It's time once again for our annual series "30Q" in which we answer 30 questions over the course of September as we get ready for the upcoming season.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beloved former King than Vlade Divac. He’s affable, funny, and was a key piece of the best Kings teams in the Sacramento era. He comes across as genuine and warm-hearted. He understands what it takes to win, and what a successful roster looks like. But when Vlade assumed the role of Kings GM, that love faced a serious obstacle. Can Kings fans separate their love of Vlade the player from Vlade the GM? If Vlade didn’t have his history with the franchise and the fans, would the criticisms be louder? Is Vlade actually a good GM? And should he be the one running the team?
To this point Vlade’s tenure has been a mixed bag, to say the least. He aggressively rebuilt the roster last summer, creating cap space and luring free agents to Sacramento, which has never been an easy task. But to create cap space Vlade gave the Philadelphia 76ers a pick-swap option that essentially eliminates the option to go through a true rebuilding effort. And then after that cap space was created, it seemed like the Kings didn’t have a plan. There were rumors of Wes Matthews, but the Kings ended up with Marco Belinelli and Rajon Rondo.
Vlade seems to recognize his mistakes quickly, at least. Rondo wasn’t courted to stay even in the face of a bare cupboard of guard talent. Belinelli was trade to the Charlotte Hornets for a first round pick, an impressive haul even in a weak draft. The Kings retooled again, bringing in veterans on more team-friendly deals. Deals that allow the Kings to maintain future flexibility.
Vlade’s handling of the George Karl situation was unequivocally terrible. The Kings were ready to fire Karl, going so far as to set such an expectation with the roster, only to have Karl finish out the season as a lame-duck coach who had lost the roster. The Kings then became a public punchline interviewing every living coaching candidate who had ever been tangentially connected to the NBA. But Divac emerged from that mess with a highly respected coach in Dave Joerger. A coach that seems to be a fit with the style of play best suited to franchise superstar DeMarcus Cousins.
And then came the draft. The Kings managed to flip the 8th pick for two more first round picks, as well as the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. After this summer’s Olympics, Bogdanovic’s profile has risen and Kings fans can be genuinely excited for Bogdan to join the team next season. But the draft trade may forever be tainted by the selection of Georgios Papagiannis. The pick seemed like a reach, and didn’t make sense within the construction of the roster as it currently stands. Despite the nice selection of Skal Labissiere later in the draft, the Papagiannis pick will be a blight on Vlade’s record unless and until Big George proves himself a valuable player.
What conclusions can we draw from all of this? Is Vlade a good GM? The best I can say is maybe. He’s not horrible, and makes some genuinely good moves, but each good move seems accompanied by a blunder. It’s difficult to see what the plan for the team is. Is this team trying to build around Cousins or is it preparing for life after DeMarcus? What kind of roster is Vlade trying to build? We have more questions than answers, which is concerning when we’re roughly 18 months into Vlade’s tenure running the team.