It appears that the Kings have made the decision to hand the lead basketball operations position to former Rockets assistant GM Monte McNair.
McNair has spent the last 13 seasons working his way up in the Rockets system under one of the more progressive general managers in the NBA in Daryl Morey, but this is his first opportunity to run an organization on his own.
Morey’s executive tree continues to expand around the league. From Sam Hinkie to Gersson Rosas to Sachin Gupta, Morey's analytics-based approach to the game has become widely popular.
McNair, who oversaw the Rockets’ analytics staff, also has been involved with the player evaluation side of management, including free agency, drafts and trades.
Why McNair makes sense
While he hasn’t held a top position within an NBA organization in the past, McNair is a well-respected executive who has worked at every level within the Rockets organization.
His ability to translate analytics into real-world solutions with the coaching staff makes him an intriguing add, although he’ll have his hands full running an organization as the lead man in Sacramento and will have to delegate much of these responsibilities to others.
Since chairman Vivek Ranadivé took over the franchise in 2013, he has looked to analytics to help bring the Kings into the modern NBA, although his executives haven’t always matched the vision he is looking for.
McNair will need to add strong pieces around him to fill the gaps in his experience, but there is a lot to like about the path he has taken to this point. Hopefully, he is given the latitude to make the decisions necessary to move the franchise in the right direction after 14 consecutive seasons outside the playoff picture.
Why McNair over other candidates
This question will take time to answer. Of the three finalists for the position, McNair had the least experience at the highest levels of running a franchise.
Gupta, the Timberwolves' executive VP of basketball operations, has experience as a No. 2 with both Minnesota and previously with the Philadelphia 76ers. He worked with McNair for five seasons in Houston and rumors had the two potentially joining forces in Sacramento.
Wes Wilcox held the position of general manager in Atlanta, but hasn’t had a full-time NBA job since resigning from the Hawks in 2017.
It’s possible that McNair’s vision of Kings basketball moving forward stood out in his meetings with Ranadivé and interim VP of basketball operations Joe Dumars.
Why it was important to add McNair now
The NBA officially set a draft date of Nov. 18 and teams are scrambling to do their due diligence with prospects. There is a chance for a modified combine in the coming weeks and the Kings need their front office set as soon as possible with a very uncertain offseason ahead.
Armed with the No. 12 overall selection, as well as picks No. 35, 43 and 52 in the second round, the Kings need someone mapping out their draft and working through their assets.
While the NBA has yet to establish when free agency will begin, the Kings have plenty of issues to resolve there as well. Sacramento has a decision to make on a potential max-money extension for star point guard De’Aaron Fox. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent and the team has a stack of unrestricted free agents, too.
McNair also will need to build a staff to work around him. There is no early word on how Dumars fits into this puzzle. Assistant general manager Ken Catanella also remains on staff as of now. Whether or not he will be retained likely is up to McNair.
Did the Kings get it right?
This is the $1 billion question. Unlike some of the other candidates, there isn’t a lot of information on McNair. What we know is that he is coming from a stable Rockets situation that has proven successful and he’s well-versed in analytics. That is a very good start.
Over the last decade, the Kings repeatedly have missed on top-tier talent in the draft. They have overpaid for role players in free agency. They’ve struck out on a few trades and they have failed to make the playoffs.
McNair has a lot of work to do if he hopes to quickly turn the ship around. He needs to have an aggressive approach and, more than anything else, he needs complete autonomy to make moves to improve the roster.