Vlade Divac was hired by the Sacramento Kings as President and Advisor on March 3, 2015. George Karl had been hired by Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro on February 12th. By June 10, 2015 D’Alessandro would no longer be with the Sacramento Kings and Divac assumed full control of the team officially, though he technically had control from the day he was hired. Karl would last until April 2016 before Vlade fired him.
Vlade Divac has had in excess of three years to build the Sacramento Kings to his liking. He’s inserted his choice of head coach in Dave Joerger. He traded away the franchise’s star player in DeMarcus Cousins. He’s stocked the team with young players and a clean cap sheet. And yet the Kings still show no signs of becoming a playoff team.
Vlade has made a few good moves, but they’re always overshadowed by his mistakes. The Kings got Bogdan Bogdanovic in a draft day trade with the Phoenix Suns for the low cost of Marquise Chriss (who the Suns have already given up and traded to the Houston Rockets for...Ryan Anderson). The Kings also got back two other draft picks in the trade. It’s a huge win! But even that win gets taken down a notch because the Kings spent the 13th pick on Georgios Papagiannis. Say what you want about the other options taken right after Georgios Papagiannis, but those guys are still playing professional basketball in the NBA. He was an enormous miss by the Kings.
Drafting in general has been an issue for Vlade and the Kings. I was thrilled with taking De’Aaron Fox, but the Kings missed on Donovan Mitchell, OG Anunoby, and Jarrett Allen in favor of Justin Jackson. Harry Giles is a lotto ticket that could make that decision look smart, but we have no way of knowing yet because a year later we’re still preparing for Harry’s first game. In the second round the Kings took Frank Mason III over a guy like Jordan Bell.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. But the point is that for a bad team in a small market, the draft is incredibly important and the Kings can’t afford to consistently miss these picks. The key to becoming good is to absolutely nail multiple draft picks. And one or more of the Kings young players could still become stars, but none have had rookie seasons to suggest superstardom.
The Kings could improve via trade, but aside from the Bogi deal there haven’t been any big wins on the trade front either. The Kings haven’t used their cap space to acquire draft picks, and they haven’t landed stars via trade. And we can’t discuss Vlade’s trades without acknowledging that we’re still facing the consequences of the disastrous trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Kings are projected to be among the worst teams in the league this year but won’t have a draft pick to show for it. It’s a disaster.
The final way the Kings can improve is free agency. The Kings often are forced to overpay for talent. We know this. We sadly accept this. But this also means it’s even more important that the Kings get their signings right. They can afford to slightly overpay a guy as long as he turns out to be good. But look at the players the Kings have overpaid. Matt Barnes. Marco Belinelli. George Hill. Zach Randolph.
The Kings can’t hope to improve without being experts in talent evaluation. Vlade Divac and his staff have proven they aren’t up to the job. And yet Vlade remains at the helm thanks to Vivek Ranadivé.
It kills me to write all of this about Vlade. He was one of my favorite players from the glory era. Anyone who has ever met him will tell you how delightfully affable he is. He’s truly a great guy. But he never should have been put in this position. The Kings were desperate for a PR win and hired a beloved figure. It was a move to buy some leeway from fans. It didn’t fix the team, and tarnished the legacy of one of the franchises most loved players.
The only question now is how much longer it will go on.