Marc Stein's new ESPN Power Rankings provide an opportunity for a vicious wake up today. The Kings have ended their free fall at terminal velocity and are now a dismal 30. You know, out of 30. John Hollinger also ranks the Kings at 30. This calls for reflection. (Edit: That’s 2 in a row we dropped to the Clippers, no one can argue with this ranking anymore)
Some may cry that the Kings have 3 fewer losses than the 4-17 Clippers, but their recent winning spurt and Thanksgiving beat down proved enough to propel the young Clips to 25. But this isn't about the Clippers, or any other franchise. It's time to review the front office.
As Stein notes, "The Kings are 15-55 since Geoff Petrie's contract extension was announced in December 2009 when they were 14-16." Petrie for the most part has been spared criticism, presumably because he was the architect of the beloved 1999-2006 era which we are all so familiar with. But it is time for Kings fans to stop looking the other way, and at the least evaluate what is wrong with the front office.
What worked in 1998-2006 isn’t necessarily going to work now, as talent evaluation has evolved. The biggest problem with the front office is the looseness of its structure. We don’t have a statistics department to probe the statistical nuances of the modern game. This clouds the organization’s judgment of its own players, prospective players to trade for, and most importantly draft options. For a team that has made so many moves in the last 5 years, and heavily depends upon the lottery for its current talent, this is completely inexcusable. To make matters worse, Petrie rarely works out several players widely considered to be within logical drafting range. I mean, if we’re going to be dependent drafted players to carry the franchise, the amount of energy devoted to the process better reflect the investment. Right now, it doesn’t. And that’s how we draft players like Quincy Douby and Spencer Hawes.
Which brings me to my next point, pressure on the budding stars. Yes, it is great that Tyreke Evans is the reigning Rookie of the Year. But when the season was lost last year, and the Kings face planted after the All-Star break, winning games took a backseat to making sure Tyreke got his. This gave the season some tangible success, but perhaps came at the cost of developing the team. Without working closely in the Kings organization, I can't say where this comes from for sure. But the coaching staff knew about it based on how much we played ‘Reke down the stretch, which makes me think it wasn’t completely the marketing department. The bottom line is in creating tangible success the franchise has put a nearly unbearable pressure on its young star. The same kind of attitude can be seen in the giant murals of DeMarcus Cousins. The kid is already under enough scrutiny as it is. Let him do something before you plaster his face all over the city and the arena.
There seems to be a sense that there are instant fixes out there if we can only figure them out. Players who can simply walk into the lineup with a skill set that will perfectly complement their teammate’s games and generate instant success. The front office seems to be searching for this component, as we have turned over the majority of players in the last season and a half. But many have not panned out, and when you sign a veteran support specialist who doesn’t do his specialty, and doesn’t nurture the younger players as a veteran should valuable playing time is sucked away from the young talent. You know, the young talent that we’re so dependent on. Pertinent examples include Ime Udoka, Luther Head, Darnell Jackson, and Antoine Wright. The organization is wasting an already tight budget so our future can rack up frustratingly few minutes, and in worst-case scenarios DNPs (see the revolving dog door Donte, Omri, and JT).
It’s catastrophic because if the team keeps doing this poorly there will be no chance of getting support for a new team. The rebuilding tag only works so long as there are no expectations. Cue this season, and our current power ranking. It’s not the players at this point. Or the coaching staff, although I have my own separate problems with them as well. The best thing to do is ride the storm out with all hands on deck. Let’s see if we can’t develop some chemistry by implementing a set rotation and letting young guys play with each other. And if and when the storm clears, it’s time to put nostalgia away and talk about replacing the captain, or at least the way the ship operates.