If you were to rank the best GM jobs in the NBA from toughest beat to most fun project, the Kings would be a top candidate for the latter.
Perhaps only the Pelicans have a more fun host of young assets and potentially only the Mavericks (depending on what they do this offseason) can say they have a more competitive team of fun young guys.
De’Aaron Fox is clearly a culture changer, harnessing his immense speed and athleticism to make his teammates better on offence and cover some of the leagues best guards on defence. Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles are an arousing duo in the front court and Buddy Hield is one of the top shooters in the league right now at only 25.
With Harrison Barnes opting out of 25 million, Willie Callie-Stein on the market as a restricted free agent and the entirety of their core on generous rookie deals (aside from Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is on only 8.5 mil), the Kings are coming into wild amount of cap space with which to play with this offseason.
However the strategy cannot be as straight forward as other big market teams with cap space, as the Kings have never attracted a big time free agent in the past (except for my boy Vlade back in ’98).
It would be entirely unreasonable to expect the Kings to suddenly have some wild influx of great players without grossly overpaying them. So the Kings have an unorthodox off season ahead, where they need to target players on the fringes who have some experience to guide they’re young core and contribute right now to a winning effort.
So who are we looking at Kings fans?
Resign Harrison Barnes
Barnes didn’t look totally comfortable in Sacramento after a mid-season deal from the Mavs, but he’s a 27 year old above average to good NBA starter at the small forward position.
He provides spacing off the ball, can be called upon to help a bench lineup survive minutes without some of the teams best players on the floor and has been a starting player on a championship calibre team in his career.
You’re betting on the preseason and training camp to integrate Barnes more smoothly with his younger co-stars and into the offence of fellow Golden State championship alum Luke Walton.
Walton could look towards a familiar face in his new locker room to help cultivate a positive culture that gives the young Kings a taste of good competitive NBA basketball.
If it turns out to not work with Barnes, you could also flip him to a team in desperate need of cap relief or a competent wing player at the deadline for some assets.
Bring in a Veteran Wing: Danny Green
Regardless of what happens with Barnes, the Kings should be looking to add both experience and depth to their roster, particularly on the wing.
It’s all well and good to have 5-6 good younger player on your roster, but experienced players will be required to help them navigate the season.
The best candidate: Danny Green.
Still with the taste of champagne in his mouth from his Finals victory in Toronto, Green could be called upon by the Kings on a short term, high value deal to help out in Northern California.
Much like the J.J. Redick deal the Sixers have had, the idea would be to intentionally overpay a veteran who isn’t playing to the value of the contract, but rather providing all important consistency and leadership to an inexperienced but talent group of players.
Green has been on successful teams for over a decade now, playing key roles in championships in both San Antonio and Toronto. He would be a sure thing in terms of positive team chemistry effect and would be unlikely to cost much more than his previous 10 million a year (there aren’t a lot of teams that would be willing to pay him this much).
So if the Kings have some money to play with, why not throw a one year, 12 million dollar deal in front of Danny Green? Or better yet, get him for three years on a deal that is heavily front loaded for this year and has a lower back end cost.
They could also take the same approach with guys like Wesley Matthews or Trevor Ariza for a much smaller amount of money. Or you can stay in around the same price range/a slightly higher price range to get a guy like Rudy Gay.
Regardless, the Kings need some veteran guys off the bench if they’re serious about their core and serious about being competitive this upcoming season.
Improving the Center: DeAndre Jordan and Kevon Looney
Vlade Divac has made it very clear that an area the Kings will be prioritising is the Center positions.
Some people like myself would say move Bagley to the 5 and have Giles at the 4 for the upcoming season, padding out the rest of the big man rotation with capable 4’s and 5’s to play with as well.
However it appears Vlade wants to make a splash at Center, and it has been long rumoured the team may pursue Nikola Vucevic. However recently those rumours have been grounded to a halt and it appears the Kings will not pursue the 2019 All-Star.
So if the Kings are as keen to move away from Cauley-Stein as they are reported to be (or at least, at the price he may come at), DeAndre Jordan becomes a name they could enquire about.
Again, you’d likely need to overpay to some extent to get him, but Jordan may be more willing to accept a one year-big money deal to return to California. He would be exactly the kind of veteran influence you would like for Bagley and Giles, as it appears he was a capable leader of young men in both Dallas and New York last year.
He also isn’t a total scrub on the court, being able to provide consistency in his level of play however diminished that is.
A former All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defence player, Jordan could provide a good veteran influence at an affordable price.
If you are scared away by Jordan’s age and diminished play, Kevon Looney could be an interesting gamble.
Before going down with injury, Looney was a feature on a Golden State team that went to the NBA finals. He was an effective defender when switched onto a smaller player in the pick and roll, an energetic rebounder and a great finisher around the rim.
Looney was playing so well in the playoffs, he was keeping DeMarcus Cousins off the floor.
So if you’re encouraged by the play of Looney this post season, you may be able to get the 23 year old this off-season and add him to a treasure chest of young big men.