August 23, 2016, 9:11 am
Vlade Divac was given control of one of the most volatile franchises in recent memory last year when the Kings decided it was time to move on from then-General Manager Pete D’allesandro. The team had just fired it’s best coach since Rick Adelman, and replaced him with someone who, months later, would start a summer long (season-long) feud with franchise player DeMarcus Cousins.
The roster left a lot to be desired as well. The Kings had very few assets aside from Cousins, and were fairly limited in their ability to trade future draft picks. Beyond that, his job was to somehow build a team around Cousins with virtually no trade assets or cap space, and it had to be done in the next three seasons, before Cousins would hit free agency.
This is what happens when a franchise doesn’t get anything from the lottery. After years of trying to build a team around Cousins and wasting draft picks, the team had backed itself into a corner. They wouldn’t be able to attract big name free agents, and they didn’t have the ability to make big trades.
Now one summer later, the Kings have one more season left to try to convince Cousins that the team is headed in the right direction. This meant that this off-season would be a completely new test for the front office.
So what did they do? They addressed the biggest problem that the team has had over the last few years, which meant finally recognizing that this team needed more young talent. Ever since the team was sold, they had been pushing themselves to compete when the new arena opened, even when that goal became more and more unrealistic, which ended up hurting the team more than anything.
This new ownership group took control and recognized that the fans had been frustrated with the regular mediocrity, but seem to have misread that frustration as a desire to win as quickly as possible. It’s true that Kings fans desperately wanted a winning team, but above all else they wanted the stability and proper management that the team had so sorely lacked in the past.
What has always needed to happen was proper rebuilding. Acquiring assets, and then either developing them or trading them when the time was right. The Maloofs had no interest in running the franchise, and the Ranadive regime got too impatient early on, so this step was skipped over. Because of this, the team lacked the depth to make the significant trades that it needed to make, and had seemingly done nothing to try to address that.
This summer has been different though. It’s important for me to note that Divac did an amazing job hiring Dave Joerger, a very well respected coach that should be a great building block going forward. Coaches like this very rarely end up in Sacramento, so this should absolutely be remembered as a win for Divac.
Divac was also very smart to not overspend during a free agency period where seemingly every team overspent. By keeping their cap sheet clean, he has allowed them flexibility going forward, and preparing the team to make smart free agency decisions in the future.
Where he received the most criticism, much of which was unwarranted, was in the draft. Divac turned Marco Belinelli into a first round pick, an incredible return considering what most of us expected the Kings to get for him, and also turned the team’s first round pick into three.
Looking back at the team’s options, it’s not hard to see why they did what they did. This draft seemed to have a clear top eight and then a seemingly unclear 9-30. With the Kings owning the eigth pick, this meant that their choice was virtually made for them, and it would be whoever fell out of that top eight, which ended up being Marquese Chriss.
I’m not going to pretend to be a draft expert. I won’t know how these players work out until they either do or don’t, but I will take a stab at reading into what others have said about them.
Chriss was seen as a player with huge upside and a huge potential to bust, meaning that a team that doesn’t have a ton of faith in his ability to reach his upside would probably be better off passing than taking him and risking it. It’s hard to know how the team evaluated him, but it’s safe to say that they saw more value in adding later picks and Bogdan Bogdanovic than taking Chriss.
And as far as those picks go, I saw many mock drafts putting Skal Labissiere in the lottery, and Malachi Richardson was seen as a player that could have gone earlier than he did as well. Both are noted to be high upside picks, which should be a welcome addition to a roster desperate for young potential.
The Georgios Papagiannis pick was seen as a reach, but if Vlade truly believes in him, and didn’t think he would be available later, then he needs to trust himself and his scouting department to make tough calls like that. Bogdan Bogdanovic has looked really good this summer as well.
This is where I believe Vlade has done well. The team went and got first round picks in a trade for the first time in years. Divac showed patience when the team needed it most, and got the team multiple usable assets going forward.
This group of young players also happens to fit in perfectly with either direction the Kings choose. Should the team decide to move on from Cousins, they should expect an enormous package for him. Cousins is the most dominant center in the NBA and any team would love to have him. This group of young players, plus Willie Cauley-Stein and whatever we get back in a theoretical Cousins trade should be an incredible base to build from, and should give the franchise plenty of opportunity to move forward even with our future picks somewhat tied up.
If the team can convince Cousins to stay, then this group should serve as many different things for the team. They now have the opportunity to develop their young talent, and see who fits and who doesn’t, or they could end up packaging some of it in a trade down the line. The team hasn’t had much to trade in the last few years, and have recognized that they will need to make trades going forward if they expect to add big players going forward.
Either way, the team needed to get younger, and that’s exactly what Divac did. He had dealt with a lack of trade assets, and recognized what he needed to do to address that problem. People haven’t agreed with every decision that he’s made, but the Kings are in a better place than they were before the summer.
April 20, 2019, 6:54 pmRodions Kurucs - F - Brooklyn Nets
Rodions Kurucs did not play in Saturday's Game 4 loss to the Sixers.
The second round rookie started the first three games of the series but was a DNP-CD in this one. We'll see if he can get into Game 5 – or any games after if needed – but there's a chance his season is over. If it's over, it was an impressive first season for the second rounder and the Nets may have a real rotation piece going forward.
April 20, 2019, 6:50 pmDeMarre Carroll - F - Brooklyn Nets
DeMarre Carroll played 21 minutes after being removed from the starting lineup in Saturday's loss.
Carroll scored two points and missed all six of his shots. He did grab seven boards, including three on the offensive end. With Caris LeVert and Jared Dudley both contributing, Carroll will likely remain on the bench as a small-ball option.
April 20, 2019, 6:47 pmJJ Redick - G - Philadelphia Sixers
J.J. Redick scored 9 points on 3-for-11 shooting in Saturday's Game 4 win.
Redick came back down from a big Game 3 performance. He did hit a clutch three towards the end of the game to give the Sixers a one-point lead and while it wasn't the difference maker, it was incredibly clutch. He'll need to play well consistently in round two – assuming they get there – if the Sixers want a chance at the conference finals.
April 20, 2019, 6:44 pmBen Simmons - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers
Ben Simmons scored 15 points with eight boards and eight assists in Saturday's 112-108 win against the Nets.
Simmons took more of a back seat with Joel Embiid back, as expected. The Sixers ended up eeking out the win in this one and the Jared Dudley/Simmon feud got some more fuel under it. The Sixers are up 3-1, but this series has been incredibly entertaining from the start.
April 20, 2019, 6:26 pmBlake Griffin - F - Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin (left knee soreness) is feeling "much, much better" according to coach Dwane Casey and is will go through warmups to determine his status for Saturday's game.
Detroit has not been able to make the first two games of this series competitive and it would make sense for them to let him give it a go for the home crowd. Either way, the Bucks look to be in total control of this series.
Source: Keith Langlois on Twitter
April 20, 2019, 6:22 pmSpencer Dinwiddie - G - Brooklyn Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 18 points with four boards and one steal in Saturday's 112-108 loss to the Sixers.
Dinwiddie continues to play well off the bench along with his fellow guards Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell. The Nets let this one slip away and will now have to win in Philly to keep their season alive.
April 20, 2019, 6:17 pmJarrett Allen - C - Brooklyn Nets
Jarrett Allen scored 21 points with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block in Saturday's Game 4 loss to the Sixers.
Allen had a nice final stat line, but he was getting worked by Joel Embiid all game. He also had a costly turnover at the end of the game when Tobias Harris, Embiid and Ben Simmons trapped in on the block – Harris may have gotten away with a foul.
April 20, 2019, 6:10 pmD'Angelo Russell - G - Brooklyn Nets
D'Angelo Russell scored 21 points with six assists, seven boards, two steals, one block and four 3-pointers in Saturday's loss to the Sixers.
Russell played well in this game outside of his 2-for-10 shooting on 2-pointers, and even hit a few clutch shots down the stretch. He continues to give the Sixers fits on offense, but the Nets came up just short in this one.
April 20, 2019, 6:04 pmCaris LeVert - G - Brooklyn Nets
Caris LeVert played 42 minutes in Saturday's Game 4 loss scoring 25 points with five rebounds, six assists, one setal and three 3-pointers.
LeVert was expected to play more in this game after only logging 23.7 minutes per game over the first three. He once again looked healthy and commanded the game at times. After watching today's game you could not have guessed he suffered a gruesome injury earlier this season.
April 20, 2019, 5:53 pmJoel Embiid - F/C - Philadelphia Sixers
Joel Embiid was unstoppable in the Sixers' Game 4 win, posting 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and six blocks on Saturday.
Jarrett Allen had absolutely no chance against a one-legged Embiid. He's clearly the best player on the floor in this series and the Nets will have to get creative in defending him, or hope for an injury, if they want any chance at coming down from a 3-1 deficit.