Moves the Sacramento Kings Must Make This Offseason

Kenny Atkinson at top of Sacramento Kings offseason wishlist
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The Sacramento Kings last made the playoffs in the 2005-2006 season, a drought old enough to obtain a driver’s license. GM Monte McNair’s preseason comments, made to Sam Amick at The Athletic in November, say it all: “One thing that’s really helped us is (that) we have very, very clear goal…We want to get this organization back to the playoffs. We want to get back there (and) that helps (that) we have a singular focus.” The last Sacramento Kings offseason saw the team draft then-22-year-old Davion Mitchell over Ziaire Williams and Moses Moody (both 19 at the time). The Kings fired 42-year-old Luke Walton as head coach and hired 67-year-old Alvin Gentry as the interim coach. Most significantly, they traded nearly-22-year-old Tyrese Haliburton in the second year of his rookie-scale contract midseason for 25-year-old Domantas Sabonis, who will be a free agent in the 2024 offseason

The Kings’ playoff chase resulted in the team trading arguably their best player weeks before his 22nd birthday. What should the goal be for this Sacramento Kings offseason? The focus on making the playoffs is leading McNair to make decisions detrimental to the team’s future. Team owner Vivek Ranadive surely influences this thinking, as well. My proposed Sacramento Kings offseason plans prescribe taking one step back to take two steps forward.

3 Moves the Sacramento Kings Should Make This Offseason

Trade Harrison Barnes (and Richaun Holmes, if you can)

In exit interviews, McNair and lead guard De’Aaron Fox both talked about the need to surround Fox and Sabonis with length and shooting. So why trade Harrison Barnes, a 6’ 8” combo forward who shot 39% from three the last two seasons? Despite the Kings having no one who provides what Barnes does on the court, he turns 30 before next season. The Kings were 4 games out of the play-in tournament with Barnes, and their best players are significantly younger. Sabonis will be 26 next season, and Fox turns 25 in December. The focus of this Sacramento Kings offseason should be finding players the same age or younger as Fox and Sabonis. With one guaranteed year left on Barnes’ contract, his value will never be higher than this upcoming season. 

Would the Wizards part with a young forward to pair a consistent scoring threat with Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis? Any one of Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, or Deni Avdija would look great in black and purple. If Minnesota loses to Memphis, would they trade Jaden McDaniels to add a veteran forward with championship experience? I’d be targeting young forwards with defensive potential and upside in any Barnes trade.

Richaun Holmes saw a decline in his play and disturbing allegations of domestic violence against him. He was already a disappointment for the Kings before they traded for Sabonis, and he’s more expendable now. Unfortunately, he signed a big contract in 2021, and most teams would be hesitant to trade for Holmes. This Sacramento Kings offseason needs to include a Holmes trade, even if it costs a second-round pick or two.

Hire Kenny Atkinson as head coach

In many ways, this Sacramento Kings offseason comes down to hiring the right coach. Atkinson has already been rumored for the job, and his candidacy makes sense. Kenny Atkinson is the perfect head coach for the position the Kings are in this offseason. He was the architect of the legendary “culture” developed by the rebuilding Brooklyn Nets and gleefully tossed aside as the team signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Atkinson was subsequently fired at least partially at Durant’s suggestion

Atkinson led the development of numerous young players. D’Angelo Russell was discarded by the Lakers, then named an All-Star in Brooklyn. Jarrett Allen was just named an All-Star center for Cleveland and led their sixth-ranked defense. Joe Harris was deemed worthy of remaining on KD-Kyrie superteam and has shot 43.9% from 3 for the Nets. His energy (former player Allen Crabbe and rival coach Rick Carlisle independently describe him as “energetic” in the article from The Athletic linked above) and basketball acumen make him a fantastic candidate to instill a culture of effort and accountability in Sacramento. 

Atkinson coached with Golden State Warriors as an assistant this season, giving him the “golden halo” preferred by Ranadive. Ranadive is a former Warriors part-owner. Former Warriors Alvin Gentry, Luke Walton, Barnes, Damian Jones, and Justin Holiday all were Kings just last season!

Target Project Candidates in Free Agency

We know this Sacramento Kings offseason will focus on 3-and-D wings as evidenced by McNair and Fox’s comments above. Potential targets include Gary Harris, Robert Covington, Taurean Prince, Kyle Anderson, and Danuel House Jr. This Sacramento Kings offseason should also feature the team taking swings on highly-rated prospects at low costs. Targets should include former lottery picks who were traded or are unlikely to be signed by their current teams. Players like Marvin Bagley! Ok, maybe not Bags, but Jarrett Culver, Jalen Smith, or Kevin Knox could be intriguing candidates for the Kings. Troy Brown Jr., Bol Bol, and Eric Paschall (another former Warrior) are lower-level candidates. If one can find some untapped potential in Sacramento, that’s a big win for the front office. 

Current Orlando Magician Mo Bamba fits especially well with Sabonis. The Orlando Magic may not retain Bamba after extending the contract of Wendell Carter Jr. They also may have Jonathan Isaac returning from injury. Bamba profiles as a big man who can shoot threes, block shots, and use agility to defend the perimeter. That’s the exact player type to target this Sacramento Kings offseason.

Nothing suggested above is a panacea. They represent the type of team-building decisions rebuilding teams need to execute to build a winning team sustainably. This Sacramento Kings offseason, McNair and Ranadive need to honestly assess the quality of the team. The Kings need to commit to building on the timeline set forth by the ages of their best players. They’ll be in a much better position as a franchise next year, even if they don’t make the playoffs.

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