If you win, they will come.
That seems to be the mantra of new Kings GM Monte McNair. After a solid draft and quiet free agent period, McNair sat down with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski for a pre season tip off conversation.
McNair has a belief that building a contender starts with a star player and a winning record.
“I think guys in this league, they want to win,” McNair said. “Guys follow winning and even in Houston, which is a bigger market, more of a free agent destination, we had trouble going the free agency route until we had one star in place. Once that happened we were much more successful.”
The Kings hope they have a star in point guard De’Aaron Fox, who signed a new five-year, $163 million extension during the offseason. The speedster is ready to take another leap and at least one of his teammates believes he can be an All-Star.
McNair pointed to the arrival of James Harden as the moment the Rockets, his former employer, became a major player. After posting solid numbers as a third option in Oklahoma City, Harden had a breakout first season in Houston during the 2012-13 season.
With Harden in tow, the Rockets were able to land a huge free agent in Dwight Howard the next summer.
“Cities and markets matter some, but I think winning can trump all that,” McNair told Wojnarowski. “So once the wins come, the players will follow.”
Harden’s arrival coincided with the Rockets’ current eight-year playoff run. They’ve been a title contender for much of the time, including a 65-win season and trip to the Western Conference Finals during the 2017-18 season.
Sacramento may test McNair’s mindset on free agency. Outside of retaining their own free agents in the past, the Kings’ biggest name free agent signing is Vlade Divac, who joined the club during the 1998-99 NBA lockout.
The Kings have brought in solid veteran additions, but landing a franchise altering star has alluded every front office executive that’s run the franchise during the team’s 35+ years in Sacramento.
McNair has his work cut out for him, but one of the things that drew him to the Kings was the young talent on the team and the flexibility that comes with owning all of your draft picks, as well as a few extra selections moving forward.
Don’t be surprised if he’s already scouted the league for another young player on the rise to pair with Fox. McNair has assets at his finger tips and a want to aggressively rebuild the roster.
If the Kings are going to climb up in the standings and end their 14-year playoff drought, they need Fox to take a leap like Harden did. If he can become a star, maybe McNair’s theory about talent following talent can be tested.