After the Kings loss to Oklahoma City on Monday night, Dave Joerger announced a new plan for the roster going forward: the kids would play and the vets would sit. Everyone outside of the locker room agreed with the approach to the latter part of the season, as it only makes sense to develop your youth when you’re completely out of the playoff picture this early in the year. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with the new direction, the Kings are unintentionally damaging the free agent value of Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos.
Koufos signed as a free agent in the summer of 2015, just two and a half years ago. He was likely lured by the prospect of playing for his old coach, George Karl, and was joining a core made up of DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison. While there certainly wasn’t a guarantee of a postseason berth, the Kings were actively trying to win, unlike now. He was going to get regular playing time, whether that be as a starter next to Cousins or as his backup, and DNP-CDs were never in the picture.
A year later, Wizards guard and locker room leader, Garrett Temple, joined up with our Sacramento squad. The former LSU standout united with a team also centered around All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, swingman Rudy Gay, and new Head Coach Dave Joerger. It was hoped that the additions of guys like Temple, Barnes, and Afflalo would bolster the roster enough for a playoff push.
Even though neither of those squads ever reached the 8th seed, and were never actually that close, there was still a desire to win and compete, even if those ideas never came to fruition. Essentially, the Kings were a “normal” team.
Of course, after Omri Casspi and other players were dealt for Buddy Hield and a pick, those plans changed. A legitimate rebuild began and the attention this year was placed on development rather than the win-loss column. That change in direction certainly isn’t unique to just Koufos and Temple, as every year one or two teams decide to throw in the towel and rebuild or tank or both.
Although there have been plenty of other teams who have rebuilt with veterans on their roster, most haven’t outlined as drastic of a plan as the Kings when it comes to prioritizing youth over on-court victories. Experienced players on this team can expect to be benched every third game or so.
That schedule is going to hurt both players in similar ways as their situations are almost identical. Both are aging, career role players who are likely looking to score their last decent-sized contract before their ability to contribute on a nightly basis erodes too far.
Koufos and Temple each also have a player option heading into the summer. Kosta would earn $8.7 million dollars next year and Temple would earn an even $8 million. Of course, opting into that guaranteed money would mean both players would walk into free agency a year older, 30 for Koufos and 33 for Temple, and having had another season of on and off benchings due to the restructuring going on in Sacramento.
If they opt out of their respective deals, they will be a 29 year old and 32 year old headed to the open market with 10-20 DNP-CDs on one of the worst teams in basketball. Those factors aren’t going to drive other GMs wild to sign them.
While Vlade Divac shouldn’t be held responsible for their ages, or for each player’s decision to sign with the Kings, he should try to rectify the problems that he has caused for both individuals.
The solution is fairly straightforward for the situation that has developed: trade either player if they request it. Neither individual has publicly disparaged an organization that has deserved plenty of criticism. They have each worked with younger players, been a positive influence in the locker room, and have been ready to play each night when called upon. These two have done right by the franchise and it’s time to do right by these veterans. Either player could play meaningful minutes and contribute for a contender in either conference.
Basketball is a business, but it’s a business made up of people and relationships. The return on investment may not be what our management wants if Temple and Kosta are shopped, but treating a pair of players the right way, who have done nothing to deserve this tumultuous situation, should be the only option for our front office.
If either veteran wants a chance to play elsewhere, management should honor that request. After all, character matters, doesn’t it?