The Kings are headed into a delicate offseason this summer. If they do not execute their plans correctly, they could screw their cap situation for many years to come and crush their playoff hopes. With these steps, the Kings can achieve their playoff plans as early as next season.
1. convince Rudy Gay to stay
Rudy Gay has been crucial to the Kings success this season, no matter how minimal that success truly was.
Since being traded to Sacramento this season, Gay has averaged a career high 20.1 PPG as well as 5.5 RPG. Those are great numbers and they have really kept the Kings together. Gay really works well with Demarcus Cousins, and players like that are going to be crucial to Sactown’s success.
The organization has made a commitment to building around Demarcus Cousins and they are going to need a good supporting cast to experience success. Gay is one of those players that can fill their small forward role alongside Cousins for a long time. Right now, they need him to opt in to his current contract or opt out and resign on a long term, cheaper deal that would allow them some cap flexibility to build around himself and Cousins.
2. Amnesty Jason Thompson
Jason Thompson’s new deal is nothing compared to his production. Once a nightly double double threat, Thompson just does not fit in Sacramento anymore.
His production and minutes are career lows, and their just is not much left for him in Sacramento. He would be heavily pursued in free agency and could easily revive his career in another city. Thompson is just a money sucker for the Kings right now, and it would be beneficial for the organization to get his salary off the salary books and move onto making better, more efficient moves.
3. Sign and trade Isaiah Thomas
While many critics think highly of Isaiah Thomas and his breakout season, I just don’t see him being the long term fit in Sacramento.
The former 60th overall pick in the NBA draft has carved out a nice contract for himself this summer. I think the Kings should give him one, and flip him immediately for some good pieces and a draft pick.
Thomas’s production has been great this season, averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists, but Sacramento could probably get a lot more from him in a sign and trade. The Kings should look to sign a better point guard in free agency (see #4) and wasting money on the young, unpredictable talent in Thomas would be unwise. To help their playoff goals and salary situation, bringing in quality role players on cheaper deals would be the best case scenario.
4. Go all out to sign Kyle Lowry to a long term deal
Kyle Lowry has been an absolute beast for the Raptors this year. Bringing him in on a long term deal would solve the Kings issues at point guard that have been going on since Mike Bibby served as their floor general. Lowry’s numbers of 17.9 PPG, 7.4 APG, and 4.7 RPG are all career highs and top 10 point guard production worthy. He also accounts for .197 win shares per 48 minutes, which is double the league average, per basketballreference.com. He is also averaging a career low in turnover percentage, also via basketballreference.com.
He would fit in nicely with former Raptor teammate Rudy Gay and big man Demarcus Cousins. He would also start Sacramento on their path to relevance.
Pairing 3 stars in Lowry,Gay, and Cousins along with young gunslinger Ben McLemore and whoever the Kings find to play power forward would form a scary threat out in California that could one day dream of being the top team in the state.
5. DON’T trade their lottery pick
If the Kings trade their lottery pick – projected to be a top 7 pick – then they give up something that they desperately need. That is cheap talent. The 2014 draft class is ridiculously talented and a top 7 pick would be equivalent to a top 3 the last few drafts.
They could take Marcus Smart, the intelligent combo guard from Oklahoma State or the tough, big framed power house Julius Randle. They could also go with huge upside in Indiana product Noah Vonleh, or even the exotic foreign pick of Dario Saric.
This pick could go a lot of different ways for Sacramento, but it is very important that they keep it. The already cap strapped team would need this pick to build around. Trading it would only stress their cap situation more, since they are sure to get something good (but probably on a hefty contract) in return. This pick would help solve their cap issues and give them more wiggle room entering free agency to go after guys like Kyle Lowry.
6. Offer D.J Augustin a good, long term deal if they don’t trade for,sign, or draft a pg
If the Kings miss out on Lowry (which is a huge possibility) and also do not draft a point guard, they will be desperate when free agency approaches it’s end. Most likely to be there alongside with them is D.J. Augustin.
Augustin has been a “season saver” in the words of Tom Thibodeau for the Chicago Bulls. Augustin took the league by storm in a Jeremy Lin like fashion (but with way less media attention), averaging nearly 15 points and 5 assists. He has shown that he is more than capable to take over a team, and Sacramento should give him that opportunity.
Putting Augustin on a team with much more weapons than Chicago would be great for his numbers. Instead of relying on Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah to make the shots, he would now have Rudy Gay and Demarcus Cousins, as well as sharpshooter Ben McLemore. Augustin can really flourish in this league, and if Sacramento gives him the opportunity, I am sure it will pay off.
7. Utilize Jason Terry if they can
Jason Terry may have not wanted to be a King this season after being traded by the Brooklyn Nets, but that does not mean he might not change his mind.
Terry declined to even come to Sacramento this year, but his hefty contract did not follow suit. Paying Terry the over $5 million he is due to make next year is stupid if he does not play a minute.The organization should try and get him to join their ranks and help lead them into the playoffs. The goal of the playoffs is a very reachable goal for the Kings and, if Terry joins them, they will be one piece closer to their goal.
8. Sign Andray Blatche to a multi year deal to start at PF
If the Kings do not draft a power forward with their lottery pick, then they will have a gaping hole in their starting lineup at the 4 spot. While the top power forward free agents (Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol) are all going to return to their current teams or command a mammoth contract, there is one player who might fly under the radar.
Andray Blatche has revived his career nicely in Brookyln, and he still has potential to grow as a starting caliber forward in this league. Pairing this huge body with Demarcus Cousins down low would be a nightmare for some frontcourts, like Miami’s and Dallas’s, whose frontcourts are thin and weak. These two big men could bully down in the paint. Blatche could definitely be signed at the right price, and he does not have a lot of leverage at the signing table. The Kings could sign him with what little cap space they have left.
9. Offer small deals to Jerryd Bayless, Marvin Williams, and Jason Smith to fit under the luxury tax
The Kings will need to sign a few small name free agents to have the right amount of players for an NBA squad, and these guys could be had for cheap. Bayless has has a good season with Boston this year and could bring some athleticism and shooting the the Kings backcourt. Marvin Williams has also thrived in a new environment of Utah, and would provide depth behind Travis Outlaw and, if all goes to plan, Rudy Gay. Jason Smith is a tough big guy with a killer midrange, and he could really shore up some holes on defense for the Kings. You have to have a good bench to get to the playoffs, and adding these guys to the pile of players they have (Landry, Outlaw, Williams, Terry, McCallum, 2nd round draft pick) would make for a pretty strong second unit in Sactown.
stats via espn.com
salary info via hoopshype.com