The Sacramento Kings will miss the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season, but Monte McNair’s decision around the team’s 2022 first-round pick will hint at his timeline for ending the drought.
Another NBA postseason will come and go without the Sacramento Kings in attendance, extending the league’s longest playoff drought to a record 16 consecutive seasons. Arco Arena last hosted a postseason game in Sacramento, but Golden 1 Center is still waiting on hearing its number called.
For General Manager Monte McNair, ending the drought won’t happen overnight, but last season’s roster decisions have indicated his goal in speeding up the timeline.
With the task of bringing in reinforcements to a young roster, Sacramento acquired Domantas Sabonis from the Indiana Pacers at the NBA trade deadline, alongside Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, and a 2023 second round pick. The opportunity cost in return: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson. In 25 games with the Kings, Sabonis averaged 18.9 points on 56 percent shooting to go along with 12 rebounds per game. De’Aaron Fox’s season received a jolt for the better: as he averaged 28.9 points on 50 percent shooting in his return from an ankle injury during the latter half of the year, while showing his growing synergy with Sabonis in the pick-and-roll action.
But what Sacramento gained in a Fox-Sabonis duo to build around, they lost in the form of shooting on the perimeter. Monte McNair has made it clear that the priority in the offseason (aside from hiring a new head coach) is to add shooters to the roster. Fox and Sabonis can give defenses trouble, but they can maximize that potential so long as they have the spacing to do so.
Adding capable perimeter defenders is also a must-add for Sacramento. Putting points on the board will only go so far if you can’t hold the opposing team accountable.
The Kings have an asset in their back pocket by way of their first-round pick in the 2022 draft, and given the addition of Sabonis to the roster, Sacramento may have a choice on their hands regarding keeping or sending away their pick. Coupled with another player on the roster, and Monte McNair could decide whether making a move to win now proves more sound than playing the long game.
Keeping the pick:
Sacramento should be looking to add talent wherever possible during the offseason, and there’s the potential of adding more shooting and defense through free agency. Meanwhile, the draft is the best method for a franchise to add a young cornerstone, and if the odds fall in the Kings’ favor via the draft lottery, they might be inclined to hold onto their draft asset.
The Kings finished with the seventh-worst record (30-52), giving them a 32 percent chance of getting a top-four pick. Depth at the wing position is a glaring need, but if fortune falls their way and a high draft pick falls in their lap, does Sacramento leverage the opportunity to select a top-tier prospect such as the likes of Duke’s Paolo Banchero (a presumed top-three pick)? The Kings whiffed on a generational talent the last time they selected as high as second overall; perhaps they don’t want history to repeat itself again.
Trading the pick:
If the odds play out as they currently stand, Sacramento would be picking seventh overall in the 2022 draft. For a roster that already has two cornerstones in Fox and Sabonis to build around, what are the odds that a seventh overall pick can effectively address the weaknesses of the current roster? The Sacramento fanbase doesn’t want to just see "progress," they want to see wins. Wins will speed up the timeline and inch this franchise closer to a postseason appearance (or at least a play-in outing).
The advantage for Sacramento is that if they find themselves with a draft pick outside the top- four, they can package it with a seasoned veteran on the roster in order to get impact players in return. With Sabonis at the forefront, the Kings have an abundance of forwards that can be moved, most notably Richaun Holmes.
Holmes’ playing style may not be maximized with Sabonis on the court, and thus the Kings could opt to address other needs via a package of Holmes, their 2022 first round pick, and another player.
Jerami Grant (28 years old) could be a name to watch, if McNair can persuade the Detroit Pistons. The Kings’ first round pick, along with Richaun Holmes gives Detroit another opportunity to add a young prospect to develop alongside 2021 top pick Cade Cunningham, in addition to a seasoned vet in Holmes. Grant’s length gives Sacramento a boost on the perimeter, and at 28 years old fits right in the Kings’ timeline of making a push for a postseason appearance.