• Everybody knows that the Kings are expected to lose most of their games, that they’re young and that a rebuild can have its ugly moments.

    Once we get past that fluff the real analysis comes in assessing whether the important goals are being met and how each piece is progressing in the process.

    With 26 games under their belts, eight wins, 18 losses and a third of the season in the rear-view mirror, it’s high time to assess this eclectic rebuild.

    It’s also the time of the year that good organizations pivot on any erroneous previously-held beliefs. The bad ones either double-down on the bad or simply ignore it.

    The Kings have shown nothing in the last decade to indicate that they’ve turned a corner in that regard, but as we’ll see there is potential for change in Sacramento. As usual, things can swing wildly in any direction depending on the moves they make or don’t make.

    Here are the grades in order of franchise importance and then we’ll wrap it up with the coach and franchise leadership.

    De’Aaron Fox

    Player Grade: C

    Coaching Grade: C+

    Front Office Grade: B-

    Fox is the most important player for this franchise by virtue of his No. 5 overall draft selection and he gets a small boost for the impact he has on two other big pieces in George Hill and Frank Mason.

    If we looked at this about 5-10 games into the season the consensus would be kinder to Fox, but after his slump and Mason’s surge the local narrative has hedged its bets here. Fox is a bit of a project and Mason is seasoned with four years of college (including a Player of the Year award), or so the legend goes.

    The reality is somewhere in the middle as Fox has some impressive tools, including the ability to get to places on the court that other guards can’t get to, while lacking true playmaking ability just yet and – of course – anything resembling a knockdown jumper.

    The other reality is that this team is not optimized to develop him right now. It’s not that the Kings are not developing him, but rather that his development is a secondary goal within the context of Dave Joerger and Vlade Divac’s vision for this club – both short-term and long-term.

    In the short-term, aside from guiding the long-term vision, Joerger has been tasked with keeping declining veterans happy with minutes and negotiating several logjams up and down the roster. The result has been changing lineups, moving parts and evolving philosophies.

    Are they a high post team running through the big men? Are they fast-paced or slow-paced? Are they running everything through Zach Randolph?

    Since moving into the starting lineup, and just after he was showing promise as one of the team’s better players in their first 5-10 games, he has been moved into heavy rotation with Randolph.

    Prior to this last road trip, Randolph had struggled mightily as both he and his defender clogged up the lane, slowing the pace to a crawl with middling results at best. Neither of those things helped Fox as he needs open spaces, quicker paces and easy A/B decisions.

    During this stretch we’ve seen Fox get more and more frustrated with his own play, oscillating between ineffective and swimming toward the light. Whether the relative success of Mason has played into that frustration is unknown, but at 19 years old he has to navigate both the mental and physical side of not meeting high expectations. It’s a heavy lift.

    On the periphery we’ve seen what could be fatigue but also the knee brace on his right knee suggests he might be working through something there.

    Overall, it seems as if Fox has been left to negotiate the challenges inherent within an unstable rotation and young team on his own. They’ve snowballed a bit on him and at the same time he has held the rope.

    As the team decides on an identity, works through some of the logjam issues and Fox improves, a second-half surge isn’t hard to see, but he’ll have Mason fast on his tail and that alone is very interesting.

    Regardless, you’d like to see a greater focus placed on such a high-cost asset in terms of in-game strategy, but no deficiency there is close to mission critical.

    Willie Cauley-Stein

    Player Grade: B

    Coaching Grade: A-

    Front Office Grade: B+

    Willie Cauley-Stein is basketball jazz, man. Sometimes the collection of sounds doesn’t line up and it’s an incoherent mess, and in others everything comes together and you have a brush with greatness.

    Cauley-Stein himself is as eclectic as a basketball player gets. Brought into the league for his defense and rebounding, those are now his chief criticisms while his offensive game brings the most upside and bang for the buck.

    Not many 7-footers can lay down the film he has delivered to start the season. He has shown the ability to shoot, pass, dribble and finish. We can pick apart the holes in his offensive game fairly easily, but if you covered the name on the jersey and simply asked a question of ‘are you excited about player X’s offense’ the answers would be a resounding yes.

    The larger question surrounding Cauley-Stein is how he fits as a pillar of this club. He’s still under contract for two more seasons after this and at some point an extension factors in, and with the way he is playing offensively the market could start to get rich.

    Or not. He could tumble into Joerger’s doghouse – which doesn’t seem likely given how much the coach has leaned on him to date – or he could start to plateau as an offensive player and never get any real traction on the defensive side.

    There was a general lack of excitement surrounding Cauley-Stein’s game within the walls of the kingdom entering the season. Generally, team sources would decry his lack of focus on what he was brought in to do on the defensive and rebounding side, and one didn’t get the sense that he was long for Sacramento.

    If that’s the sentiment he creates in the market at large then it’s possible the Kings are bidding against less bidders for his services, and the resulting price decrease makes a decision to hitch the wagon to him a little less enormous.

    It’s still going to be big, though. 3-4 years at about $20 million per year isn’t too hard to see if we want to arbitrarily throw some way too early numbers around. If you asked folks in the know about the Kings’ appetite to keep him at those numbers the answers might be ‘meh’ at best.

    But if he continues to develop offensively, if he can work toward consistency defensively and turn ‘eclectic’ into a largely positive attribute then that narrative will turn quickly.

    Big men with that potential are hard to find and credit goes to Joerger for not going full George Karl on him after a pretty rough start. Rather, the coach has empowered him to expand his game and though many of the sets that put the ball in his hands aren’t a great fit for this squad as a whole, they’ve gone a long way toward developing Cauley-Stein.

    Skal Labissiere

    Player Grade: C-

    Coaching Grade: C-

    Front Office Grade: C+

    We could put Skal a few slots lower in terms of his overall importance to the franchise and a number of these guys are very tightly bunched. But Skal is the buzzy name with the 7-foot frame that has all the upside.

    One has to go back to last season to truly assess Labissiere’s development this season, as after the All Star break his minutes were withheld as part of the development strategy by Joerger and Co.

    This year, Skal has looked extremely raw – though not totally overmatched – and one has to wonder if letting him work some of this stuff out last year would have sped up the process. After all, nobody should have thought Kings veterans no longer on the team playing terribly while chucking bad shots was a good idea.

    The frontcourt group of Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Randolph and Kosta Koufos isn’t one that requires too much consternation over minutes. Randolph is good for 20-24 mpg and as we’ve seen, he can dial it up for more if need be.

    Koufos has always been a 20 mpg guy and Cauley-Stein has stepped forward into a bigger role this year, meaning each of these guys more or less hangs around 20-28 mpg depending on circumstance.

    For his part, Labissiere hasn’t made the case that he deserves the higher-end of that scale.

    When Randolph was struggling at a Kendrick Perkins level earlier in the year, dipping below a rock bottom -20 net rating at one point, one might make the case that giving the sophomore minutes while his net rating actually led the team was a good idea.

    But amidst the changing rotations and feeling out period Labissiere has simply failed to check off boxes, even if he has generally improved this season. He’s not nearly as lost and there are times he has competed in meaningful moments, giving hope for the future.

    At other times he is a black hole on offense and a step slow on defense. Sometimes he is pushed around and others he is overcompensating with misplaced aggression that has led to fouls and even a tech for taking a shot at Carmelo Anthony after a mild brouhaha.

    Specifically, he has continued to show touch that implies he can be a shooter down the road. We haven’t seen anything with his dribbling to suggest he’s close to a pull-up game of any type, footwork is a big concern and he sorely lacks shot creation in the post. He continues to rely on a high-release turnaround jumper that is unblockable in theory, but off-balance in form and function.

    Still, every now and again he flies through the lane or decisively knocks down an 18-footer and you see the potential.

    The question is whether Joerger is ever going to fully buy into Skal or will he continue to pick the flaws in his game until he either sinks or swims. Only the coach, player and those very close to the team know the reality there, but it sure seems like the player has a greater chance of spinning south if it’s the latter and not the former.

    Where the front office steps in to help guide the process is perhaps the most interesting question, knowing that Joerger has a history of being tough on rookies and has developed the frontcourt in the identity of one of his favorite players, Randolph.

    Are they on the same page or do they depart from that at all? There won’t be a lot of pressure in that regard in the first third of the season, but if Skal hasn’t taken another step forward in this second-third then we’ll revisit that.

    Buddy Hield

    Player Grade: B

    Coaching Grade: A

    Front Office Grade: C

    Opinions vary widely regarding Hield both inside and outside of Sacramento and many of them are tinged by reports that Vivek Ranadive thought he could be like Stephen Curry. His relative lack of star power compared to DeMarcus Cousins led many to laugh at the Kings, and much of what you hear about Hield’s development and potential seems to be be traced back to one’s thoughts about that trade.

    Luckily, Hield has kept things pretty simple for those evaluating the team. He has doubled down on his progression into being a big-time scorer. There is no question about his ability to be a high-end shooter in the league, all while lugging around a general inefficiency that would typically bear out like a bad Nick Young rather than the poor man’s Klay Thompson numbers we see.

    He gives the offense a jolt and that’s mostly a good thing, though as a starter he failed to fit into the team’s system because of a lack of feel for tempo that has weighted down his game.

    When moved to the bench he joined a unit that is much more democratic in play types than the Zach Randolph units and is generally faster-paced where his offense is much more welcome. He continues to struggle with shot selection, turnovers and defense, but has made strides in general and should continue to improve in those areas.

    Hield is simply relentless as a scorer and his attitude is something you can build around. Though he’s nowhere near the finisher that Tyreke Evans was, he shares a lot of the same traits but he already has a much better feel for the game.

    The Kings have nowhere to go but up from here in terms of minutes and deployment. There’s not a lot to complain about at any level with the season he is having. Joerger has pulled him back when he has needed to be pulled back and given him optimal circumstances to play within.

    Zach Randolph

    Player Grade: B-

    Coaching Grade: C+

    Front Office Grade: C+

    In many ways, this season has become a season about Zach Randolph. Why? Because he’s the player firmware that the Kings want to install into their young squad.

    Z-Bo brings a moxie that even a first-time watcher can spot and he is the definition of resourceful on the floor. He can walk the walk and talk the talk. These are the obvious givens.

    The questions that have been asked and answered to various degrees revolve around the ability to justify his gravity and touches on offense and how badly he would hurt on defense.

    Defensively, it has ranged from bad to unplayable, especially when his offense isn’t there. Teams have targeted him relentlessly in the pick-and-roll and the ones that haven’t simply don’t care what they’re running.

    It’s the type of mission critical deficiency that touches every other position on the floor when it’s at its worst and a key failure in a lot of the brutal losses the Kings have experienced.

    Lately, he has improved a bit on defense and with the recent surge in offensive production it’s possible we’re seeing one of two things. It’s possible that Randolph got his sea legs and can keep things on defense to simply ‘bad’ going forward, or the thrill of beasting on offense has energized his defense.

    The supernova sunset on the offensive side has been linked in the short-term to subpar defenders that he has simply crushed. John Henson and Kevin Love had no chance. Nor did Jonas Valanciunas or Jakob Poeltl on Sunday. When he faced the Pelicans he got an extremely underwhelming duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

    But overall there has been a shift toward featuring Randolph rather than some of the horns sets that were previously running through Willie Cauley-Stein, and fewer of the timing plays that regularly stalled out in the season’s first 10 games or so. Randolph has also enjoyed a few games without Willie in the fold, helping to push some additional offense through him.

    At the same time, slow starts by De’Aaron Fox, George Hill and the offense in general – not to mention the first unit – have created all sorts of tinkering and Randolph has been the one constant to float to the surface.

    Randolph has also gotten increasingly comfortable shooting from longer distances and that has helped offset some of the problems with his defenders camping out in the lane. He has always been a threat to shoot, but he tends to start at the elbow or block and move around the paint into each subsequent post location, ready to receive the ball.

    Now we’re seeing more of the ‘pop’ action on pick-and-roll and dribble-hand-offs, as well as more jab-step isolations that have been a staple of his play for years. It’s getting incrementally better for all involved.

    When he’s the focal point and his teammates are aware of that — the spacing, tempo and timing are all much better. When they’re not deferring to him the lane gets clogged and players who are 1-2 or more tools away from being real playmakers or one-on-one threats start to have trouble.

    Though he still has the worst net rating on the team, he has bridged about a 25 percent gap between he and the rest of the starters in the last week or so. Most importantly he has been a key cog to revitalize the team after a very rough stretch. These mini-moments in an 82-game season are worth more than the 4-5 games they impact in a box score or stat set.

    Ultimately, however, Randolph’s season and his impact on this team is largely going to be a referendum on Joerger and the pros and cons of the decisions he makes.

    If players don’t develop and Randolph lays down the type of film we saw in the first 15 games, that’s probably not going to be very good. Nobody benefits from veterans getting minutes that aren’t earning their minutes, especially when that player’s gravity changes the way that everybody else on the squad operates.

    If it progresses down that road, the organization becomes the backstop for guiding and then demanding performance by both player and coach. They had to know what they were getting into bringing a veteran’s coach one of his favorite players.

    But if Joerger’s gamble to stick with Randolph pays off, despite some truly amazing early struggles, then the sum could be way greater than the total of the parts.

    The last few games have given a lot of hope that it will be just that, though teams are undoubtedly going to make Randolph work much harder in this next third of the season. His early season issues didn’t just vanish.

    If he’s still the dominating center of gravity for this squad at the two-thirds mark and the other players aren’t developing — the key question to ask will be whether Randolph has truly been earning the minutes.

    Frank Mason III

    Player Grade: B+

    Coaching Grade: A-

    Front Office Grade: A+

    There are going to be a lot of Isaiah Thomas comparisons and that’s fine. Anything that can wash away the bad taste of that self-inflicted experience for Kings fans is something anybody can root for.

    He hasn’t shown to have the shot-making ability or the handles that Thomas had as a rookie, nor does he have the same strength or leaping ability. But the foundation is there for him to get there. He’s a bulldog that may shoot a bit too much right now but he also sees the game.

    Defensively, he won’t have Thomas’ ability to slide and hold against similarly sized (small) offensive players — he’s just a bit too small for that — but he will profile very similarly. And speaking strictly on his defensive play this year, it hasn’t been good, especially early. But the major breakdowns have slowed down in frequency as his profile has risen over the past week or so.

    Similarly, while De’Aaron Fox has struggled Mason has made big shots that remind you of what Thomas made stupidly obvious to anybody with the slightest shred of basketball sense during his rookie season – these are players you keep and build around.

    And if Mason is a player you keep or build around it starts to create very interesting questions about the point guard position, Fox and the future of both – let alone why the hell the team signed George Hill in the first place.

    It’ll be low-hanging fruit to say that you keep both and that you can play them together because the league is going small, but that’s an oversimplistic misappropriation of assets that is typically counterproductive.

    Besides, they might not have enough shooting to make it work, at least during their lifespan as teammates on the same roster. These are questions for down the road, and in fairness to Fox, we haven’t seen Mason get extended minutes next to a struggling Zach Randolph. There’s a reason all of the starters have most of the team’s worst net ratings.

    But there’s also a reason that Mason currently has the team’s only positive net rating and everybody from the coach to the front office comes out looking very good so far.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic

    Player Grade: B-

    Coaching Grade: C-

    Front Office Grade: C-

    Bogdanovic hype was chilled early on as Joerger made sure to let folks know that it would be a process to integrate him, citing language and lack of familiarity with teammates and the NBA.

    It seemed a little bit overwrought and the speed with which Bogi was introduced to a higher-minute role immediately ran contrary to that, but Joerger was probably just building a barrier between the older rookie and the expectations that came with him.

    As for those expectations, I had been dubbing him the poor man’s C.J. McCollum by that point and I still see it – he can shoot way better than the 30.9 percent mark from deep and is already a 44 percent shooter from the field. His massive cold streak during some of the Kings’ greatest struggles is just begging for further positive regression.

    He is sly in the pick-and-roll and a demon in the lob game, begging the question of why he isn’t featured in more of a pick-and-roll setting versus the high post, timing-based stuff that the team runs a lot of.

    Like many players, he has enjoyed playing in the uptempo and free-flowing second unit and away from Zach Randolph, getting more chances with players like Willie Cauley-Stein that are better complements to his game.

    Athletically, there could be issues down the road if he cannot maintain his current, average-at-best explosion, though it’s possible he improves now that he can get NBA-level training through his prime years. He definitely profiles better against small lineups defensively, but otherwise he’s a bit too slow for a lot of shooting guards and too short and ground-bound for bouncy small forwards.

    Bogdanovic, as much as any player, has been impacted by the various logjams and identity issues facing the team. He’s underutilized on offense and the system – which doesn’t highlight this particular team’s strengths very well – is especially limiting of his strengths. He’s playing out of position a lot of the time. Bogdanovic is not getting the minutes a team of this quality should be giving him. By getting sporadic touches he’s not seeing any of the benefits of continuity. Given the presence of Fox, Mason, Hield and to a lesser degree players like Justin Jackson and Malachi Richardson, the future for Bogi is either a minute split at shooting guard or life as an undersized three.

    If his primary strength is tempo creation and shooting on offense it’s hard to see where he fits in without some reshuffling of the deck. Props are deserved for seeing the value when making the draft day deal two years ago, but the recent execution is lacking.

    Justin Jackson

    Player Grade: C-

    Coaching Grade: B

    Front Office Grade: D

    Jackson’s story is far from written but he is poised to be a victim of his own draft status, in particular the trade to break up the No. 10 pick into the No. 15 and 20.

    When you slide down from 10 and don’t hit there is a very good chance that somebody in the gap is going to go gonzo. In this case, that’ll be the Donovan Mitchell selection by Utah at No. 13.

    Jackson has a mostly bankable NBA talent with his shooting, though it hasn’t quite made it to the big stage just yet with 39.9 percent marks from the field and 32.7 percent from deep. He’ll get that turned around eventually.

    Supporters will point out his basketball IQ and willingness to make the right play, as well as a general disposition that one wants on a basketball team, and all of that is mostly true.

    The hard part for Jackson is that his lack of athleticism and strength makes him have to guess a lot on both sides of the ball. Drives are all-out forays to the hoop that are a bit too optimistic, and defensive overplays are the counters to not having the sheer attributes to read and react.

    There’s a slight chance that he can find the nexus of skill, shooting and savvy to meet this draft day cost, but the early money is going the other way.

    Harry Giles

    Player Grade: INCOMPLETE

    Coaching Grade: INCOMPLETE

    Front Office Grade: D+

    This probably gets a C- or a C grade if Jackson had been better or Donovan Mitchell wasn’t so obviously good. Bam Adebayo, John Collins, OG Anunoby and everybody’s miss Kyle Kuzma all come into play, too.

    It’s not completely fair to rate a player and decision when he hasn’t stepped foot on the court, but when the injury history is so extensive some of that gets thrown out the window.

    And as we’re watching with Philly, it’s not that folks don’t know the risk and reward of certain draftees, but one has to be willing to live with the results of that gamble. If Joel Embiid can’t stay healthy the Process didn’t really work. The Kings have done that on a much smaller scale with this pick.

    George Hill

    Player Grade: D+

    Coaching Grade: D+

    Front Office Grade: D-

    The Hill grade is going to seem like a chance to pile on but it’s really a team-wide blunder and he’s going through personal issues to boot, so everything that could go wrong is going wrong right now.

    The first of many problems for Hill was that he was signed in the first place knowing that De’Aaron Fox needed more than 16-22 mpg this season, which would reflect a fairly normal season for Hill logging starter’s minutes and staying relatively healthy.

    Of course, health is always the qualifier folks use when describing him and there’s something to be said for the fact that he could even be hurt right now and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising, though we haven’t heard anything to that degree.

    That conclusion arises because folks are simply baffled by his play. Quin Snyder utilized him as a primary option on offense in Utah and he was explosive when on the floor, especially when healthy. That’s why he got paid what he got paid – he was that good.

    Lack of aggression has always been a knock on his play dating back to Indiana, but in Sacramento where they’ve been trying to integrate a timing-based, high-post offense for much of the year, only to change the lineups regularly, and then move to a feature-based approach with Randolph – it’s a situation ripe for a player that defers to also withdraw.

    The withdrawal has also mirrored the lack of foresight in picking him up as a free agent – or even his decision to go to Sacramento in the first place. A player with no long-term future in a location with a logjam at his position isn’t hard to shoo away, especially when sentiment is going to naturally turn against him due to the size of his contract.

    That he didn’t have a strong promise of playing time and system clarity as he was always going to be playing for his next contract is really, really surprising.

    Seemingly from Day 1 the talk has been about being able to trade him for assets and that the Kings had exercised good asset management in securing his services, but Hill is now a mostly toxic asset after his slow start and that line of thinking never really had a chance.

    He is eligible to be traded on December 15 and that’s where this is heading but the market is going to be marshmallow soft. The only way it improves is if the offense tilts his direction and that would be yet another change in a system that is currently featuring Randolph and needs to start featuring younger players as the season goes on.

    If there is any silver lining for the Kings it might be that Frank Mason’s emergence and the rock bottom results for Hill can create a gravity for this deal to pass through as a quick but painful loss. It might require the Kings to take a haircut on a deal.

    The alternative is to have him hang around as an albatross or to hope he can play his way into better value on the trade market. It’s going to take until the trade deadline next season to get good odds on that possibility.

    Vince Carter

    Player Grade: C

    Coaching Grade: C-

    Front Office Grade: B-

    Carter could go higher on this list in terms of importance because like Zach Randolph he is being used as a template for young Kings to follow. It’s hard to find much better leadership, though some of the shot selection and on-court stuff has been fairly brutal to watch this year.

    Luckily the minutes have been scarce enough to limit the damage, though not scarce enough to satisfy questions of why he’s on the floor in certain situations – back to the whole veterans not earning their minutes thing.

    The calculated bet by Joerger and the front office is that even though these guys might not be earning their minutes, by having their minutes they still retain a voice in the locker room.

    That logic always has some holes that can be poked in it, but Carter’s presence is overwhelmingly a positive for this Kings squad. He was in De’Aaron Fox’s ear during his struggles on Sunday against the Raptors and his absence on the road while dealing with kidney stones was cited by many around the team as a real downer for a squad in need of any advantage they could get at the time.

    The key is going to be limiting the minutes and maximizing the leadership and it’s not hard to see the Kings navigating that just fine.

    Garrett Temple

    Player Grade: C-

    Coaching Grade: C-

    Front Office Grade: B-

    Temple probably deserves to be higher on this list for what he has already brought to the franchise, let alone what he will bring going forward, but such is life for an older veteran that could easily move on at just about any time.

    In fact, Temple’s contract is probably a good source of bait for the Kings since it’s manageable and he could help any number of playoff squads.

    Defense is his game, of course, and it was a massive swing and miss that voters didn’t have him in the mix for First Team All-Defense last season. He didn’t just have a great year he shut down the best and brightest in the game just about every night.

    Like Joe Ingles’ contract this past summer or Player X in Small Market Y – NBA analysts rely way too much on an echo chamber that routinely misses the granular stuff.

    It was a stellar display of lateral quickness and instincts on the ball, but unfortunately at 31 years old this season we haven’t seen much of that. He’s still gritty and makes plenty of plays, but a defensive stopper walks a fine line between dominant and beatable in this day and age of offensive wunderkinds.

    He just doesn’t have the lateral quicks right now and it’s possible he has lost some mojo in the process, choosing to try and make up for it on offense with inconsistent results at best.

    The bad shot selection is contagious and that works against so-called narratives of veteran leadership, but he embodies that in every sense of the term.

    A declining Garrett Temple still builds toward the identity the Kings want to have, but if he can’t get his fastball back on defense or he continues to do too much on offense he becomes a much more costly contributor to the logjam.

    Malachi Richardson

    Player Grade: C-

    Coaching Grade: C-

    Front Office Grade: C-

    There’s not a ton to say about Richardson other than that he isn’t getting a lot of minutes. On one hand he hasn’t really forced the coaches’ hands with anything we’ve seen, but that could easily be a chicken and egg situation due to the logjams.

    On a team with no real small forward option, it sure seems like he should have a better chance than he has had to show his stuff, but veteran minutes are at a maximum early on and things could easily change down the road.

    Georgios Papagiannis

    Player Grade: D-

    Coaching Grade: INCOMPLETE

    Front Office Grade: D-

    Papagiannis is going to be an easy target because nobody really knew who he was on draft day, he played the same position as DeMarcus Cousins and Basketball Twitter roasted the Kings for it. He’ll also be an easy target because he’s big, lumbering (to put it nicely) and there were mischaracterized comparisons to Marc Gasol being made.

    If you squint hard enough you can see some footwork and shooting touch, but he’s nowhere near the vicinity of being a skilled basketball player or viable rotation guy.

    He’s young enough and big enough to add a year or two to the audition, but depending on how the other guys in the Marquese Chriss trade pan out the narrative on Vlade Divac’s draft could flip-flop yet another time and not in a favorable way.

    Dave Joerger

    Coaching Grade: B-

    Front Office Grade: C+

    Joerger is more interesting than your average D-League coach making good in the NBA story, as his stop in Memphis was littered with semi-controversial back office disputes and his arrival in Sacramento was as abrupt as it was unlikely.

    Once it was clear that Joerger was on the outs in Memphis he leapfrogged a long list of potential hires being vetted by Vlade Divac and in truly expeditious fashion.

    He airdropped right into a situation with DeMarcus Cousins that would make weaker coaches crumble. The writing on that eventual decision might have already been written on the proverbial wall, but he did his best to assuage the big man.

    The team brought in Matt Barnes to appease Cousins, and Barnes was perhaps the league’s worst player that season, yet Joerger played him religiously.

    It all backed into Joerger’s contention that veterans need minutes in order to have their locker room voice and in an opinion shared by more folks than you would think around the league, he viewed Barnes as a solid locker room guy. So did many of Barnes’ teammates.

    At the same time neither Barnes nor Cousins would honor that trust with various mishaps and by the end of the year the narrative that chased Joerger from Memphis to Sacramento had become a thing – he was overplaying demonstratively bad veterans at the expense of younger players.

    The coach has pushed back on that narrative and at the same time he is resolute in his approach to development. As with all things we’ll have to see how that plays out.

    Simultaneously, there is practically no appetite to make a coaching change in Sacramento – not amongst ownership, the front office or most of the fans that I hear from on social media.

    And that’s smart. Even if Joerger was at rock bottom as a coach, one could argue that the Kings simply need to keep their coach for longer than two seasons to prove that they can. He’s not at rock bottom and he’s not close, but he will set the stage for next season with how this season goes.

    The stubbornness that has characterized some of his decisions with veteran players, his system and then the young guys is the measurement here. No coach has an unlimited timer and the youth will either develop or they won’t.

    Reliance on veterans to make young players ‘earn it’ has derailed many a good coach, but either way both he and Vlade Divac are tied at the hip here.

    That’s a good thing in the sense that they’ll be pulling for each other and bad in the sense that if one falls they could both fall. It’s been a while since we’ve seen some classic Kings drama. We’ll see that dynamic get tested if the kids don’t develop or the front office needs to step in and help direct traffic with playing time.

    Vlade Divac and Kings Leadership

    Front Office Grade: C-

    This grade could shift after the December 15 trading window but looking back on the offseason it’s fair to say reality has caught up with the hype.

    The Kings didn’t do things that were large-scale crazy and they brought on a guy in Scott Perry that people around the league like. That led to good press and folks gave the Kings good marks for the draft, which as we’ve seen was a bit overoptimistic.

    Folks also latched on to the veteran leadership narrative and that has worn off, leaving the residue of the logjams and lack of development for key players to date sort of lingering as loaded ‘what-ifs.’

    The George Hill issue is likely to leave a mark and the extensions for both Joerger and Divac felt like they were a bit early, though that’s probably the necessary price for past indiscretions. It does feel like there is night-and-day less crazy than the ill-fated Pete D’Alessandro regime. Vivek hasn’t made a bad headline in a while.

    The concerns over logjams and roster construction are real but possibly overwrought. The main issue that everybody knows is the main issue is that of development of these young players. Which ones and how many turn into plus-assets.

    To the degree that the front office exerts influence over the optimal development of these assets, and starts to deal with the various roster issues, will go a long way toward shaping what is a pretty pliable future. In the meantime, we’ll go easy on their grade but we’re not going to drink the water indiscriminately.

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