Divac, Joerger on the same page as they envision bright future for Kings

Divac, Joerger on the same page as they envision bright future for Kings

SACRAMENTO -- The 2016-17 NBA season ended the same way the previous 10 had for the Sacramento Kings - 82 games and nothing more. Following the Kings' 115-95 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles Wednesday night, both head coach Dave Joerger and vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac held a formal press conference at Golden 1 Center to wrap up the campaign.

Despite the drama of the season, including the All-Star weekend trade of center DeMarcus Cousins, Joerger and Divac presented a united front as cameras rolled.

“I thought we were pretty tight anyway,” Joerger said of his relationship with Divac. “You’re going to go through things and us being together and rock solid from day one has been very good.”

Divac was asked specifically about the Cousins trade and whether or not he had any regrets after the Kings 32-50 finish to the season.

“I was very confident with what I’m doing and a lot of people saw it in the last 20 games, we’re in the direction we really want to be,” Divac said. “Excitement. A young team that develops every day, every game moving forward. It’s a bright future.”

The focus of the conversation was mostly on the youth movement the Kings are currently undergoing. With four 2016 first-round selections on the roster and as many as four rookies scheduled to come aboard this summer, Joerger had to shift his priorities from a coach to a teacher. 

“Coach did a great job, I’m so happy and so proud of him the way he coached those kids,” Divac said. “See them everyday improve a little bit, we just had exit interviews with those guys and it’s so exciting there.”

After setting expectations high with playoff talk the previous three seasons, only to come up short, the team is taking a realistic approach as they bring along the young core. 

“I want to measure how they improve, obviously, I can say in the last 20 games, our kids improved so much,” Divac said. “We want to continue to do that. We know this is a process and we are going in the right direction.”

Neither Divac, nor Joerger would talk about draft, free agency or the fate of veteran players. They spoke glowingly about the youth of the team. Both were clear that they and they wouldn’t mind seeing Rudy Gay return and the door is open to plenty of the team’s other veteran free agent players. 

As far as the front office goes, Divac is in control, but he is willing to add more pieces in the right situation.

“We’re open always to improve - the team, the front office, everything is open for improvement,” Divac said. “I’m very happy and confident in what we have right now, but like I said, we should be open if something can make you better.”

The Kings will now turn all of their attention to the NBA Draft. They will attend the draft combine in Chicago in May and there are plans to bring prospects through Sacramento closer to the draft in June. 

It’s another season in the books in Sacramento. The mood around the team is positive and the early returns on their youth movement is solid. Expect the team to be extremely active as they try to reshape the roster from the ground up.

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Draft night is over and done with and the Sacramento Kings filled plenty of holes in their roster for the 2017-18 season. They added a pair of young point guards and a small forward to help fill their two biggest roster needs. They also took a gamble on Duke’s Harry Giles with the 20th overall selection which adds depth in the post long term.

Step one of the summer calendar is done and now the focus shifts to free agency which begins July 1. The Kings have limited roster space, but truckloads of cap space to work with. The NBA has reduced their projected cap for the 2017-18 season to $99 million and the Kings are way below that figure. While the cap is more complicated than just a raw spreadsheet, here is a look at where the Kings currently stand.

2017-18 Salaries - $28.9 million
Projected Rookie Salaries - $9.7 million
Dead Money - $6.1 million
Total - $44.7

Sacramento opted out of both Anthony Tolliver’s $8 million contract ($2 million buyout) and Arron Afflalo’s $12.5 million ($1.5 buyout). They also waived Matt Barnes mid-season, stretching his salary for the 2017-18 season over the next three years ($2.1 million per season).

In addition to Tolliver, Afflalo and Barnes, Rudy Gay informed the team earlier this month that he opted out of his $14.3 million contract for this season and Langston Galloway walked away from a guaranteed $5.4 million to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Kings begin free agency roughly $54.3 million under the cap and after adding four rookies, they have just four standard NBA roster spots and two two-way contracts with the NBA’s G-League. They are also required to spend 90 percent of the $99 million, but they have the entire season to do so and they are allowed to redistribute any shortage back to their own players.

There is hope that European sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic will join this team this summer as well. Although he hasn’t played in the league, his contract is not restricted by the rookie scale. Early projections have him making anywhere from $5-10 million per season with Sacramento.

If Bogdanovic signs for the upper end of his projection - $10 million - the Kings would still have upwards of $44 million to spend, but just three roster spots to work with.

The team still has deficiencies to fill with the roster. Sacramento has two rookie point guards, but no veteran to show them the ropes. Garrett Temple can play in a pinch, but he is better at both wing positions.

Sacramento added Justin Jackson at the small forward spot, but they have little depth behind him and he could use time to develop. Temple can eat some minutes at the position and both Malachi Richardson and Bogdanovic can likely steal time at the three as well. A starting level player is needed, but the market is thin at the position.

There is hope that Skal Labissiere is the answer at the power forward spot, but with Tolliver waived, the team needs more at the position. Willie Cauley-Stein can play in spot duty, but a veteran stretch four is needed.

In addition to position of need, the Kings need more talent and veteran leadership on the roster. Temple is the only player over 30. Big man Kosta Koufos is 28 and everyone else on the roster is 24 and under when the season opens in October.

Expect the Kings to be active on the open market. They also make an attractive trade partner with their ability to absorb contracts. It should be a wild couple of weeks in Sacramento as the Kings look to improve their roster.

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

A rollercoaster rookie season for Buddy Hield has ended on a high note.

A very high note.

The Kings shooting guard was named to the 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team on Monday.

Hield is joined by Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon, New York's Willy Hernangomez and Philadelphia's duo of Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.

The Kings acquired Hield in February as part of a trade that sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Before the trade, Hield averaged just 8.6 points in 57 games with the Pelicans. But he stepped up his game once he got to Sacramento as he averaged 15.1 points in just 25 games with the Kings. In total, the No. 6 overall pick out of Oklahoma averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds during his rookie campaign.

Fellow Kings rookie Skal Labissiere received one First Team vote and five Second Team votes, finishing with seven total points.

The NBA All-Rookie First and Second Teams are shown below.