The Kings' bubble has burst. The 2019-20 season is officially over for Sacramento and 14 other teams. While the Kings didn’t have the success they hoped for in the eight-game seeding tournament, matched with the 64-game regular season, we have plenty of information to walk into the summer with.
Most of what we saw wasn’t pretty. The coronavirus took its toll on the Kings' roster early, which once again led to a slow start. The team didn’t play defense at all in the bubble. There were chemistry and injury issues, and an overall malaise as the team fell out of contention.
How does it get better? Do the Kings need a total overhaul? Here is a look at some of the pressing issues facing Sacramento heading into the offseason.
If nothing else, the eight-game seeding tournament cemented the fact that the Kings were right to build their team around De’Aaron Fox. Through the first six games of the restart, Fox averaged 26.2 points, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 34.7 minutes per game.
This team will go as far as Fox can take it. The focus of the offseason should be to add more pieces that fit with Fox. That means more shooters, more length at the forward positions and a true rim protector.
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The Big Question
The mid-season switch from Buddy Hield to Bogdan Bogdanovic at the starting shooting guard position has set the Kings on a dangerous course. Hield is about to enter the first season of a new 4-year, $86 million deal and his play in the bubble has been nothing short of baffling.
Can the Kings enter next season with Hield as their sixth man making nearly $25 million? Will they look to move Hield for a potential starting level small forward or long-term fix at the four? Hield is an elite 3-point shooter and has been a valuable member of the squad, but he makes high-end starter money. All options should be on the table at this point.
Does Someone Pay for Bubble Struggle
Vlade Divac landed his man in the summer of 2019, inking former teammate Luke Walton to a four-year deal to run the Kings. Walton’s first year in Sacramento began on the wrong foot with an 0-5 start to the season, but the team was playing much better when the season went on hiatus on March 11.
The team’s slow pace and 3-5 record in the bubble create some issues, but Divac and Walton are a package deal at this point. With the franchise losses in the tens, if not hundreds of millions due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to see the Kings pulling the plug on the pair, but stranger things have happened in Sacramento.
An early prediction would be that Divac and Walton are given another season to fix the situation, but the next 48 hours will be telling. The team finished with a 31-41 record for a win percentage of .430. That equates to a 35-47 record, which is four games off of last season's total under Dave Joerger.
Free Agents Abound
The Kings walk into the offseason with a stack of free agents. Bogdanovic is the lone restricted free agent and the Kings are likely to match any offer he receives in the offseason. The remaining group of Harry Giles, Alex Len, Kent Bazemore, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer are all unrestricted moving forward and can sign with any of the league’s 30 teams.
Expect Bogdanovic back, but the rest of the group is completely up in the air. Bazemore was an impact player for the Kings after joining the squad at the deadline. After Bogdanovic, he should be a priority for the Kings. Len made an impact as well as a big body in the post. If the Kings can retain him on a budget deal, he could provide plenty of depth in the paint. Ferrell likely has played his last game in a Kings uniform after two seasons in Sacramento and Brewer always is an option down the road as veteran depth.
Giles is a tough one. His passing ability and raw potential are intriguing. Does he fit with the roster moving forward? Did the Kings burn a bridge when they didn’t pick up his fourth-year option? It’s very likely that Giles will be playing elsewhere next season.
Sacramento has a stack of power forwards, but all come with question marks. The team has until Oct. 17 to guarantee Nemanja Bjelica’s final year at $7.15 million. He has played extremely well in stretches for the Kings over the last two seasons and his 3-point shooting gives Fox room to run.
Jabari Parker, who joined the Kings at the deadline, has a player option at $6.5 million. Parker has hardly played since coming over from the Hawks, but he looked good in limited time in the bubble. Walton used him primarily at the five in the restart, but if he comes back in good shape, he can easily help out at the four as well.
The Kings also have Marvin Bagley at the four, but after playing just 13 games in his second NBA season with three separate injuries, the team can’t bank on the talented young big. That means they need depth at the positions and then hope that Bagley can stay on the court. There also is a chance that the Kings search for an impact player at the wing, move Harrison Barnes to the four and shift Bagley to the center position full time. There is a lot to consider at this spot.
The Kings missed the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season and the league only is getting tougher around them. The Golden State Warriors should be back in the mix for the postseason next year, New Orleans and Phoenix are both improving and the Memphis Grizzlies have a nice young squad, too.
Sacramento has to find a way to dramatically improve within a short period of time. That means that nothing outside of dealing Fox should be off the table. The Kings have to take that mindset into the offseason and be aggressive, or the team will be in a similar position next summer.