When Monte McNair was hired as the Sacramento Kings’ general manager in September of 2020, it was pretty clear that the team needed to alter and improve its talent base if it wanted to break its excruciatingly long playoff drought. Now more than 15 months later, McNair has yet to do anything of significance outside of the draft and the Kings are in a familiar spot in the bottom half of the western conference standings.
McNair voiced a level of confidence in the organization’s core and overall direction heading into this season, despite several years of evidence that would say otherwise. He praised the team’s performance down the stretch of last season and said Luke Walton was the coach he thought would lead the Kings back to the playoffs.
“We found some success, especially late in the season to get back into the play-in race,” McNair said back in May . “And ultimately I felt that we could build on that and that he’s the coach who’s going to get us back to the playoffs,”
McNair admitted defeat on this just 17 games into the season, firing Walton on Nov. 21.
McNair also said before the season that he thought the roster was well-balanced and gave it a pretty strong vote of confidence.
“This is gonna be our team going in,” McNair said. “ I think we have actually pretty good roster balance in the sense of maybe not traditional thinking but defensively, shooting, ball-handling and I think we can put a lot of different lineups out there to match up however we need.”
This has turned out to be wrong as well, as the Kings have stumbled to a 16-22 record and really don’t have much balance to speak for. The roster remains guard-heavy and very center-heavy with a lack of wing talent.
From the outside looking in, it didn’t seem like either of these preseason claims felt true even when he said them.
McNair still has some belief from the fanbase, simply because he is not former general manager Vlade Divac. Unlike his predecessor, McNair feels qualified to be in the position and isn’t liable for some major screw-up. Now though, it feels like that belief in McNair is waning with each week of inaction.
At a certain point, McNair and this organization need to go in some discernible direction and get out of this middle ground that they are in.
Going all-in for the play-in tournament as the Kings appear to be doing just isn’t a lofty enough goal. Landing the 10-seed and immediately getting bounced in the first play-in game is not a step in the right direction for the franchise.
Either they need to make a legit win-now trade to chase a later playoff spot or they need to tear things down and focus on landing a top 5 pick. Either of these paths are a reasonable direction, but to continue trudging along in this middle ground is not.
The absolute worst-case scenario for Sacramento is that they continue to hover in lower mediocrity, finishing 11th in the west again and drafting in the 9-12 range. If McNair continues to sit on his hands, then there's a good chance this is where the Kings end up.
Last season, the Kings were in a similar position with the ability to trade some of their veterans for young players and picks or go all in for the playoffs, and yet they decided to do neither.
McNair made some fence-sitting moves such as acquiring Terence Davis for a second-round pick and trading Nemanja Bjelica for Maurice Harkless. These are moves for bench players though, and just isn’t enough.
This decision caused the Kings to miss out on a number of talented young players that went ahead of where they were selected in the draft.
This Kings’ core has done nothing but fail for three straight seasons and it’s past time for McNair to go out and make moves. How exactly he goes about these moves is a different thing entirely.
Being cautious and particular with your moves is great in theory, but once you have been on the job for more than a year and still haven’t made a significant move, it might be time to reevaluate things.
It’s hard to think that someone who has probably wanted to be an NBA general manager for their entire life is just going to sit on his hands and waste yet another season. Another deadline of inactivity and minor moves around the edges just isn’t good enough.
It won’t be easy, but McNair at a certain point needs to put his personal stamp on this roster. What does are the traits McNair wants in his ideal roster? We still don’t know at this point because the majority of the roster are players hand-picked by Divac.
If the franchise continues down this path and keeps failing, pretty soon he is the one that will be looking for a new job.
McNair is the only person in the building that can pull the franchise out of its decade and a half cycle of losing. No pressure Monte.