The Kings didn’t make any landmark decisions with their roster this offseason. They didn’t sign any high-profile free agents or make any blockbuster trades, and the team they’ve assembled is probably still a tier below the playoff squads in the Western Conference.
But under the leadership of Monte McNair, there appears to have been a philosophy that informed all of their decisions: flexibility. It’s something McNair has been preaching ever since he was hired back in September (he used the word at least six times in his preseason media availability Monday), and it’s something the Kings put into practice with their offseason strategy.
The desire for flexibility manifested itself most prominently in Sacramento’s decision to not match Bogdan Bogdanovic’s offer sheet. Doing so would have given the Kings an additional asset, but at a heavy price, one that would have limited the team’s ability to maneuver under the cap in upcoming seasons. In his press conference, McNair said that the team prioritized future opportunities rather than hamstringing themselves in the present with Bogdanovic’s new deal.
“Bogdan’s obviously a very good player in this league, was a big part of the success that the Kings had especially towards the end of last season. Ultimately we came back to the fact that we’re trying to maintain as much flexibility as we can,” McNair said. “And we thought that going forward, you know, the ability to maintain that would allow us to add talent and capitalize as big opportunities came up down the road. So ultimately we decided not to match. And then that also I think cleared potential extra playing time for our loaded guard spot with De’Aaron [Fox], Buddy [Hield], and adding Tyrese [Haliburton] in the draft, as well as others, so you know ultimately we decided to continue our plan of keeping flexibility and being able to to capitalize down the road.”
For the Kings, flexibility wasn’t just about cap management, it was also a mandate for the types of players they signed in free agency. McNair and wanted to build a roster that could match up with any opponent. That meant signing players who could toggle between positions and give Luke Walton and the rest of the coaches freedom to experiment.
In signing Hassan Whiteside, the Kings have a burlier, more defensive-minded center who can protect the paint and rebound the ball. He presents a contrast to Richaun Holmes, who is more agile on the perimeter. And Frank Kaminsky is an entirely different type of player who stretches the floor and creates for himself at the four or the five. Those are three separate looks Sacramento can trot out at center, in addition to playing small with Nemanja Bjelica or Marvin Bagley III.
“We have a lot of bigs on the roster that can play together in different, like I said, different scenarios and it kind of depends night in night out what we want,” McNair said. “Sometimes it’ll be a little more shooting on the floor and sometimes it’ll be more size or more rim protection and, you know, I think with Marvin and the rest of the bigs on our roster, we kind of have a lot of those boxes checked. You can kind of play in many different environments, soI think it’s more about giving Luke all the tools and letting him choose which tools make the most sense in any given game.”
Even though this roster is built to adapt, the team has its preferred style of play. McNair alluded to the fact that the Kings want to play with pace, which is why they brought in Alvin Gentry and part of why he’s bullish on Hield’s future in Sacramento, but again, there’s flexibility in how that goal can be accomplished.
Take Whiteside, for example, who seems like a throwback center who would slow the team down. McNair noted that Whiteside can help the Kings increase their tempo because he protects the paint and allows his teammates to play aggressive on the perimeter, which can force turnovers. He also rim runs, and his rebounding enables quick outlets in transition.
Kaminsky (or even Chimezie Metu, another training camp signing) clears space in the lane for the perimeter players to attack because of his shooting ability. He can also hit threes in transition as a trailer. Even if Kaminsky isn’t necessarily quick himself, his skill set can help his teammates play faster.
“I think our additions add a lot of versatility and flexibility, optionality, for Coach Walton and for the rest of the team,” McNair said. “That’s one thing that we want to continue to do is, you know, is add talent but but also maintain as much flexibility as we can. And I think we were able to do that with how our free agency ended up. And so we were patient, and I think we ended up with guys like Hassan on good deals for us, who can both impact us as well as give us that flexibility down the road.”
For this upcoming season, flexibility will have to be a part of the players’ overarching mindset. The front office had to be agile during the offseason with the pace of transactions, changing their plan rapidly as the landscape of the league changed. Moving forward, playing during the pandemic means that schedules will be in flux, players could be in and out, and protocols could even shift as the season progresses.
All the more reason for McNair to have made this his guiding philosophy in a season that will be like no other.
“It’s been it’s been a crazy year and kind of unprecedented times, but I think our coaches and players and staff have done a fantastic job to be as prepared as we can for whatever comes at us,” McNair said. “Obviously the league did a great job with the bubble over the summer and into the fall, and now we’re trying to a different tack for this season, and I think all we can do is continue to be flexible. Be prepared and hit the ground running. I think our guys have done a great job of staying in shape and and being ready for for training camp which opens this week, so we’re excited to get going and whatever the season throws at us, we’ll be ready.”