Last Season: 33-49, 10th in the West
Off-season Gains: SG Arron Afflalo (free agent), C George Papagiannis (draft trade), PG Ty Lawson (free agent), PF Anthony Tolliver (free agent), SF Matt Barnes (free agent), SG Garrett Temple (free agent), SG Malachi Richardson (draft trade), PF Skal Labissiere (draft trade), PG Jordan Farmar (free agent)
Off-season Losses: PG Rajon Rondo (free agent/Chicago), SG Marco Belinelli (trade/Charlotte), PF Quincy Acy (free agent/Dallas), SG Seth Curry (free agent/Dallas), SF Caron Butler (waived)
Off-season Stock: Their stock announced it will be opting out after the season.
League Pass Team?: I shan't be doing that, but I imagine I'll head up there at some point this season to check out their new arena.
I used to be a huge Kings fan, you know.
Remember, there are two "Kings" franchises in California. The basketball one, up north, and the hockey one, down south, in Los Angeles. The latter, especially the 1993 edition, is probably one of my favorite two or three favorite teams ever, regardless of sport. I can still name their main 22 dudes to this day off the top of my head, and it helps that they've been immortalized forever by NHL '94, one of the most iconic video games of all-time. Those Kings not only had "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, but also several other future Hall-of-Famers in Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri , Dave Taylor and Rob Blake, plus a few others just a rung below in wingers Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato and defenseman Marty McSorely. They made the Finals that year and, well, they kind of had their own Ray Allen moment, let's just leave it at that.
About a decade later the basketballers up north build themselves quite a squad. Chris Webber in his apex, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby and quality role players in Bobby Jackson, Doug Christie and Hedo Turkoglu. The Kings were not only among the best teams, but they played the most attractive style, emphasizing ball movement and a quick tempo. I think most of us are familiar with how their Western Conference Finals series with the Lakers unfolded in 2002. And yes, a future Spurs postseason hero was prominently involved, and no, I'm not referring to Hedo.
So it's weird then that when a Kings franchise finally won a championship (two of them, actually) it happened thanks to dudes named Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. You've likely never heard of any of them because hockey. Just like when my beloved San Francisco Giants finally captured a World Series (or three), they didn't do it with sluggers Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent but rather a young, mostly anonymous pitching staff, a rookie catcher and a lineup that was almost entirely different by the end than the one that began the year.
My point --and I know you guys get annoyed when I go on tangents involving other sports-- is that one day things will cycle around and the Sacramento Kings will indeed reach the mountaintop. But it's going to seem completely random and unexpected when it happens. They'll have secondary and tertiary stars that were undrafted or throw-ins in trades, a perennial all-star the pundits doubted as he was hugging the commissioner at the podium as the 14th overall pick or something, and their accumulation of talent will be something none of us will see coming.
Look at the Warriors. Stephen Curry's career was in doubt early on because of chronic ankle issues and he was the subject of trade rumors. He only fell in their laps in the first place because the T-Wolves blew two chances to draft him, preferring Jonny Flynn instead. Few thought much of Klay Thompson when he was drafted and they didn't even know what to do with him at first. Draymond Green was a draft afterthought, picked after Festus Ezeli in the second round, and Harrison Barnes was the guy they tanked hard for that draft. Hell, they moved heaven and earth signing Andre Iguodala in free agency because they thought it would impress Dwight Howard.
You can't plan or predict any of this stuff, anymore than you can predict the Spurs valuing Leon Smith more than Manu Ginobili or the Celtics backing out of their promise to draft Tony Parker because they preferred Joseph Forte instead. (Ironically, drafting wasn't their forte, amirite?)
None of us know anything and that's what makes all this so much fun.
That being written, I'll be shocked if the Kings ever win a damned thing with Boogie Cousins and I'm pretty skeptical about the owner too. The current Kings continue to be one of the most dysfunctional organizations in all of American professional sports. Here's Vivek Rinadive eschewing any accountability for the team's troubles in an interview with USA Today.Here's former Kings general manager Geoff Petrie dishing dirt in kind, in an interview with Deadspin, not taking too kindly his former boss' comments. And then here's Rinadive, meekly apologizing in The Sacramento Bee, after they and the blogsophere roasted him through the coals.
It makes you shake your head. Cousins isn't even their biggest headache anymore. Rudy Gay has already informed them he plans to opt out of his deal and wants to move on, and it's unclear if that's a feature or a bug. Their point guard situation has somehow regressed from a guy who couldn't shoot and embarrassed the team and its fans by spewing homophobic slurs at a gay referee, to one where their starter, Darren Collison, is suspended eight games for domestic violence charges and their backup, Ty Lawson, has his own well-documented troubles. Hell, they re-signed Matt Barnes, because of course they did.
Everything about the Kings screams "Blech." I defy the basketball gods to prove me wrong. Do your worst. Make this team win 58 games next season. It'll be your greatest troll job ever.
The crazy part is they don't look that bad on paper. You'd probably take their roster over anybody but the top five or six teams in the East. Their top 12 vets are all guys we know. Granted, the point guard situation might be a gasoline fire and Ben McLemore has been mostly a bust, but Arron Afflalo is okay. You can do worse there. Omri Casspi had a nice bounce-back season last year as long as you ignored one end of the floor. Barnes can still guard bother people without getting the authorities involved. Kosta Koufos is a league-average big and Willie Cauley-Stein had a better rookie season than I expected. Anthony Tolliver can stretch the floor.
All that and we haven't even discussed Cousins, who's pretty much unguardable when he's feeling it and has slimmed down a lot these past couple of years. He's gotta be happier with George Karl gone and new skipper Dave Joerger, whom I like a lot, has a reputation for getting guys to buy in and play hard. Whether Joerger can solve the chemistry issues between Cousins and Gay --both rather fond of 20-foot jumpers-- remains to be seen, and I don't know how he's going to wring anything positive out of their guards.
It's a weird collection of talent, and on top of the aforementioned vets are three first-rounders they have to shoehorn minutes for unless they're gonna chill out in Reno the whole year. Not sure why they traded for two bigs with Boogie and WCS already aboard, but when Ranadive hands the Larry O'Brien trophy to an exuberant George Papagiannis while Bradley Beal --acquired in the Cousins trade-- clutches the Finals MVP Award, well who'll be laughing then?