For so long now, Kings fans have wondered, “What’s the plan?”. Multiple ownerships, coaches, managers and dozens of different players and the Kings seemingly are stuck in limbo, too bad to make the playoffs and too good to get the highest picks in the draft (not like the Kings have struck gold with their draft picks anyway).
But there is a plan in place, says CSN’s James Ham, and it’s working at least in part despite the 24-33 record.
The idea coming into the 2016-17 campaign was to surround DeMarcus Cousins with veteran players to help stabilize the culture of the team and make a run at a playoff spot. Young players like Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore were to stick around and learn the new system behind vets, while the rookies were scheduled to head to Reno to get much needed playing time with the Bighorns under Darrick Martin.
Sacramento has options for next season on both Afflalo and Tolliver with the thought that if the young players develop faster, the Kings would then have the choice to either retain the veterans next season or buy them out for substantially less (Afflalo’s buyout is for $1.5 million and Tolliver’s is for $2 million).
Ham goes on to point out that the Kings are trying to take a different approach when it comes to developing their young players by bringing them along slowly. In essence the Kings are trying to learn from their previous mistakes of rushing guys into action. So far, they’ve stuck to that. Both Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore have seen their minutes fluctuate throughout the season but have started to get more meaningful time recently and have become solid contributors. Malachi Richardson went from playing in Reno to getting spot minutes in the rotation (before tearing his hamstring and possibly ending his season early).
Ham credits veterans like Ty Lawson, Garrett Temple and Matt Barnes for providing leadership and advice to the young guys, particularly Ben McLemore.
There are other bits to the plan as well, like keeping flexibility going forward (see how the team structured Afflalo and Tolliver’s contracts) and also competing to win to improve the culture.
It’s a very interesting read, and I encourage you all to read it. I know there is a decent chunk of the fanbase that rejects the entire premise of the plan (building around Cousins), but if you’re going to commit to Cousins long-term like it seems like Sacramento is doing, this plan at least has some logic to it.