Sacramento Kings: Vlade Divac Has Team Heading in Right Direction


The Sacramento Kings have been the laughingstock of the league for a number of years — Vlade Divac has the team heading back toward respectability.

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Much was made of Vlade Divac‘s return to the Sacramento Kings. Some thought he’d be able to show the leadership he presented as a player. Other though, thought his hiring was a cheap tactic to get fans to reminisce about the glory days while paying for a crummy product.

But, now two months into this season, it’s safe to say, Vlade Divac has the Kings going somewhere they haven’t been in a decade: heading toward respectability

After being hired in March to be VP of Basketball and Franchise Operations, Divac then added the title of general manager in August.

Divac then went on a vicious rampage of signing and trading players. He brought in names like Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli and most notably Rajon Rondo, while ridding the team of names like Nik Stauskas and Jason Thompson.

Divac has shaken up a roster that was full of possible potential and has added a cast of characters fit for the bright lights. Players who have already been there and done that and that’s why the Kings have taken major strides this season.

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While the Kings sit at 7-12 and find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference, there’s much to be said about the improvements that may not show up in the win-loss column. The team has always remained focused on DeMarcus Cousins and that will remain true until Cousins is gone. It’s telling that the team has struggled so mightily while he’s been injured.

Going 6-5 with Cousins opposed to 1-7 without, the Kings have shown that they can win games when healthy. Cousins is averaging a beastly 28 points and 11 rebounds per game in his 11 appearances.

According to Basketball Reference, when Cousins is on the floor, the Kings are a +14.2. And while Cousins is putting up the numbers shown above, his biggest presence is felt on the defensive end as the Kings are allowing 103 points with him on floor compared to 112.3 without.

But, the Kings aren’t just playing better because of Cousins. The signing of Rondo, which was widely criticized has proven to be one of the best contracts of the off season.

Rondo has already put up four triple-doubles through the first two months of the season and has been just a rebound shy of triple-doubles in two other games as well. The resurgence he’s offered and the pass-first presence he’s given the Kings has helped turn them into a fundamentally balanced team.

And his stats (12.9 points per game, 10.7 assists, 7.1 rebounds) are comparable to those he was averaging with the Boston Celtics from 2009-2013, when he was a four-time NBA All Star.

Divac was not only gambling on the talent of Rondo though, he was also gambling on Rondo as a person after he was chastised for the way he performed with the Dallas Mavericks last season.

Divac, obviously having played with Chris Webber, had to deal with players who had drawn the short end of the stick when it came to how the media and even teams portrayed them. So this was nothing new for him.

In addition to Rondo, Divac added an arsenal of three-point shooters by re-signing Omri Casspi and inking Belinelli.

The Casspi deal is right along the lines of Rondo’s when it comes to value. Casspi is averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game off the bench for the Kings this season. But, his biggest production has been from beyond the arc, shooting 45 percent from three point land so far this season.

Belinelli has been a bit of a wild card for the Kings, but he’s also been able to hit some threes when the team has needed them.

A decent bench has been something the Kings have needed for years and it seems they’ve added the necessary depth to take another step towards prominence.

Next: Rajon Rondo Recapturing his Glory Days with Kings

The Kings and their .374 three point percentage is good for top five in the league — last year they ranked 20th in that department. And their offensive efficiency is ninth so far this season — as opposed to fifteenth last year. Both of these stats can be almost directly contributed to moves Divac made.

The issues the Kings have faced, from this past off season to just as recently as a couple weeks ago, haven’t always been handled to the best of the team’s ability. But it’d be tough to find someone who doesn’t think the Kings have improved. Sooner rather than later, the win column will prove it and Divac will be the first name brought up when someone asks, “what turned them around?”