The list of names is growing. The search is on. Who will be the next general manager of the Kings?
Maybe we should backtrack for a moment and look into what this job actually entails before we fully start throwing out options for executives.
Are the Kings a job worth taking? Do they have assets, cap flexibility and a core to build around? Is this team on the right path or ready for a complete teardown?
These issues matter. After a fourteenth straight absence from the playoffs, the Kings are searching for a voice that can right the ship and put them back on a path for success.
The Kings have a building block in De’Aaron Fox. He’s expected to sign a max-money extension later this summer with the club, which will keep him in a Kings uniform for at least five more seasons.
Outside of Fox, the Kings have Harrison Barnes (3-years, $60 million) and Buddy Hield (4-year, $86 million) under contract long term and another two seasons remaining on Marvin Bagley’s rookie scale contract.
Aside from these four players, the Kings do not have another guaranteed contract that goes beyond the 2020-21 season.
This is actually a bonus for anyone interested in the Kings’ job. Hield’s contract, while robust, is moveable this summer. Barnes’ deal looks scary at first glance, but it’s a declining scale deal that drops by eight percent every year.
The team has to make a decision on restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic, but the rest of the roster is moldable moving forward.
The team has until Oct. 17 to guarantee $7.2 million to Nemanja Bjelica. Richaun Holmes and Jabari Parker (player option at $6.5 million) are both free agents after next season and Cory Joseph’s contract has a team option for the 2021-22 season at $12.6 million with a $2.4 million buyout.
For an incoming executive, this is a pretty clean sheet. There is no albatross player and there are plenty of expiring contracts to work with at the 2021 trade deadline. Improvements need to be made, for sure, but there are options that someone can work with.
Unlike past seasons, the Kings have all of their draft picks moving forward, including a No. 12 lottery placement in the 2020 NBA Draft. A move into the top four would be a huge boon for the team, but they have just a 6.1 percent chance of moving up.
Sacramento also has three second-round selections (35, 43, 52) in the 2020 Draft, which could equal additional players or possibly more assets for the future.
The Kings have additional second-round selections in 2021 (Memphis Grizzlies), 2024 (Portland Trail Blazers) and 2025 (Trail Blazers) as well, with no outgoing picks.
The roster can be transformed, the assets are strong and the building is beautiful, but there is a reason the list of candidates doesn’t wrap around the building and down J Street.
Fourteen straight seasons on the outside looking in on the NBA playoffs takes its toll. Seven of those seasons have come under owner Vivek Ranadivé, who hasn’t always shown patience in the process.
The Kings also have a head coach, Luke Walton, under contract for three more years, which means that anyone coming in has another decision to make down the road. Is Walton salvageable? Will ownership allow for yet another buyout of a coaching staff?
Most executives want their own guy, but Walton likely will have a year to show that he can fit in with the new front office.
There is also the issue of interim VP of basketball operations Joe Dumars. Reports have the new GM answering to ownership, but who has the final say when it comes to personnel decisions, trades and draft picks? Anyone taking the job needs a clear vision of what the team is looking for and where Dumars fits into that power structure.
In addition to roster flexibility and a young star to build around, the Kings also have one of the newer buildings in the league with a state of the art training facility and practice courts attached to the building.
Ranadivé’s group hasn’t been perfect, but they have opened their wallets on everything from the arena, to player development with the G League team, to free agency. Times are tough with the global pandemic impacting businesses across the world, but the Kings have a diverse ownership group with deep pockets.
Lastly, the Kings have a fervent fanbase that wants nothing more than to back a winner. This might not be something that is quantifiable, but there are many NBA franchises that struggle with engagement. The person that can step in and turn the Kings around can own the city in the way that Geoff Petrie did during his time in Sacramento.