Sacramento Kings: New Ownership Group Should Look to Upgrade


May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors vice chairman Vivek Ranadive (left) talks to Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson (right) during the second quarter in game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With Vivek Ranadive officially assuming control of the Kings, David Stern and the NBA wasted no time imposing deadlines of their own. However, Kings fans and players can breath a little easier as they know the future of their team and their respective careers.

Stern issued a written deadline imposed by the NBA Board of Governors and League offices stating that Ranadive has until the 2016-17 NBA season to build a new arena to replace the outdated Sleep Train Arena. Ranadive has consequently signed the document and agreed to deliver a new arena to Sacramento.

The Kings new owner has acknowledged calling DeMarcus Cousins to discuss his future with the team. Ranadive also announced Keith Smart’s departure from the team. Smart’s departure seems to be a clear signal of Ranadive’s intentions of changing the atmosphere surrounding the Kings, and it may signal the new owner’s faith in his young center. Ranadive and his ownership team have said to have reached a deal with former Warriors assistant coach Mike Malone to become head coach of the Kings.

Cousins had several situations during last season where he was visibly frustrated with head coach Smart and was even suspended by the team indefinitely on one occasion. Smart is clearly a capable coach in the wrong situation. He established two major problems with his coaching methods throughout the course of his tenure with the Kings.

First and foremost, Smart never clearly established a regular rotation with his team, and seemed unable to connect with his players as the leader and coach of the team. Several players showed negative emotions when being removed from games. Smart was unable to find his players’ trust in a system that clearly had several flaws, and broke down regularly throughout the season.

Secondly, Smart’s inability to establish a regular rotation left him unable to establish a system for his players to grasp as a team. Smart had several flaws in his system and was clearly unable to reach Cousins or any of the Kings major role players. Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans being forced into accepting roles they were unsuited for was a major reason Smart’s system was doomed to fail.

Rather than forcing both two crucial players to accept entirely new roles, Smart should have attempted to find a way to play a more up-tempo style of basketball, while still incorporating the size and rebounding of his big men.

April 14, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans (13) during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Evans is clearly a more capable point guard than Isaiah Thomas and a better-suited player because his size and ability to get the basket. Evans has shown a very natural ability not only to get the basket and score the ball, but he has also shown a natural ability to distribute the ball and find his open teammates around the rim.

If Evans and Thornton started in the guard position with Cousins in the post, the Kings would become a far more dangerous team, especially with Thomas coming in off the bench.

Thomas’ ability to score in bunches puts him in a similar category as the Nate Robinson and J.R. Smiths in the league, while his ability to lead his team would set him apart from the rest.

The Kings were unable to find a way to distribute the scoring in the starting lineup. Cousins showed in the final game of the season just exactly what he can bring to his team. Cousins can be a dominant force in this league, with very few players capable of truly slowing him down or stopping him.

Evans and Thornton could put defenses on their heels with their ability to penetrate, score outside and distribute the ball. Thornton would need to make a more regular effort to be more of a play maker in games when he isn’t able of putting up big numbers. But in combination with Evan’s size, the two guards would be very difficult to guard when both are playing at high levels.

The NBA free agent market is full of several players who are more than capable of being difference makers with a team. The Kings have several options when it comes to size or a small forward with scoring and playmaking skills. Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair are both unrestricted free agents this summer, and even with the recent success of the Spurs reaching the Finals, they are unlikely to be to sign either player to large deals with Manu Ginobili becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.

A similar situation is playing out in Utah where after several unsuccessful years ending with mostly frustration, both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are unrestricted free agents entering this offseason. The Jazz are going to have a hard time with finding any room to add to their struggling roster if they sign Jefferson and Millsap to maximum deals.

Andre Iguodala is the wild card this summer and could be a very big pickup for any team. The Kings would benefit from Iguodala on almost every front. The type of work ethic and daily leadership he brought to the Nuggets was undeniable. He would instantly change the culture of the Kings and their roster. Splitter, Blair, Millsap or Jefferson next to Cousins would be a dangerous combination that could become highly effective in a league lacking teams with size in the post.

If the Kings make a move to their roster, they would be wise to make a serious run at Iguodala, Splitter or Jefferson. The Kings new ownership , coaching and management staff have already drawn interest from several players around the league. Former Warrior and current Milwaukee Buck Monte Ellis is also entering free agency this summer, and even though the Kings are overloaded at the guard position, Ellis would certainly be an upgrade from Thomas.

However intriguing the addition of Ellis, the Kings should remained focused on attracting a player with size to put around Cousins. The Kings could pose similar defensive problems as the Miami Heat with Evans running the point guard position. But if the Kings had Iguodala or Splitter in addition to Cousins, Evans and Thornton, they would be a very formidable team on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.

With one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Kings certainly could afford to retain the services of Evans and offer Cousins a contract extension, while being very capable of landing a big-name free agent who could become the missing piece to this young Kings team.