Warriors and Kings: A Tale of Two Rebuilds

Mike Ehrmann

Just a few years ago, both Northern California Franchises began a rebuilding process. Now though, it looks like the Kings are alone as Golden State attains more and more success.

Tom retweeted an interesting comment this morning about the difference between the now 15-7 Golden State Warriors and 7-14 Sacramento Kings.

This really got me thinking. How did the Warriors get so much better than the Kings? Like Sacramento, Golden State has been in a rebuilding stage for most of the last five or so years. They of course had their magical playoff run in 2006-07, which coincidentally was the first year the Kings did not make the playoffs. Rebuilding for both the Kings and Warriors really started in earnest around the 2008-09 season.

Draft History

First, let's take a look at the draft history of both teams during this time since it's what the original tweet that got me thinking was focusing on.

2008 Draft

  • Sacramento drafted Jason Thompson with the 12th pick, Sean Singletary with the 42nd pick and Patrick Ewing Jr. with the 43rd pick.
  • Golden State drafted Anthony Randolph with the 14th pick and Richard Hendrix with the 49th pick.
  • Sacramento clearly got the better deal here. Thompson is still with the Kings and has proven to be a capable big man in the NBA. Randolph meanwhile has bounced around the league multiple times already, already with his 4th team in 5 years.
2009 Draft
  • Sacramento drafted Tyreke Evans with the 4th pick, Omri Casspi with the 23rd pick and Jon Brockman with the 38th pick.
  • Golden State drafted Stephen Curry with the 7th pick.
  • While Evans won Rookie of the Year and Casspi and Brockman both looked like promising pieces their rookie year, it is Curry who has bloomed into a star. Casspi has gone from promising starter to disappointing role player, Brockman isn't with an NBA team, and Evans has yet to live up to the promise of his excellent rookie campaign. Curry's health has been shaky so far, but when he's on the court, he's a difference maker, and is currently playing at an All-Star level for the Warriors.
2010 Draft
  • Sacramento drafted DeMarcus Cousins with the 5th pick and Hassan Whiteside with the 33rd pick.
  • Golden State drafted Ekpe Udoh with the 6th pick.
  • The Kings win big here, not only because of who they took, but because of who the Warriors did not take. While Udoh has developed into a respectable role player, the Warriors missed out on grabbing guys like Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward and Paul George, all taken within four picks after 6th. Cousins hasn't exactly been perfect for Sacramento, but he's definitely been good, and sometimes great (at least on the court).
2011 Draft
  • Sacramento drafted Jimmer Fredette with the 10th pick, Tyler Honeycutt with the 35th pick, and Isaiah Thomas with the 60th pick.
  • Golden State drafted Klay Thompson with the 11th pick, Jeremy Tyler with the 39th pick and Charles Jenkins with the 44th pick.
  • Another victory for Golden State. Klay Thompson is one of the league's better young Shooting Guards already in his second season. Meanwhile the Kings have only seen glimpses from Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas. Thomas excelled in his rookie season when given the reins to the offense but has seemingly regressed during his sophomore year, possibly due to both inconsistent playing time and a new offense. Jimmer Fredette has definitely improved, but he's nowhere near Thompson's level.
2012 Draft
  • Sacramento drafted Thomas Robinson with the 5th pick.
  • Golden State drafted Harrison Barnes with the 7th pick, Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick, Draymond Green with the 35th pick and Ognjen Kuzmic with the 52nd pick.
  • This is a bit early to tell, but right now it's looking to be in Golden State's favor. Barnes is starting for the Warriors at Small Forward and doing a decent, not great, job. Ezeli and Green are both rotation players. Robinson is a rotation player for the Kings, but struggles finishing around the basket and hasn't earned his coach's trust enough to start over Travis freaking Outlaw.
The draft is all about finding that one player that can change your team forever. The Warriors probably got the edge there in Stephen Curry over both Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. Klay Thompson was another great addition. But the draft only tells one part of the story.

Trades

I'm not going to list every trade these two teams committed over the last few years, but here are the major ones

Sacramento

Golden State

Both teams engaged in a lot of cost-cutting moves, a signature of a rebuild project. Overpaid veterans like Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Brad Miller, Ron Artest were dumped for almost nothing but salary cap relief. Two signature trades for each team involved the team's best player, but neither can really say they did better than the other. Kevin Martin was jettisoned for Carl Landry, and Landry severely underperformed while in Sacramento. Last season, the Warriors traded star Monta Ellis for the oft-injured Andrew Bogut. Bogut has barely played for the Warriors yet. The best trade the Kings made was for Marcus Thornton, but Thornton has been struggling this season in a bench role. Meanwhile the Warriors have been free from a disaster trade like two the Kings made last year. In the first they took on money for a marginally better player in John Salmons, while dropping three spots in the draft. By dropping in the draft they missed out on guys like Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker, both playing very well for their respective teams. Even dropping to ten, they still missed out on Kawhi Leonard.

In another trade that blew up in the Kings faces, Sacramento dealt Omri Casspi and a future 1st round pick to Cleveland for J.J. Hickson. Hickson had a terrible year and was in fact cut by the team. He joined Portland and has returned to form over there. The loss of Casspi doesn't hurt much, but the loss of a pick does.

Golden State also made a bold sign-and-trade in acquiring David Lee. Overpaid and probably a bit overrated, nevertheless Lee has helped transform the Warriors. He rebounds well and scores efficiently while playing within the team concept. Another nice trade was the acquisition of Brandon Rush. Although out with injury for probably the rest of the year, Rush has been a great role player for Golden State.

Signings


Finally, we take a look at Free Agency and Signings, where the Warriors again surpass the Kings. I will only look at multi-year deals.

Sacramento

  • Claimed Travis Outlaw off of amnesty waivers for 4 years, $12 million
  • Signed Chuck Hayes to 4 year, $22.4 million deal
  • Signed Aaron Brooks to 2 year, $6.6 million deal

Golden State

  • Signed Corey Maggette to 5 year, $48 million deal
  • Signed Ronny Turiaf to 4 year, $17 million deal
  • Signed Anthony Morrow to 2 year, $1.2 million deal
  • Signed Dorell Wright to 3 year, $11.5 million deal
  • Signed Lou Amundson to 2 year, $4.6 million deal
  • Signed Carl Landry to 2 year, $8 million deal
I know we make jokes about the Kings never doing anything in Free Agency, but man, do they never do anything in Free Agency. Last offseason marked the first time since 2007 when the Kings signed an outside free agent to a multi-year deal. Hayes' deal isn't that bad, although it looked like it last year when he was out of shape. The Outlaw addition has been a disaster on the court. Brooks signing seems fair statistically, although I think his presence has hurt the development of both Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette.

As for Golden State, the Maggette signing is gnarly, but they rectified that pretty soon in a trade. They also had some nice quality signings with Morrow, Wright, Amundson and Landry, who has been an absolute bargain for them this season.

Perhaps the biggest difference between franchises though is management. The Warriors were revamped in large part due to the acquisition of the team by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in 2011. Lacob and Guber have poured a lot of resources into turning the organisation around, both on the court and off it. They have a young, hungry G.M. in Bob Myers and hired the legendary Jerry West as a consultant. They're building a culture of winning basketball in Golden State and the players are buying in.

Almost the exact opposite is happening in Sacramento. Ownership is actively trying to move the team, not holding management responsible for a terribly misfit roster, and while Keith Smart seems to be trying to create a team culture, I've yet to see that culture seep in.

***

Sacramento and Golden State used to share the long, winding road known as rebuilding. But now the Warriors have taken the exit to respectability and success, while the Kings are stuck in traffic with the driver asleep at the wheel.
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