Vlade Divac

Kings 'going to the next level' with additions, Vlade Divac believes

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AP

Kings 'going to the next level' with additions, Vlade Divac believes

Kings general manager Vlade Divac made bold, calculated moves in the opening 24 hours of free agency. He addressed the Sacramento's biggest priority when he re-upped Harrison Barnes to a new four-year, $85 million contract. And then he went to work on the rest of the roster.

Following the Kings' 105-101 Las Vegas Summer League win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, Divac sat at a long table in a Thomas and Mack conference room and introduced Barnes, along with new additions, Cory Joseph, Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza.

“Now we’re going to the next level,” Divac told media members as the cameras rolled. “These are guys that have played on some championship teams. They know how to win and our young guys are going to take another step forward. So they’re going to help them a lot on and off the court.”

Barnes got a 28-game taste of life in Sacramento earlier this year after coming over to the Kings in a midseason trade. The veteran forward fit in quickly both on and off the court and the Kings were excited to lock him up long-term.

“Since I got to Sacramento, it’s been a great experience,” Barnes said. “The fans, the community, the team, made it feel like home, so I’m definitely glad to be playing here long-term with this team. I’m excited to grow and end this playoff drought.”

The overall theme of the day was the excitement surrounding the Kings after plenty of lean years. Sacramento has a talented group of young players and these additions were brought in to fill the holes and push the team over the top.

“I’ve been watching Sac for a couple of years now, they’ve been doing great things,” Joseph said. “The organization has really done a great job of building and last year they were really good. This year I’m happy to be a part of it, try to get to the playoffs this year.”

Joseph landed in Sacramento on a three-year, $37 million contract. He’ll back up De’Aaron Fox at the point guard position and he gives coach Luke Walton a defensive specialist to turn to on the perimeter.

In addition to the young core, the team’s style of play is appealing. For a player like Dedmon, who spent the last two seasons in Atlanta running up and down the court, this was the right fit for his skill set.

“The uptempo style is kind of how I’ve been playing,” Dedmon said. “I like to get up and down, run the floor and now I’m shooting threes. It’s fun basketball.”

After signing a three-year, $41 million contract, Dedmon will likely start on the front line alongside Barnes and second-year big man Marvin Bagley. Outside of inking Barnes, finding a consistent center was high on the Kings’ wish list. The 29-year-old Dedmon checks all of the boxes of what the Kings were looking and he provides leadership off the court as well.

Despite major upgrades to division rivals, the Kings are confident that they can snap the franchise’s 13-year postseason drought.

“Our division got a little bit tougher, there’s no secret about that, but I like what we have," Barnes said. "I like where we’re going and I think we have a chance to really make some noise."

Ariza has been around the block during his 15-year NBA career. At 34 years old, he played well last season after being dealt to the Washington Wizards and will be counted on for depth behind Barnes at the forward position.

The 6-foot-8 veteran knows what it takes to win. He’s made it to the playoffs nine times, including a championship run with the 2008-09 Lakers.

Before joining Sacramento, he did his homework on the Kings and heard positive things.

“From what I’ve seen and heard from around the league, the players on this team want to be better,” Ariza said. “I think that’s the key for your team to be successful.”

Sacramento didn’t miss by much last season. They were in the postseason chase, but finished on a sour note, losing seven of their final 10 games.

“We were so close, down the stretch, losing a lot of those games close, little mistakes,” Barnes said. “I think that when we come into the season, that’s going to be our biggest focus - the details. How do we go from being a 39-win team that barely misses, to being a team that’s a fifth [or] sixth seed.”

[RELATED: Barnes preaching 'culture of family']

Divac likely felt the same way that Barnes did down the stretch of last season. To remedy the situation, he’s brought in supporting players to help work through some of the mistakes that cost Sacramento dearly last season.

In addition to Barnes, Joseph, Dedmon and Ariza, the Kings reached an agreement with big man Richaun Holmes on a two-year, $10 million deal. The 25-year-old shot blocker was not in attendance on Monday, but is expected to sign his contract with the Kings soon.

DeMarcus Cousins' move to Lakers reminder of what could've been for Kings

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AP

DeMarcus Cousins' move to Lakers reminder of what could've been for Kings

It never was going to happen.

The moment Vlade Divac pushed the giant red “break in case of emergency” button and sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, his time in Sacramento was eternally over.

Cousins agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday afternoon. He was one of the consolation prizes for LA after missing out in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes.

The details of Cousins’ contract reportedly are one year, at $3.5 million. A combination of injuries and baggage has kept Cousins from being a hot ticket on the open market.

The fact that he has to play for what amounts to NBA pocket change was unthinkable just a few seasons back. He was a star level player and one of the most dominant big men in the league.

After missing out on a supermax money deal in Sacramento that would have paid him over $200 million, Cousins has tried to fight his way back into the big-money conversation.

An Achilles tear cost him a year of action. A quad tear in the playoffs showed that he rushed back too soon in pursuit of a title.

The Lakers quickly are putting together a roster of misfit toys, like they did last season. The main difference is that they’ve added Anthony Davis to the mix.

Danny Green inked a two-year, $30 million deal. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope re-upped at two-years, $16 million, and Rajon Rondo landed back in LA on a two-year contract where he’ll rejoin Cousins for a third time and Davis for a second tour.

Cousins may start alongside Davis, like they did in New Orleans. Or he could come off the bench behind JaVale McGee. Either way, he is part of a collective, no longer the headliner on an NBA marquee.

For Sacramento, Cousins was a get out of jail free card. After continuously missing out on the postseason, Divac dealt the 6-foot-11 center at the right moment in their timeline.

With a hard reset, Divac was able to land Buddy Hield, the 10th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and an early second round pick.

Just a game out of the playoffs at the time of the trade, Sacramento fell out of contention and retained their own 2017 pick, which was owed to the Bulls if outside the top 10. After moving up and down the draft board, the Kings eventually landed the fifth pick in the draft where they selected De’Aaron Fox.

Divac turned the 10th pick in that draft into the 15th and 20th pick via the Trail Blazers, where he selected Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

From one transaction, the Kings have been able to reboot their entire franchise. Almost every move since can be traced back to the deal that sent Cousins to the Pelicans.

Sacramento sent Jackson to the Dallas Mavericks along with Zach Randolph for Harrison Barnes. Randolph was signed with some of the money that would have gone to Cousins.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to injuries, but if Cousins would have signed his deal in Sacramento and then had the same string of setbacks, it would have been devastating for the franchise.

Instead of paying Cousins over $40 million next season, the Kings have a young core and they spent their extra cash adding Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and Richaun Homes this summer.

After capping out at 33 wins with Cousins, the Kings won 39 last season and they have higher aspirations this season. They have a youth movement to build around and cap flexibility moving forward.

Cousins is getting another shot at redemption with the hope that he can stay healthy and rebuild some of his worth on the open market.

There was a moment when Cousins was the face of the Kings franchise. That moment has passed and the Kings aren’t looking back.

[RELATED: Ranking the Western Conference after Clips' Kawhi deal]

Divac made the bold and difficult decision to rip off the band-aid, deal his franchise player and start fresh. It’s worked out so far for the Kings’ general manager, but not so much for Cousins. 

NBA free agency: How Kings bolstered their roster through flurry of moves

NBA free agency: How Kings bolstered their roster through flurry of moves

What a difference a year makes. The Sacramento Kings walked into the 2018-19 season without knowing what they had at any of the five positions on the floor.

It’s a new year and there is no question that general manager Vlade Divac has improved the team’s depth and overall talent level.

In order for everything to work as planned, Divac is banking on his young players to continue their growth. He added seasoned role players at almost every position to support their development, but the team will only go as far as the young core takes them.

After a flurry of moves, here is a look at the Kings' roster compared to the one they walked into last season with.

Point guard

2018-19 depth chart: De’Aaron Fox, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason
2019-20 depth chart: De’Aaron Fox, Cory Joseph, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason, Kyle Guy

In his rookie campaign, Fox had the look of a starter late in the season, but after averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per game, nothing was guaranteed. A year later, Fox is an up-and-coming star primed to take another substantial leap in production as he enters his third season.

The team has yet to announce their plans for Ferrell, but the addition of Joseph on a three-year contract makes his roster spot precarious at best. Sacramento has until July 4 to make a decision on Ferrell's $3.2 million team option.

Mason’s spot on the squad is in question as well, but he’s an affordable fifth guard at this point. There is a good chance the Kings keep him in the fold heading into training camp and allow him to battle with the Guy and fellow second-rounder Justin James for a roster spot. Sacramento has until Oct. 15 to make a decision on their $1.6 million team option for Mason.

Outlook

Fox should be a much better player entering his third season than he was last year or the year before and Joseph presents a huge upgrade as a defensive-minded veteran point guard. There is no question the position is much improved over last year.

Shooting Guard

2018-19 depth chart: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield
2019-20 depth chart: Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin James

How quickly we forget that Bogdanovic was supposed to start last season as the starter, but a late offseason injury cost him 10 games and opened a door for Hield to steal the job.

After posting 20.7 points, five rebounds and knocking down 278 3-pointers, Hield is not only the starter, he’s one of the team’s better players. The 26-year-old sniper improved his scoring average by more than seven points per game and has made himself into one of the elite shooters in the league.

With his starting job gone, Bogdanovic became the team’s jack-of-all trades sixth man. It’s a role he’s very well suited for. He can play the one, two and three, handle the ball and create for his teammates.

Outlook

Hield is a revelation for the Kings. They knew he could score, but he became so much more in his third NBA season. Bogdanovic is a five-tool player and there is hope he will enter the season healthy for the first time in his third year in the league. Both players are entering a contract year and have everything to play for.

James is organizational depth at this point and Fox can steal a few minutes at the position with the addition of Joseph.

Small Forward

2018-19 depth chart: Iman Shumpert, Justin Jackson, Troy Williams
2019-20 depth chart: Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza

Dave Joerger was forced to start Shumpert, a 6-foot-5 guard who had played just 14 games the season before, as his starting small forward. Jackson was inconsistent and Williams was on a two-way contract.

In short, while Shumpert had moments and did the best he could, the position was a disaster from the start.

At 6-foot-8, Barnes is a legitimate starting small forward with the ability to play the four as well. Like Barnes, Ariza is also 6-foot-8, giving Luke Walton the size necessary to compete at the three in the modern NBA game.

These are both quality veteran players who will stretch the floor and defend at a high level.

Outlook

This is the deepest the Kings have been at the small forward spot since they walked into the season with Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes. It easily could be argued that the current duo bring a lot more to the table than those three.

Bogdanovic can steal time at the position as well, giving Walton all kinds of options.

Power Forward

2018-19 depth chart: Nemanja Bjelica, Marvin Bagley
2019-20 depth chart: Marvin Bagley, Nemanja Bjelica

Bjelica was a pleasant surprise last season for Sacramento, especially early in the season. He’s a high basketball IQ player who can stretch the floor and he gave the Kings a chance to bring Bagley along slowly.

When healthy, Bagley showed flashes of stardom, which is what the Kings are banking on in Year 2. Two separate knee injuries cost the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft 20 games, but he still managed to average 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and one block in 25.3 minutes per game.

Outlook

Bagley is an elite prospect that performed at a high level when healthy. Bjelica is the savvy vet. Sacramento is expecting a huge jump from Bagley as he moves into a starting role and Bjelica should continue to provide depth at the position. Barnes, Ariza and Harry Giles can all help out at the position as well.

Center

2018-19 depth chart: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Harry Giles
2019-20 depth chart: Dewayne Dedmon, Harry Giles, Rachaun Holmes

Cauley-Stein showed improvement in his fourth NBA season, but he continued to struggle with consistency and became a non-factor as a rim protector. Koufos was a solid veteran that sat on the bench for much of the season while the team went young, and Giles came into the year playing a total of 300 minutes over his previous three years of basketball.

Dedmon is consistent, he hits 3-pointers, sets screens and blocks shots. He doesn’t have the high-end potential of Cauley-Stein, but he checks more boxes. Giles looked much better in the second half of the season and is likely the long-term answer at the position.

Holmes is an energizer bunny that doesn’t back down from anyone.

Outlook

The Kings needed a change at the position and they now have players that fit their style of play. The years of throwing to DeMarcus Cousins in the block are over. This is a group that will run and bring toughness to the squad.

Overall Outlook

The Kings won 39 games last season under Joerger and have a chance to take another leap forward under Walton.

Divac had a clear plan walking into free agency. He didn’t add a star, but he brought in strong role players to support the young core.

[RELATED: How Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon fit Kings]

Nothing is certain. While Divac made smart, short-term moves, it will all come down to the growth of Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic, Bagley and Giles.

There might be some small moves still left to fine tune the roster, but this likely is the bulk of the transactions this summer for Divac and the Kings.