is not impossible that he will try to force his way out. He doesn’t seem like the type, but everyone has a breaking point.

Fifth Mookie
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

I would hold zero ill will towards him if he did. I hold zero ill will towards Dedmon for example.

Andrew Stein
1 month ago
Reply to  TheFifthMookie

I’d probably respect him more – why would anybody interested in competing and winning at the highest level want to stay stuck in this burning wreck of a franchise? (the fact that he is seemingly interested in staying does make him superhumanly awesome though)

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago

The results are clear. Tim Maxwell laid it all out there perfectly. This mess stems from the top: the decision maker(s).

Why can’t the decision maker(s) see it like we can? Perhaps they are surrounded by too many “yes people” and too many enablers in the Sacramento media.

The ownership needs to hear the criticism so they can face it.

Rob Hessing
1 month ago

Next year appears very bleak to me. The Kings are obviously not going to catch LAL, LAC, Den, Hou, Uta or Dal. They will not catch OKC unless the Thunder blow things up, and even then, the Thunder without Paul and Adams might still be better than the current Kings roster. With a healthy front line, Por leaves the Kings in the dust. GS will be healthy. That’s 9 teams for 8 playoff slots, and we have not gotten to up-and-comers Phx, NO or Mem. That would leave the Kings battling SA and Min for 13th-15th.

I cringe at what De’Aaron Fox’s temperature might be after his team finishes 13th-15th next year. Honestly, short of a complete front office overhaul (which would include changing the locks so that Vivek and Matina have no access), this organization is doomed. And even with a new front office, the timing is such that there is no saving next season. A new front office might be best served blowing it all up and getting whatever it can in return, including Fox.

The one hope for next year is such a slim one and provides zero room for error or fallback / falloff, and it consists of the following:

  • Fox must ascend to a level where no one can question whether he is better than guys like Young and Morant. He needs to ascend to viable all-star conversation.
  • Bagley must play 70 games, and play them as no worse than a consensus top five player in the 2018 draft.
  • Buddy Hield must be properly utilized. You’re not going to win a trade involving Hield, especially with this front office. If you trade him under current circumstances, this team does not improve, at least not nearly enough to move up much in the standings.
  • 3-4 teams in the West will need to suffer either catastrophic injuries or complete implosions.
  • The game plan must be to the team’s star’s strength, which is speed and transition. And the roster must be constructed to benefit from that speed, and the backup PG must be an up-tempo player as well.

All said, I don’t see it happening. And I also don’t see major changes coming for this front office and coaching staff, as there is just too much of a dollar investment in both right now. Barring a miraculous change in fortune, next season will be one of the most frustrating and unrewarding for Kings fans in Sacramento history. It will make for some fantastic writing and conversation here, but it will leave a lot to be desired when it comes to fan (or De’Aaron Fox’s) satisfaction.

John Coelho
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

Well said and agree with all your outlined points. Where does Bogi fit into the equation?

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  realjc

Bogi probably fits into Pops equation in San Antonio. 🙁

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  Kosta

I guess he could also give Dallas a try, since he’s friends with LD.

Rob Hessing
1 month ago
Reply to  realjc

Given that I think that it needs to be blown up, I would not pay over for Bogi – maybe something minor can be had via a sign & trade. This is nothing against Bogi, but I see him as a key component for a good team, and a wasted investment for a team like the Kings.

John Coelho
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

Agree. Bogi is nothing more than a complimentary piece for a winning team. He is just a cap killer with the Kings.

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  realjc

IMO it makes more sense to trade Buddy and re-sign Bogi. He’s the better playmaker, and will probably be on a cheaper deal.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

Agreed. I think Buddy to Philly could happen in some way that is a complete lateral move for both teams, but allows more financial flexibility for the Kings down the road. Horford comes to mind and maybe the Kings could get a future pick or additional assets out of the deal.

Austin Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Adamsite

I love Buddy and Bogi but not sure if they are even young enough for us to make a full turn around and rebuild with either. I would trade both for good picks and/or good younger players, We need a another top 5 pick asap, no star free agents are coming here anytime soon. Barnes gotta go too, just destroy everything Vlade did and rebuild the right way for once.

Last edited 1 month ago by ajonez81
Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

I’m guessing instead of making changes, the Kings front office is hoping for those 5 bullet points you laid out to happen.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kosta
Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  Kosta

Vlade’s reaction to Rob’s comment

DUMB.gif
Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

Yes, perfect! 🙂

Tom Cutter
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

I believe the Kings are on par with Dallas in talent, but lack a solid defender who inspires the team.

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  ZillersCat

Fox is not near the level of Luka and IMO also below Porzingis.

Rory Cornell
1 month ago

Just a quick correction: Gary Trent Jr was drafted in 2018, and traded for 2 future picks. One of those picks was Minnesota’s 2019 2nd Rounder. The Kings then used that pick to draft Justin James (one pick before Eric Paschall and 4 picks before Bol Bol).

Christopher Hauck
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

What’s crazy to me to is that a lot of 2nd rounds are wastelands with very little talent.

We had the #36 pick in 2018 – a draft that was considered very deep and we had the chance to use some second round picks to move up or at least pick from a deep class. Instead we traded our pick for two later 2nd round picks in future years.

Who knows how good all of the players will become, but it’s not just Trent Jr, we also could have taken Melton, Bonga, Kuruks, Diallo, Vanderbilt, Diop, Milton, etc. I didn’t even and don’t even love all those guys, but that group has a lot more potential then most late 2nd rounders.

Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

They only scouted Bagley. They drafted him, dropped the mic, and called it a day.

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

Yeah I mean I don’t think a whole lot of people were very high on Trent specifically, but there were a few guys that had first round talent that slipped. I seemed to remember at the time it felt pretty obvious that they weren’t really planning on keeping the pick.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

That would require a scouting staff, and not Vlade’s golfing buddies in Peja and BJax.

Christopher Hauck
1 month ago

Very well written and agreed. This problem has been a very obvious stumbling block and a big reason why I have advocated getting rid of Vlade even prior to now (even with last season’s mild success).

We have been in a very brief window before we go into a potential salary cap h-e-double hockey sticks. And since the post attached here – we have signed Hield to a big contract (though probably deserved heading into this season), way overpaid for Barnes, and signed guys like Ariza, CoJo, and Dedmon to bad contracts. Plus we ditched our perfectly average coach for one who seems completely overwhelmed.

Time and opportunity cost matters. Not doubling down on sunk costs matters. Using assets efficiently matters. And not getting complacent matters.

It’s time to replace the FO now. Yes, it might mean eating ~$2-5M a year for Vlade’s salary assuming we can’t just promote him “up” into another role. But we stand to lost so much more money in lost TV, ticket, and merch sales the next couple of years if Vlade continues to fumble this rebuild.

The Doncic decision alone has cost the franchise likely over $100M across his career. That maybe drastic. But this year’s lottery choice could easily cost the Kings more than the entirety of Vlade’s contact.

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

I like that you put a dollar amount to the costs to the franchise from the Doncic decision. Even if the FO could care less about winning, they need to care about losing (money, that is).

c k
1 month ago
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

Well Joerger and Barnes come off the books next year (and maybe tolliver?). Allocate that money for Luke and Vlade. Or promote them to head of the janitorial services so you get some return for your money.

Don’t care how or if the Kings play the next 5 years at the salary floor. Pay for a GM, scouting department, competent trainers, and a competent coach. Sell everything, even Fox because he will be long in the tooth by the time they have a chance of being good.

Either pay them to go away now or they’ll be paying a lot more in the future when no one comes to games and they still have to pay off whatever free agent mistakes come next.

Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  cbrody

Mentioned this yesterday. But I’d be fine with selling off some second rounders to alleviate Vlade and Luke’s salaries if it meant bringing in some decent decision-makers.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

They can’t be making that much. I’d put money on Vlade being one of the lowest paid GMs in the league, if not the lowest.

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  cbrody

This season would’ve been the last year of Joerger’s contract. Next season, only Walton will be on the books.

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

Vlade is useless and will likely be a distraction/disruption if he stays around.
 
In any way, the idea that “promoting” Vlade to some ceremonial role saves money is faulty. You still have to pay the man and the new person who replaces him. The only thing it theoretically saves is some face.

roland torres
1 month ago

You could have thrown in Mitch Richmond’s name too as the lonely star not good enough to singlehandedly bring the Kings to the playoffs consistently. I’m not ready to put Fox as a multiple all-star either-he may put up stats, but they’re going to say he’s not lifting his team to be winners. Not to mention there are a lot of great all-star guards now and on the come-up (Ja Morant, SGA etc.) that Fox will be battling for reserve spots for-and those 2 are on better squads.

Chad Wilson
1 month ago
Reply to  fire_voisin

It is a testament to how great Mitch was that he was able to will that team, losing record and all, into the playoffs and even win a game. The finances of the NBA were so different then, but I agree.

Parker Wells
1 month ago

Just look at Phoenix. Look how quick their turnaround is coming around. And they didn’t have to blow up their roster. They just fired their shitty GM, hired a good one, and landed a competent coach. Then they built around Booker. It’s kind of that simple.

Of course Phoenix will have to prove their bubble ascendancy into a full season to be true, but it’s looking good so far.

Ican Hascheezburger
1 month ago
Reply to  Wonderchild

Alas, the Sun-Kings shall depart ways.

Kevin Lam
1 month ago
Reply to  Wonderchild

How many teams are going to go through rebuilds and get better before the Kings ever get good again? All of them?

Last edited 1 month ago by Klam
Chad Wilson
1 month ago
Reply to  Klam

“How many teams are going to go through rebuilds and get better before the Kings ever get good again? All of them?” – Klam

Magic 8 ball says YES

Last edited 1 month ago by sactownchad
Kevin Lam
1 month ago
Reply to  sactownchad

“Is the Kings’ future bright?”
comment image

Parker Wells
1 month ago
Reply to  Klam

You mean again? Pretty sure everyone except Minny has lapped us at least once in 14 years.

Eric W
1 month ago
Reply to  Wonderchild

Even MIN made the playoffs once.

El Ren
1 month ago
Reply to  Wonderchild

Booker’s been great and the inside out with Ayton has been meshing well. As far as their quick turnaround… as you said they would have to sustain this level of play into next season. But in my opinion the Suns still rate similarly to Kings. It’s just our bubble experience was a disaster and the Sun’s was perfection.

Last edited 1 month ago by anan1234
Parker Wells
1 month ago
Reply to  anan1234

Right, but their bubble run signifies a lot of positive momentum, and every single member of their core is on contract for next year.

It also looks great from a national media perspective. Everyone seems to be rooting for them right now, and little things like the family introduction video do wonders for positive PR.

El Ren
1 month ago
Reply to  Wonderchild

I think that’s where I was trying to go. They have had positive momentum but I just don’t think their turn around is quicker then the Kings. In my opinion it’s going at a similar pace with the Suns squeaking ahead of the Kings at the moment.

I think we can be better then next depending on improvements of our core of course.

David Echard
1 month ago
Reply to  anan1234

Core? What is the core? 2 SG’s that will turn 28. A SF turning 29 making 20 mil. The Suns are far ahead of the Kings. This Young Team moniker is a joke. Literally, the Kings starting lineup has one young player( Not including Bagley) The Suns are much younger and better coached without question. Kings haven’t won 7 games in a row for 17 years.

El Ren
1 month ago
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

I just quibble with the idea that Suns are far ahead of the Kings. Cause I feel like there is recency bias going on with this Sun nice bubble run. I didn’t see anyone so bullish on the Suns pre bubble.

Eric W
1 month ago
Reply to  anan1234

I’m not sure about far ahead. But they’re younger and their talent fits better. Both in terms of roster construction and play style.

David Echard
1 month ago
Reply to  anan1234

Suns had injury issues all year. Suns were ranked 4th in the West before Ayton got injured. Missed 30 games. They also lost Oubre and Baynes for extended injuries. I would say they are ahead of the Kings. Better Coach, Overall Better talent. Booker is better than Fox.

Rik Smits
1 month ago
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

Completely agreed. The Suns have a better coach, a better core, a younger core, and without checking it I believe that they don’t have such albatross deals as Buddy and Barnes.

Eric W
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

When they finally got rid of McDonough they started making moves that make some sense. Even the Warren deal, which I wouldn’t say was a great one, was calculated to enable them to sign quality role players and they used their pick to try to replace Warren on a rookie deal with Cam Johnson.

T I
1 month ago

Great article, although I would disagree with part of your premise – that Fox is a budding star. His usage rate and shots per 100 possessions increased significantly this year. In essence, the team did put the ball in his hands this season (as they should have). The results show that the franchise shouldn’t consider him their cornerstone quite yet. I’d argue that he didn’t exactly make a leap this season.

The good – a marginal improvement in offensive efficiency, a slight bump in assist rate (and a small dip in turnover rate, which is good). The not so great – his shooting from three was abysmal, his FT shooting dipped a bit, and let’s be honest – he’s still a poor team defender currently.

Moreover, as a budding star, I’d expect that giving him the responsibility to take control of this team would result in an improved record. Clearly that didn’t happen. His team’s performance in the bubble was anemic. Overall this season, the team performed better with him off the floor, both by plus/minus and overall record (10-10 without him). And by RPM, he’s been the 155th best player in the NBA this season.

Could he still make the jump? Absolutely. He wouldn’t be the first point guard in league history to really develop four or five seasons in – but not only is he not a top-20 player overall yet, he’s probably at the low end of the top 20 point guards in the league.

Last edited 1 month ago by Otis
Parker Wells
1 month ago
Reply to  Otis

Watching Jeffries over the bubble tournament, and I think it’s entirely possible the Stockton Kings have a better set of coaches than the big team.

Can we convert Walton’s contract into a 2-way?

Parker Wells
1 month ago
Reply to  Wonderchild

Whoops. Didn’t necessarily mean this to be a reply. Still getting used to the new commenting system.

T D
1 month ago
Reply to  Otis

I see him as progressing to the tier two star level (although not there yet). That would include the Lowry’s and Conley’s of the NBA world, which is nothing to scoff at but also not very transformative for a franchise on their own.
 

Last edited 1 month ago by 1951
Eric W
1 month ago
Reply to  1951

This sounds about right for a higher end realistic outcome.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  1951

Totally agree.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  Otis

I agree Otis. He is beginning to remind of a Mike Conley type career arc. He’s gonna be good, respected and a key cog to a good team, but he’s not that cornerstone player a contending team needs. As good as Conley is/was, he wasn’t an All-Star or NBA champion.

T D
1 month ago

Yeah but other than all that how are things looking?

Dwight Krieger
1 month ago

Most people in the world hope 2020 will just go away. Now they know what we Kings fans have felt like for the last fourteen years. Thanks Tim for the reminder.

David Echard
1 month ago

I don’t always agree with Stephen A. Smith. But, I do agree that Fox is not the Number one option on a playoff team. He could very well be a very important Number 2 or 3. That’s not to diminish his talent. Fox can possible make another leap next year. 3 pt consistency, a better facilitator, and better shot selection. The only way this team will be able to get a star is through the draft. That’s why passing on Doncic will haunt this team for over a decade.No highly rated free agent is coming here. For multiple reasons: Front office, coaching, small market, etc. But most importantly, no history of consistent winning and playoffs. Bringing in the right GM will be the foundation. The next 2 drafts after this year are strong. The new GM and coach should make everyone available. Build with draft picks, young talent, and expiring contracts. The sacrifice would be watching a Kings team that will win 20-30 games the next couple of seasons. But, the payoff would be huge for the longterm.

John Navickas
1 month ago
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

The sacrifice is 10 wins! Sadly it may be less than that. You could build the bubble Nets and still need salary to make the league minimum… they worked us over Thats where we are at.

David Echard
1 month ago
Reply to  CoreyBrewersD

10…. I’ll take it. If would get us a Top 3 pick in 2021-22.

T D
1 month ago
Vincent Serrato
1 month ago

Great article, and unfortunately we are repeating history over again as a franchise.

So what are the realistic options? Let’s just assume we have the same FO and Coach moving forward since Vicek is focused on election apps for the time being. What can this team do to get better? I would say a hard 1 year rebuild, but it seems so unlikely from this FO. What stars are realistically available? and is it worth trading around 3 draft picks due to not having players worth much?

John Navickas
1 month ago
Reply to  Chent

There are no stars available that the Kings can/should acquire. would just be moving deck chairs. Draft in a weak draft resign our own RFA at a premium…. Time to Blow it up

Kings Guru21
1 month ago

Good article Tim.

Nate Ayers
1 month ago

great read. Surprised you didn’t take the chance to say something shitty about Rashida Jones

Mark Aroni
1 month ago

I will not stand by idly while you slander the Kings like this. The Wizards are 0-7 in the bubble, so we’ve had the SECOND worst showing.

Austin Jones
1 month ago

You bout to lose all your money anyway if you don’t fire Vlade because Sac fans are tired of supporting this mess. I been real hard on Vlade but how can I blame the idiot that didn’t pick Luka when there’s an even bigger idiot that hired him. I like Fox, what a crappy situation for him, somebody needs to wake Vivek up, he thinks he’s woke but he’s not. Prayers up for Vlade quitting y’all.

Last edited 1 month ago by ajonez81

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