For the past few years, the biggest issues facing the Kings were largely off the court. There wasn't time to focus on fixing the actual on court product. It just didn't matter without knowing whether or not the team would be staying.
But now the team IS staying and so we must look at fixing the on court product. Vivek and co. bought a fixer-upper at top price and this summer will see the bulk of the remodeling. Nobody is expecting this team to be good overnight, but there needs to be a plan in place so that sometime in the next few years they will be.
This week I'll be taking a look at some of the main basketball priorities (no off the court stuff) that need to be addressed this summer. We start with the Front Office.
By far the most important priority for the Kings will need to be a complete overhaul of the front office. Geoff Petrie's contract expires after this season (which I believe ends on June 30th, I obviously don't have contract specifics). Petrie is the longest tenured General Manager in the entire NBA, having run the Kings franchise since 1994. He was responsible for crafting the greatest Kings teams ever and won the Executive of the Year twice over a three year span.
It is however time for a change. Regardless of the fact that he had one hand tied behind his back because of the Maloofs, many of the moves he has made during this rebuilding process have not panned out, particularly when you look at the last two Drafts. Petrie has always had a reputation as an excellent drafter but there's no doubt that the last two drafts were complete disasters.
Last year, his selection of Thomas Robinson was viewed as a coup at the time as Robinson had been projected by most to go in the Top 3. He ended up falling to the fifth pick, where Sacramento eagerly snatched him up. Robinson proved to be not nearly as NBA ready as many made him out to be, and he fell out of the team's rotation as the season wound down. Meanwhile, players picked immediately after him (Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond) had great rookie seasons for their respective teams. The Kings gave up on Robinson midway through the season for a package that included Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas and Patrick Patterson. The move saved the Kings some cash in the short term, but also ostensibly improved the team's bench. However, the improvement wasn't as dramatic as it appeared. Prior to the trade the Kings had a record of 19-37, or a .339 winning percentage. Afterwards, the team went 9-17 or a .346 winning percentage. Robinson hasn't exactly excelled with the Rockets, but as only a rookie it's unclear just what his future holds. The Kings meanwhile face an uncertain future of their own in terms of what they got in return. Aldrich and Douglas are both unrestricted free agents. Patterson is entering the final season of his rookie contract and then can be made a restricted free agent. Opinions on who won this trade have varied since it happened, but I maintain that it is much too early to tell.
More egregious however was the 2011 draft. The Kings were slated to pick 7th and needed two things: a Point Guard and a Small Forward. On draft day, the Kings traded down to the 10th pick for Jimmer Fredette but also traded Beno Udrih for John Salmons. Salmons had a bigger and longer contract than Udrih and would be forced to play out of position in an role that he wasn't comfortable in (playing off-the-ball). Yes the Kings also got the steal of the draft in Isaiah Thomas at 60, but that doesn't make up for how big of a mistake the Salmons re-acquisition was. In the two years since the trade, Salmons has seen his numbers drop considerably, not something that should have been unforeseen given his age (He'll be 34 at the start of next season). The selection of Jimmer Fredette hasn't panned out either, as he's had trouble finding consistent playing time. He did improve considerably in his sophomore season, but somehow saw less time... but I digress. That's a conversation for tomorrow when we discuss Coach Smart.
There also doesn't seem to be a plan in place for this team. This team has so many players who don't complement each other. It's as if the team's plan has been "acquire young guys, hope they pan out". We need something more solid than that.
While I wouldn't mind if Petrie stayed on in some sort of consultant role for a year or two to help with the transition, I tend to think that a clean break might be best. My personal preference would be to sign someone young, who's hungry and is a forward-thinker. This is the route teams like Golden State, Denver and Houston went and it has definitely helped their teams. Philadelphia just signed Houston's Sam Hinkie as their new GM. NBA teams are getting smarter and the Kings need to do the same.
Coming Tomorrow: Coaching