The Philadelphia 76ers call it, “The Process.” Others call it a rebuild or asset collecting. Some might even call it tanking. For more than a decade, the Sacramento Kings have been on a perpetual road to nowhere, gambling on the NBA Draft and more often than not, coming up empty.
Excuse the sample size, but things appear to be turning in Sacramento’s favor. Four years in, Willie Cauley-Stein looks like a ball player. The acquisition of the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic is paying off. Buddy Hield has become more than just a scorer and De’Aaron Fox looks like a top tier player.
The Sacramento Kings appear to have a core group of young players to build around and we haven’t even mentioned rookies Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III, or young players with potential like Justin Jackson, Frank Mason and Skal Labissiere.
At 8-6, there is a buzz around the Kings for the first time in years and it’s probably time to start looking long and hard at the short-term and long-term plan for this franchise.
[HAM: In Year 3, Kings have unleashed Buddy Hield into way more than a scorer]
The initial idea coming into the season was to leverage the team’s $11 million in cap space and bevy of expiring contracts. Sacramento planned to facilitate transactions for other teams around the league with the hopes of replacing the 2019 draft pick the Kings lost via trade.
Sacramento was mentioned in deals surrounding Jimmy Butler, but only as a third team willing to take on a contract. They can wait for another deal like that to materialize and potentially land a non-lottery level draft selection in exchange for a bloated contract.
It’s a perfectly reasonable plan coming into the season, but at some point, Vlade Divac and his group might need to reconsider their approach.
With the team playing well and the roster still incomplete, this might be a season when the Kings consider buying instead of selling.
There are high-budget teams around the league that are struggling and on the hook for major tax bills. There are also teams around the NBA looking to clear space for next summer’s bonanza where nearly half the league can become a free agent.
The Kings can sit on their nest egg. They have upwards of $60 million in cap space come July 1 and they can dip their toes into free agency like the other 20-plus teams around the league with money.
Or they can go out, leverage their position as the only franchise in the league with cap space and start looking for the right deal to help this team win more games now. What is the right deal? That’s complicated.
Any trade should involve a player that is on the same age arc as the majority of the current roster. Whether that player is locked into a long-term contract or is still working through their rookie scale deal, it shouldn’t matter to the Kings.
These types of players come at a premium and the Kings will likely have to absorb a substantial additional contract.
[HAM: Kings’ De'Aaron Fox shares reason behind his improved 3-point shooting]
December 15 is a major date to watch in the NBA. It’s the point in the season when players who were signed over the summer are allowed to be traded and it usually sparks some movement around league.
It’s also the point when most teams have an understanding of who and what they are in regards to the standings. A team that came in with high expectations and spent accordingly during the offseason might be willing to chat if their season has gone sideways.
Sacramento is in a rare position. They have a ton of power around the league as the only team with any measure of cap space. They can clear up even more room by waiving veteran players on expiring deals or adding them in a package while taking back longer term contracts.
The plan to acquire future assets made sense coming into the season, but at this point, the Kings should look long and hard at changing their stance and getting coach Dave Joerger and his squad a piece or two to help improve the club.