Sunday Musings: Kings try new approach to building roster
Kings build around group entering their prime
This is the fourth article in a series breaking down the potential strengths of the 2022-23 Sacramento Kings roster.
Is this the beginning of the beginning?
We’ve seen the beginning of the end in Sacramento on so many occasions. We’ve also seen the end of the beginning when a team goes from viable to needing a stick of dynamite over the span of a month or two.
This season seems a little different. The roster feels different. The coach and the vibe feels different. A clear plan is in place, even if all of the puzzle pieces aren’t in place quite yet.
Mike Brown, 52, signed a multi-year contract in Sacramento over the summer. Like every first-year head coach, he will get a grace period to work with and he has the qualifications, experience and clout to make an impact, but he’s also young enough to be a fixture with the Kings if everything goes as planned.
After a massive swing at the trade deadline last year that landed two-time All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, the Kings have a pairing to build around. Sabonis (26) and De’Aaron Fox (24), are the two pillars that general manager Monte McNair is building around, with both of them under contract for the next two seasons at a minimum.
For the first time in recent memory, the Kings have built a roster, not around a young core, but around a pair of players in the middle of their second NBA contract. They have added more players in a similar situation, putting together a group that is about to enter their prime.
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McNair’s two key additions during the offseason, shooting guards Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, are both just 24 years of age. Huerter is about to start a new four-year, $65 million contract and Monk signed on for two-years at $19.2 million.
The other major addition during the offseason was rookie Keegan Murray, who turned 22 last month and is considered one of the most NBA ready players from this season’s draft. When you add in last year’s rookie, 24-year-old Davion Mitchell, you start to see a pattern take shape.
For years the Kings have tried to start over through the draft and had limited success. Both Murray and Mitchell are top 10 selections and will have a shot to become part of the future of this team, but the real franchise cornerstones at this point are Fox and Sabonis.
Only two players outside of the 22 to 26-year-old window are guaranteed rotational minutes this season. Harrison Barnes is the veteran, and at age 30 he is still considered a heavy minutes player. Richaun Holmes is expected to see rotational minutes as well and he is still just 28 years old.
Barnes joins Kent Bazemore (33) and Matthew Dellavedova (32) as the entirety of the 30-and-over crowd in Sacramento. This isn’t a super young team or a young super team, but a group that for the most part is in a similar place in life, both on the court and off.
Of the 20 players the Kings plan to open camp with, 14 are 26 and under. The team doesn’t have a single player under the age of 22, which is unique, but they also only have one player born in the 1980s in Bazemore.
During the 16 season playoff drought, there have been plenty of different types of roster construction. More often than not, the group has been filled with young players who have yet to establish who and what they are as players.
In Fox’s first season, the Kings’ opening night roster boasted five rookies and four second-year players. The veteran core of Vince Carter, George Hille, Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph and Garrett Temple had zero chance of keeping that roster on its rails.
The next season was no different, when Marvin Bagley was added via the draft and Harry Giles made his official debut after missing all of his rookie season. It didn’t help that Bagley was just 19 and Giles was a 20-year-old who had played a total of 26 games over a three-year span walking into that first season.
In contrast, of the eight players who are a safe bet to make up the Kings’ opening night rotation this season, Fox, Huerter, Monk, Sabonis, Holmes, Barnes are all on their second or third NBA contract.
Having a stack of players on their second NBA contract is crucial. Players like this typically have more room for growth, but there is a clearer picture of what kind of player they are. The improvements come from a refinement of an existing skill set, not an establishment of something new.
The Kings usually bring in a few veterans to try and lead the group, but the task has been overwhelming in the past due to the sheer volume of young players. That shouldn’t be a huge issue with the current squad.
It would be nice to see one or two players step up and take on a major leadership role, but it might not be as crucial as in past years. Brown will have his players set in their roles coming out of camp. There can be some flexibility with his rotation, but the base should allow for a few variables.
A new approach was needed this summer after so many years of futility. The roster overhaul isn’t complete, but you can see the framework of a new plan in Sacramento. This isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it certainly feels new for a Kings franchise that has been stuck in rebuild mode for way too long.