So this team drafts Jimmer Fredette ahead of Klay Thompson in 2011. Drafts Isiah Thomas in the same year with the 60th pick nurture him to become a solid Point Guard and let him walk for free to Phoenix only to see him blossom into an All-Star for Boston Celtics. It drafted Thomas Robinson with the 2012 Draft fifth pick ahead of Damian Lillard though it desperately needed a Point Guard.
Just last year, Marquese Chriss was drafted but traded to Phoenix to make way for bulky Center Giorgios Papagiannis. It doubled down on the Center position by drafting Skal Labissier ahead of Shooting Guard/ Point Guard Dejounte Murray. Welcome to the Sacramento Kings or in popular culture, welcome to Basketball Hell.
About a fortnight ago, Sacramento Kings was just three games behind Denver Nuggets in the fight for eight place in the NBA’s Western Conference. Finally, there was hope playoff basketball was within touching distance for the first time since 2006 and for the first time, a consistent improvement in form was on the cards following the 33 win season last year.
Despite winning more than 28 games for the first time since 2008, George Karl was sacked mainly due to differences between him and DeMarcus Cousins but little harm was done when Dave Joerger was roped in from Memphis Grizzlies. Losing some winnable games cost Kings along the way but beating the likes of Golden State and Cleveland Cavaliers showed there was something worth fighting for.
That is until Rudy Gay injured his Achilles tendon robbing franchise pillar Cousins off one of his productive running mates.
The injury cost Gay his season and will cost him a lot of dollars when he becomes a free agent this offseason or the next. A 30 year old coming from a serious injury is likely to receive less lucrative offers than a 30 year old playing the way Gay did prior to the ailment. Perhaps Gay’s injury was the beginning of the end for Sacramento’s latest try to get postseason basketball as Cousins was surprisingly traded to New Orleans Pelicans.
Versatile Forward Omri Casspi was part of the package that got Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield and a couple of future draft picks from the Pelicans. In the aftermath of the blockbuster trade, veteran Forward Matt Barnes has been waived off the roster in a move that spells out what the team is trying to do; tank.
Basically Sacramento is getting rid off all its valuable assets in exchange for future draft picks and players on low and expiring salaries to be able to lose as many games as possible to all but guarantee itself a chance of having a high pick in this year’s draft and in subsequent years. Sacramento has lost three starters in Gay, Cousins and Barnes. The remaining members of the lineup, Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos/ Aaron Afflalo are trade targets between now and the February 23 deadline.
For a scoring Guard like Collison, moving to a team on the cusp of making the playoffs like the Detroit Pistons or former team Indiana Pacers gives him the opportunity to revisit his postseason days and play himself to land a lucrative contract given he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Losing a bunch of games to potentially land a superstar has been used by so many before. Cleveland used it and got LeBron James and Philadelphia Sixers used it three years in a row to land Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons.
However, for a side like the Kings who have a bad record at the draft, this route might not be the most advisable. As much as drafting a top player is relatively easy, transitioning him into a star is a whole different monster. None of this makes for a good debut at the team’s shiny new Golden 1 Center Arena but the good news is with starters and veterans set to be jetted off to different teams, the young ones can pick up the slack.
Finally Sacramento’s many under utilized draft picks will get their minutes to shine on the court meaning Isaiah Cousins, Willy Cauley-Stein, Labissiere , Papagiannis and even fourth year player Ben McLemore wouldn’t have to worry about getting benched for a bad play allowing them to play through their mistakes and live up to their potential. On the other hand, nabbing a sharpshooter like Buddy Hield can easily translate into one of the best moves of Vivek Ranadive’s era should the former Oklahoma University star find his groove in the league.
Appearing to turn the corner through much of this season, the Sacramento Kings, sad to say, have started all over again and nowhere better to start than from the bottom.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@ YawMintYM on Twitter