5 December 2020

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Where The Sacramento Kings Went Wrong

The Sacramento Kings have essentially been a disappointment ever since their relocation in 1985. They have a measly 10 playoff appearances in that span, only ever winning 5 playoff series, and making the conference finals once. Now, I can probably write a novel on that specific series, as it is almost confirmed now that there was some sort of fixing, in order for the Lakers to defeat the Kings in 7 games in 2002. However, apart from that season, the Kings have been mediocre to bad every year of their existence, and here is a deep dive into why.

Draft Picks:

The Kings have a history of terrible draft picks, which have kept the franchise in the league’s cellar for years. Notably, the team’s only first overall pick was in 1989, when they selected Pervis Ellison, over players like Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp and Vlade Divac. This, was only the beginning. In 1991, they selected Billy Owens with the 3rd pick, right before Mutombo and Steve Smith. From 2007-2017, each of these players were top 10 picks by the Kings: Zach Collins, Marquese Chriss, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nik Stauskas, Ben Mclemore, Bismack Biyombo, Thomas Robinson, Tyreke Evans, and Spencer Hawes. It is mind blowing that a team can miss on this many top 10 draft picks in such a short period of time.

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Free Agency/ Trades:

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 7: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings attempts a free-throw shot against the New Orleans Pelicans on April 7, 2019 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner – Getty Images

The Kings have never been an attractive free agent destination, but some of their personnel mistakes still stand out. Bad contracts, clueless trades, and letting talented players go before they blossomed have also doomed this team. Simply looking at their current roster, two huge overpays stick out. Barnes and Bazemore, at 25 and 19 million respectively, is a mistake. Neither are all stars, or even guaranteed starters, and limit the team’s freedom by taking a huge chunk of their cap. They consistently overpay to attract mediocre free agents because their market is too small to attract premier ones. Recent signings like George Hill ($19 million), Rajon Rondo ($9.5 million) and Kosta Koufos ($8 million) just show how the Kings have been settling for free agents that will not help and do not fit with the roster

There has been one main period of time where the Kings lost extreme talent that they had drafted on their own. Within two years, the Kings had drafted Hassan Whiteside, Demarcus Cousins, and Isaiah Thomas. The trio never even truly played together, and as soon as Whiteside and Thomas left, they thrived. Whiteside’s famous “I’m just trying to get my 2k rating up” interview was recently after he was released by the Kings, and shortly after Thomas was traded, he led Boston to a 1 seed and was in MVP consideration.

Demarcus Cousins Era:

NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  DeMarcus Cousins stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted fifth by  The Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello – Getty Images

For years, ‘Boogie’ was one of the NBA’s best big men, stuck in an awful situation for a dysfunctional organization in Sacramento. By the end of his tenure, he has made 3 straight all star games and was averaging around 27 points per game. However, the Kings made countless mistakes during his career there, both limiting his happiness and ability to win. They fired George Karl, the only coach he got along with. They consistently drafted big men despite Cousins being their only star. Finally, in 7 years, they struggled to find any sort of secondary star through free agency or the draft.

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