The Sacramento Kings made major shakeups before the trade deadline that have set this franchise on a course towards a positive future. As to whether they can tie it all together and become a playoff contender next season remains to be seen right now, but the upcoming offseason will be a bigger decider of what the future holds.
In addition to General Manager Monte McNair being able to hire his own head coach for once and make a third draft selection, he will also have to find a way to bring in talent throughout the summer to make this roster even better.
“What we don’t want to do is let [the 16-year playoff drought] cloud our judgment,” McNair said at a Tuesday press conference. “We’re going to be aggressive like I talked about. We have to remain disciplined, right? There’s no ‘easy’ button to go and fix this right away, so when those opportunities are there, we’re going to pounce like we did at the deadline, and we are going to continue to look for those.”
Sacramento has a sturdy foundation in the pairing of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, along with other guys like Davion Mitchell, Harrison Barnes, Donte DiVincenzo, and Trey Lyles, but signing a few more valuable pieces is necessary, especially in a league where the best teams have to be draped—almost in excess—in talent.
“I think shooting, we can clearly acknowledge, will be a huge priority. It’s a priority for every team, but certainly around [Fox and Sabonis]. Shooting will be a big one — length, athleticism, versatility. We’ve talked about all that as well, and obviously you want the whole package, but shooting will be a big priority for us.”
Of course, as the summer approaches, there will be names to discuss and put into consideration that fit those qualities McNair—and even Fox, himself—mentioned.
First, however, it’s not a bad idea to take a look at the guys whose place on the Kings is up for a decision.
There is little doubt in the minds of anyone who paid attention to Sacramento’s final ten games that Damian Jones belongs in an NBA rotation next season, and the Kings should be thinking the very same thing.
With Richaun Holmes’ future in Sacramento uncertain with A) his post-deadline movement to the bench after signing a 4 year, $46,522,560 contract prior to this past season, and B) his unpredictable and grim off-court situation regarding domestic violence claims, a backup center to Sabonis is on the list of needs.
It just so happens that Jones has shown why he may be perfect for that role.
Through the last ten with Sabonis out, in 28.9 minutes played a game as the starter, Damian Jones averaged 16.6 points on 71.6% from the field, 7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks.
Jones’ biggest strength may be his athleticism and mobility, which propels his defensive performance. His quickness allows him to move into the right spot and use his hands, either with the defender coming at him or moving away from him. It wasn’t strange to see Jones put up two, three, four, or even six blocks in a game. At the same time, he is a true center, with the strength to bang around with other big bodies down there.
Offensively he works well around the rim, and finds ways to score when the ball is dumped off to him. He’ll never have to be a primary scoring option, but when Fox, Mitchell, or someone else needs to dish the ball to the open man, Jones is very adept at cashing in those points.
Add to it a three-point shot that isn’t too shabby and the value only goes up. In those final ten games he shot 50% from deep, albeit on one attempt a game, but he’s got a decent stroke that he’s worked on. If he can improve it even a little bit, that adds a whole other element to his game. Though, that shouldn’t be bet on, and with everything he does already, it isn’t a must.
Sacramento has the opportunity to fill in the backup center position with a versatile talent, who has high character, and who’s been with the team and can provide added continuity for a franchise that’s sorely yearned for such balance.
The third and final year of Chimezie Metu’s contract is not guaranteed, so the fate of the four-year man out of USC hangs in the balance pertaining to his place on the Kings.
The immediate thing that stands out about Metu is he’s a bit of a gamble, meaning, as Sacramento looks to leap forward towards being a contender, the ambiguity as to what he can do for a full season prevents him from being a serious option for the rotation going forward.
That isn’t to say Metu doesn’t have upside. He certainly does. Plus, in terms of the team needs—shooting, length, and athleticism—Metu’s max potential would check all of those boxes.
He’s actually had moments where one could call him Mezie Mamba. He had a game-winning three in December against Dallas, and as the season came to a close, he had several great moments, including his career performance in Indiana at the end of March where he dropped 22 on 8-11 from the field.
In fact, in his last ten games, Metu averaged 10.2 points on 48.1% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc, 6 rebounds, and a steal in 23.4 minutes per game. Needless to say, he has the potential.
However, take the last month or so of the season away, and Metu didn’t shoot all that well from deep. Overall, he finished at 30.6% on the year.
Take his shooting ability away, and the argument for keeping him loses a lot of weight. He can be exciting and comes equipped with athleticism, but he may not be a gamble worth taking as the Kings move forward.
He’ll have a chance somewhere, though. Probably on a rebuilding, young team.
In that first game against Minnesota after the trade with Indiana, there was another newcomer other than Sabonis that made an impact in his first game with the Kings. It was Jeremy Lamb, who scored 14, including 3-8 from three, while also posting 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. Not only did he make his row on the stat sheet look good, he played with effort and energy that complemented his new team.
Other than that first game, Lamb has had a few good moments, but he’s not really a priority to bring back, especially if the Kings can improve their wing situation with better shooting and length.
In 17 games with Sacramento, Lamb averaged 7.9 points on 40.3% shooting and 30.2% from three, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
Lamb is a solid veteran player who does a fair amount of things competently and can come off the bench and put up a quick, modest burst of points, but he’s not someone the Kings should be dying to keep in their rotation.
As a mere option at the end of the bench, he wouldn’t be bad, but the Kings need better improvement in the rotation regarding the tangible areas that Lamb falls short in.
One should admire the fact that Josh Jackson played hard when he got some time late in the season. Though, for however much effort he played with, he’s not a name the Kings are probably fixated on keeping.
In his little time with the Kings, Jackson had a few good moments defensively, including a couple of steals in the second to last game of the year. Even as he plays with solid effort, he just hasn’t shown he can shoot at any point in his career.
In 12 games with the Kings, Jackson averaged 4.3 points on 34.7% shooting and less than twenty-percent from deep, 1.5 rebounds, and 0.4 steals in 10.3 minutes per contest.