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.
June 25, 2019, 8:11 pmBobby Portis - PF - Washington Wizards
Tony Jones and Fred Katz of The Athletic are reporting Bobby Portis is looking for as much as $16 million in free agency and has interest from multiple teams.
According to Jones and Katz, the Wizards aren't expected to match a huge offer sheet on Portis. As a restricted free agent, the Wiz declining to match would allow him to go elsewhere. The Utah Jazz have been a team at the top of the list on the rumor mill. Portis averaged 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in 28 games for the Wiz last season.
Source: Tony Jones on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 6:55 pmNikola Vucevic - C - Orlando Magic
Per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, the Mavs like how Nikola Vucevic fits alongside Kristaps Porzingis, but his expected salary would cost too much for the Mavs to sign.
The Mavs will enter free agency with a ton of cap space, but after the expected max contract that they'll extend to Porzingis, they may be more inclined to spread the wealth around or target Kemba Walker than committing a max contract to Vucevic. Vucevic had a career year as an All-Star for the Magic this past season, but his next destination remains a crapshoot.
Source: Dallas News
June 25, 2019, 6:38 pmJimmy Butler - SG - Philadelphia Sixers
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Rockets' ideal plan in free agency is to get Jimmy Butler by a sign-and-trade deal with the Sixers.
Butler is going to be a sought after commodity once free agency opens as the Sixers, Lakers, and others are also going to be looking to ink him to a long-term deal. Butler regained his level back to max contract level after his play during the playoffs this season. The Rockets don't have any cap space to sign Butler outright, so they'll have to get a commitment from him to take a pay cut, while also getting the Sixers to agree to help facilitate a deal. This is going to be interesting.
June 25, 2019, 5:08 pmKhem Birch - C - Orlando Magic
The Magic have extended qualifying offers to C Khem Birch and F Amile Jefferson, rendering both restricted free agents ahead of free agency which is set to begin on June 30th.
Birch, who averaged 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 12.9 minutes per game this past season, is seemingly a priority for the Magic to bring back, and now they'll get the opportunity to match any contracts he may fetch from other teams. Jefferson was in the G-League for the majority of the season, where he was very productive. Both may take on larger roles, should they stay with the Magic, as star C Nikola Vucevic is an unrestricted free agent.
Source: Magic PR on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 4:58 pmJR Smith - SG - Cleveland Cavaliers
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the Lakers could eventually take a look at signing J.R. Smith should he be released by the Cavs, or traded and bought out by another team.
Smith is likely to become a free agent one way or the other by the end of the month, and the Lakers will be looking at cheap floor-spacers to fill out their roster. Smith and LeBron James are familiar with one another after winning a championship together with the Cavs, and it looks like Smith to the Lakers is a real possibility.
Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 4:00 pmKristaps Porzingis - PF - Dallas Mavericks
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the Mavs will meet with restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis (torn ACL) once free agency opens on June 30th, and the team will offer him the full five-year, $158 million max contract.
This was expected ever since the Mavs traded for Porzingis mid-season while he recovered from his knee injury. Porzingis is fully expected to sign with the Mavs and become reigning ROY Luka Doncic's running mate for the foreseeable future.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 3:54 pmJordan Clarkson - PG - Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavs combo guard Jordan Clarkson changed agents and signed with Klutch Sports and Rich Paul.
Clarkson is likely to be a trade target for competitive teams ahead of next year's trade deadline, as a quality player on an expiring contract. Clarkson will enter free agency next offseason looking for the best deal possible.
Source: Joe Vardon on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 3:46 pmJulius Randle - PF - New Orleans Pelicans
Per Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Pelicans forward Julius Randle and the Knicks have mutual interest as free agency approaches.
The Pelicans drafted their PF of the future in Zion Williamson last week, and will seemingly let Randle walk in free agency as they are unlikely to pay him what he deserves. After a productive finish with the Lakers in 2017-18, Randle had to settle for a one-year deal from the Pelicans last summer. After another productive season on an expiring contract, it looks like at least one franchise is ready to invest in Randle as their PF of the future. Randle averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.9 threes to boot this past season and makes for a good mid-round selection in drafts next season if he finds himself in a similar role.
Source: The Undefeated
June 25, 2019, 3:32 pmAndre Iguodala - SF - Golden State Warriors
Speaking about Kevin Durant's injury situation during this year's playoffs, Andre Iguodala said that he fractured his left leg against the Rockets in the 2018-19 playoffs and the Warriors listed him out with a "left lateral leg contusion.”
There has been a lot of smoke in regards to how the Warriors dealt with Durant's injury, as it did not appear to be as minor as the team led the public to believe when he injured himself backpedaling after a made basket. A non-contact injury is always a major red flag, but the Warriors called Durant's initial injury a "first-grade calf strain," which is the lowest graded injury designation. Weeks later, when Durant rushed back to help his team out of a 3-1 Finals deficit, he fully ruptured his Achilles in only 12 minutes of action. This is all just speculation, but this revelation from the 2015 NBA Finals MVP is an alarming development for a franchise who could seemingly do no wrong the past half-decade. The league may take a deep-dive into these claims soon enough.
Source: NBC Sports
June 25, 2019, 3:14 pmD'Angelo Russell - PG - Brooklyn Nets
The Lakers, who are also working towards setting up meetings with a defensive specialist and a floor-spacer, have a set meeting with D'Angelo Russell when free agency opens.
The Lakers drafted Russell at #2 overall in the 2015 NBA draft and subsequently traded him to the Nets a few years ago as a way to get Timofey Mozgov's horrendous contract off their books. He has since blossomed into an All-Star selection this past season as the leader of the Nets' push back into relevancy. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Russell and the Lakers would mend their previous relationship, but it remains to be seen if anything will come of it. If it is any consolation to Russell, Magic Johnson, the man who traded Russell to the Nets, is no longer with the team.
Source: Fred Robbins on Twitter