The weekend's great Ailene Voisin Q&A with the brothers Maloof included a quote from Gavin Maloof that read that the Kings nearly broke even last year and could make a small profit this season. Remember: the Kings sat on minor cap space last summer, and are currently sitting on major cap space this summer.
There are basketball (or at least "NBA") justifications for this. The market has been bloated by significant contracts for quasi-signficant-ish players. You don't want to blow a wad of cash for a player who won't help that much just because you can. And -- let's be honest -- players who could really, really help aren't exactly banging down the door. Teams which win 25 games and aren't based in L.A. or New York don't typically draw the big names in free agency. The team is building a young core, with one star-in-the-making (Tyreke Evans) and another player reasonably expected to be a franchise cornerstone (DeMarcus Cousins). Throwing $15 million a year at a 28-year-old All-Star would be change of course, and weird.
And let's not even get into the whole collective bargaining riddle, in which the Kings are currently set up to profit hugely from a proposed league plan to institute a hard cap and force superteams to cut star players.
Mark Kreidler suggested this morning that a real reason the Kings could be sitting on all this cap space is not just those reasonable suggestions and justifications, but that to break even or turn a small profit this season, payroll can't get much higher. Attendance is still expected to be bad. Corporate sponsors won't be lining up to gobble up rows of seats. You can affect a bottom line positively in two ways: expand revenue and decrease spending. The Maloofs, Kreidler suggested, don't see revenue expanding by much, so they are decreasing spending.
It makes perfect sense, given the Maloofs' other recent decisions, like selling off the New Mexico beer distributorship for cash, like shuttering the Monarchs to cut costs, like restructuring the business operations of the Kings to streamline and push push push the market. The Maloofs' cash flow issues are more pressing than the Kings' talent deficit. It is currently more of a priority to save the family from "going under" than to bump the win total from 25 to 40.
I think this is just one part of it -- the basketball justifications, of which a major one is that no one the Kings had a shot at would really turn this team into a 40-42 squad, are real. But it's a compelling piece of the puzzle.