Off-Season Grade: B
First off, I love, love, love what the Kings did on draft night. They got the best big man in the 2010 NBA Draft with the No. 5 pick. Sure DeMarcus Cousins has that whole head-case possibility, but he was well worth the risk with the fifth pick and if he can control his emotion on the court should be one of the Rookie of the Year candidates. Rolling the dice on Hassan Whiteside in the second round is an outstanding value for a player who easily had lottery potential. He will take some time to develop, but the Kings are in re-building mode and time is what they most definitely have.
That is further demonstrated by Sacramento acquiring Samuel Dalembert for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes. In terms of talent, this deal is a downgrade for the Kings but it gives them more cap flexibility for the future. Dalembert is in the final year of his contract and could even be used as a trade chip at the deadline for a team in need of a defensive-minded big.
I also credit the Kings for resisting the temptation of overpaying average players like too many other teams did this offseason. They stuck to their plan and while they may suffer for doing so this year, it puts them in a much better situation for the near future.
The Kings landed a bona fide star in the making last year when they drafted Tyreke Evans, who put together one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory. Everything Sacramento does in the next couple of years will revolve around Evans and finding the appropriate talent to complement his skills.
Cousins was the first step in that process as he is an extremely skilled big man who will take up a lot of space in the paint. Carl Landry and Jason Thompson provide the Kings will a talented combination at power forward with Thompson being able to slide over to the five spot. Omri Casspi is coming off a fantastic rookie season and provides energy and hustle at the three while Donte Greene showed terrific improvement in his second year in the league and knows how to score the basketball.
Outside of Evans, the backcourt is a bit of a mess. Beno Udrih is not terrible by any means and had a nice 2009-10 season, but certainly is in the bottom-third of starting point guards in the league (even though Evans accounts for most of the ball-handling.) Depth is a serious concern but getting Francisco Garcia back from injury should help as he can play the two while Evans slides over to the point which he is more than capable of doing. Greene also spent time at the two last season while Evans ran the show.
If Cousins has the type of impact this season that he did in his only year at Kentucky and the young players like Evans, Casspi and Greene continue to develop, this team could surprise some people. They are still a long way from being a playoff team, but the future is looking up in Sacramento.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
The Kings figure to be major players next offseason if they decide to hurry along the re-building process by spending some of their cap space on free agents. With young pieces in place, Sacramento could potentially lure a veteran or two to provide some leadership and experience. More than likely though, the Kings are better off sticking to the script by building through the NBA Draft and showing the patience that other NBA franchises lack.