The Sacramento Kings have a lot of work to do before the start of the 2017-18 season. The roster is filled with question marks and there are obviously holes to fill as they forge into the post DeMarcus Cousins era.
With the focus shifting to a youth movement, roster spots are at a premium. Who stays and who goes from the current club is a complex mess that requires plenty of conversation.
THE YOUNG CORE
Willie Cauley-Stein showed incredible progress in the second half of the season under head coach Dave Joerger. The 23-year-old big man posted 12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 30.9 minutes per game after the All-Star break. He can play both the four and the five going forward and is under team control for at least two more seasons.
Skal Labissiere toiled in Reno through much of the first half of the season, barely sniffing the court until after Cousins was shipped to New Orleans. The rookie power forward has plenty to work on this summer, including adding weight and developing his handles, but this was the steal of the 2016 NBA Draft. Vlade Divac and his team may have landed a star level player with the 28th overall selection. Labissiere, 21, dropped in 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in 22.4 minutes in the final 25 games of the season.
Buddy Hield joined the Kings as part of the big trade with the Pelicans and stepped right into a lead scoring role with Sacramento. The 23-year-old shooting guard shot 48 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from 3-point range on his way to 15.1 points a night in a Kings uniform. His 25 game audition for Sacramento likely earned him strong consideration for a starting job when camp opens in September.
Georgios Papagiannis was a head scratcher on draft night, but the rookie big showed some life in the final month of the season. Blessed with a huge frame to go with his 7-foot-1 height, the 19-year-old needs to continue to reinvent his body over the summer if he hopes to play major minutes for the Kings next season. He dropped in 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game over his last 18 contests, but the Kings have plenty of depth at the center spot moving forward.
Malachi Richardson was the first of the Kings rookies to find a spot in the rotation, but a hamstring tear the game before the break cost the 21-year-old wing the remainder of the season. Richardson can really shoot the rock, but like the other rookies, he needs a lot of work over the summer. The Kings like his size, strength and shooting ability and the 22nd overall selection has plenty of time to grow into a role with the team. Like Labissiere, Hield and Papagiannis, Richardson is under team control for the next three-plus seasons.
THE VETERANS UNDER CONTRACT
The list is short under this heading. Sacramento has just two veterans on guaranteed contracts for next season and then a whole lot of question marks.
Kosta Koufos will enter year three of a four-year $33 million contract he signed in the summer of 2015. The 28-year-old center does all the little things, including rebound, defend and set screens. The Kings have youth at the position, so teams will come calling for Koufos, but he is a quality veteran presence in the locker room and an effective player either in a starting role or off the bench.
Garrett Temple has two more seasons at $8 million per year remaining on his contract. Signed for his versatility and locker room presence, Temple has quickly become one of the leaders on the Kings’ squad. He’s in the mix at the shooting guard and small forward spot next season and might even slide over and play some point in a pinch. This is the Kings’ best perimeter defensive player and the type of high character veteran the Kings will hunt for again this offseason.
VETERANS WITH OPTIONS
Anthony Tolliver did exactly what the Kings thought he would do when they signed him to a two-year, $17 million deal last summer. The 31-year-old stretch four shot 39.1 percent in 22.7 minutes per game as both a starter and a reserve. Sacramento has a team option for the 2017-18 season, with a $2 million buyout. The Kings need this type of leader and the club has plenty of cap space. Tolliver might be back for season two, but it depends on how the Kings assess the forward situation in free agency.
Like Tolliver, Arron Afflalo took a two-year deal with Sacramento last summer with a team option for the second season. In 61 games, including 45 starts, the 31-year-old guard averaged 8.4 points a night on 41.1 percent shooting. The team is loaded with potential wings and Afflalo is owed $12.5 million for next season with a team buyout of $1.5 million. Chances of a second season in Sacramento for Afflalo are slim, but according to BasketballInsiders.com, the team has until the day after the NBA Draft to make a decision.
Rudy Gay disappeared for much of the season after tearing his Achilles in January. The 30-year-old forward was a franchise cornerstone for the last few years alongside Cousins, but everything has changed in Sacramento. Gay has a $14.2 million player option for next season, but his injury will likely play a major role in his decision. He is ahead of schedule in his rehab now, making it a possibility that he will opt out. There’s a good chance Kings fans have seen the last of Gay in a Kings uniform.
Tossed in as part of the mega-deal for Cousins, Langston Galloway played well in his limited opportunities in Sacramento, shooting a robust 47.5 percent from 3-point range in 19 games with the Kings. Rumors around the team have the 25-year-old combo-guard opting in to his player option at $5.4 million for next season. He’s another high character guy that can fill a need at the point or shooting guard spot next season.
The Kings have the ability to extend a $5.4 million qualifying offer to Ben McLemore, allowing the team to match any offer for the 24-year-old wing. But with Hield, Temple, Galloway and Richardson already on the roster at the two and the potential for Bogdan Bogdanovic to join the team from overseas, will they? The team has invested plenty in the high-flying wing, but the chances of a fifth season in Sacramento seems like a stretch. Sacramento has until June 29 to make a decision on McLemore, so plenty could change between now and then.
Darren Collison signed a three-year deal with the Kings in 2014 and has been a very nice contributor since. At 29-years-old, Collison needs to decide whether he is ready to embark on a rebuild with Sacramento, which will likely include a young understudy at the point guard position. If not, Collison will have no trouble finding a job on the open market as either a starter or super-sub in the backcourt.
Ty Lawson is in a similar boat as Collison. After making plenty of money as a young player, the veteran point guard had to take a one-year, league minimum deal with the Kings in the offseason. He played well and might be a quality stop gap point guard while Sacramento develops a young player, but his off the court issues continue to plague the 29-year-old. He has legal hurdles to get past in early May, but he wouldn’t mind a return to Sacramento if everything pans out.
Tyreke Evans was the Kings’ everything for one season. Still just 27-years-old, the former Rookie of the Year is an unrestricted free agent with a long list of lower leg injuries. He played well in limited opportunities after joining Sacramento in the Cousins deal. He’ll likely seek an opportunity on a playoff bound club while the Kings focus on a youth movement. His return for another go in Sacramento is doubtful.