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Fixing the Sacramento Kings

How can the Kings finally start to climb out of the NBA’s basement?

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Right now, across the NBA landscape exists two separate worlds. First, the handful of teams fighting for playoff spots and seeding position. The second, everyone else. In the latter category, those particular teams are in a space where they are currently evaluating what’s gone wrong and how to find themselves in the former part of the league.

Here at Basketball Insiders, we’re rolling out a few blueprints descriptions of the teams that won’t be playing more than 82 games.

Next up, the 20-45 Sacramento Kings.

Once again, the Kings are among the NBA’s basement dwellers. But there are rays of light that are beginning to break through the cracks for Sacramento. So, while this season is clearly a lost cause, there is a slight hope for the future.

What is Working?

Well, not much.

The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2005-06. Over that span, they’ve had 10 different head coaches. The latest, Dave Joerger, is in his second season manning the ship. Joerger and the Kings don’t have any superstar talent to help them win games this season, clearly, but what they do have is a few promising young players that could provide success in the future.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, and De’Aaron Fox are all under 25 years old. None of them are star players, but they’re productive in their own right. With proper coaching and the addition of more talent alongside them, there’s enough potential in the group to expect a couple of solid role players.

From a team perspective, Joerger’s Kings are shooting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc, good for the second-best mark in the league. Systems are important to NBA success. Implementing an effective, winning strategy before having all of the pieces to properly execute it can go a long way. While Sacramento’s roster isn’t riddled with All-Star scorers and shooters, the players on the roster are at least making the most out of their opportunities.

What Needs to Change?

It would be easy to say talent, but that’s too painfully obvious. The Kings aren’t likely to be a destination for big name free agents, but they did prove last summer they were willing to spend for the likes of Zach Randolph and George Hill in an effort to add a veteran presence to an otherwise inexperienced locker room.

However, moving forward the Kings should probably steer clear of heavy contracts for declining veterans. A focus on rebuilding through the draft is the team’s best bet to acquire top level talent. Though veterans can help by providing locker room presence, they’ll likely add a few unnecessary wins along the way and ultimately hurt Sacramento’s overall draft position.

Although keeping costs low and focusing through the draft has proved valuable to some teams, the Kings have become notorious for missing on their draft picks. In order to climb out of the depths of the draft lottery, eventually one or more of those selections has to develop into a star caliber player.

This upcoming June will be a test for the Kings to see if they can finally get it right with a high draft pick. That’s their first order of business moving forward.

Focus Area: The Draft

Mentioned above, this is the Kings’ ticket to a relevant future. Currently, the team is slated to select sixth in June’s upcoming draft. At that spot, they should have a fair share of impactful players to choose from.

While Sacramento does have a nice combination of young bigs and wings, there’s no player currently on the roster that’s worth skipping on of a similar prospect for. Just because the team has Cauley-Stein doesn’t mean they should pass on Mo Bamba if he’s available, for instance.

In short, it’s best player available right now in Sacramento. That could mean Bamba, or Michael Porter Jr., or Trae Young. Whichever player is available that the team has rated highest should be their pick.

With their recent track record of selections, that doesn’t bode entirely too well for their evaluation process, but this draft should be deep enough that by the time they’re on the clock it would be hard to draft a player that immediately wouldn’t become one of their most talented contributors.

Focus Area: Free Agency

This area should be fairly simple for the Kings to nail: don’t waste money.

In their current situation, the Kings are arguably the least desirable destination in the NBA. That means two things: one, no major free agent will look their way, and two, the free agents that do will be looking for a bigger deal to come aboard.

Neither is ideal for rebuilding a roster from the ground up. By keeping the books flexible, the Kings could be in a position throughout the season to facilitate trades as a partner willing to take on bad or expiring contracts in exchange for more draft capital.

Rebuilding a franchise is easier said than done, and for the last decade the Kings have botched every attempt they’ve had. But sometimes keeping it simple is better for the long run. Draft well, don’t overspend, acquire future assets. It’s very Sam Hinkie-esque, but if the Kings look at their East coast counterparts, surely they can see the results.

If there’s any hope for Sacramento’s future, and there is some as listed above, the team needs to continue with that method in order to pull themselves out of the NBA’s basement for the first time in a long time.

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.

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