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The Kings have finally embraced the rebuild

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Sacramento doesn’t seem to be taking shortcuts anymore.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings have been “rebuilding” since I was in high school. Since then I’ve graduated from college, started a career, seen my friends get married and seen the Kings in the playoffs exactly zero times. In fact, it’s been so long since the Kings were good, we probably shouldn’t call any efforts to become good “rebuilding” at all, but rather just “building”.

There are many reasons why the Kings have struggled to climb into relevancy, most of all having to do with impatience and worse, incompetence. The Kings have time after time opted to take shortcuts in the building process that ultimately only have lead us to a point on the road even further behind.

The Kings don’t seem to be taking shortcuts anymore. After Thursday night, the Kings are set to be one of the youngest teams in the league. Nine of their players look to be on rookie contracts, and another rookie is coming from overseas. The Kings finally have youth at every single position, the type of assets one could have only hoped for during the DeMarcus Cousins-era.

Sacramento has also remained financially flexible, starting with smartly planned unguaranteed contracts last summer to guys like Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver. Now the Kings will have the most cap space in the league this summer, a powerful tool in the right hands.

What made building around DeMarcus Cousins hard was Sacramento’s lack of options. The Kings had screwed up so many drafts and trades that there wasn’t really any chance of becoming a competitive team without doing something drastic. They got killed for the return on the trade itself and the way they handled it, but it was something that needed to happen for this team to be able to fully move on and start anew.

The odds say that we probably don’t a player on this team that will ever become as good as DeMarcus Cousins, but that’s ok. The Kings finally have options, and they showed last year that they’ll take the time to develop youth. We saw growth from all our young players, and the Kings embraced their minor league system in a big way for the first time. Dave Joerger and staff seem to be buckled in for the long haul and that’s the kind of stability we haven’t seen around here in a long time. The front office isn’t seeing turnover, but instead making additions. These are all positive signs.

I do admit getting worried when I hear reports that the Kings are going to use their cap space on a free agent spending spree rather than keeping their options open or absorbing bad contracts for more assets. That reminds me of the impatience we’ve showed in the recent past. The Kings don’t need to rush back into the playoffs as soon as possible, especially since the team completely owns their first round pick next season (unlike in 2019, thanks to one of those bad trades we mentioned). Give the young guys time to grow and develop together, and see what we have before we decide what we need to take the next step.

But worry is just a part of being a Kings fan. We’ve seen too much failure to really be unflinching optimists. But I’m still excited. The Kings seem to be learning from their mistakes and doing things the right way. De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason are all extremely charismatic and easy to root for. Adding them to a core that already includes Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis just adds to that excitement. The Kings have never gone this deep into a youth movement before and it’s fun to think about what they could become.

There will still be bumps in the road. Not all those young’uns will be future stars after all. But for the first time in a long time I feel good about what the Kings are doing, and that’s a relatively new feeling. Let’s hope it continues.