Over the next month, CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball will take a team-by-team look at the 201213 NBA offseason. We continue with the Sacramento Kings. You can read all of our offseason reports here.
How they finished 2013
When the 2012-13 regular season was done flopping on the ground for the Sacramento Kings, the franchise was in complete disarray. The organization had just completed its fourth straight year without any real improvement. The Kings finished with 28 wins, their highest total since the 2007-08 season, but you didn't feel any better about the direction of the franchise than you did before the season started.
The Kings received a much-improved effort from Tyreke Evans after two disappointing seasons, but it wasn't nearly enough to energize the roster like we saw during his historic rookie season. DeMarcus Cousins was a rollercoaster. He was up, he was down, he was doing corkscrews. He was threatening Spurs' color commentator Sean Elliott. He was fighting with his coach, but he was also showing phenomenal progress. We also saw the team trade away the fifth pick in the 2012 draft just four months into his rookie season. The roster was a mess.
Not to mention, the actual structure of the organization looked as disheveled as ever. The Maloof family had been fooling owners for years, looking either to be handed a no-lose situation with the finances of the organization in another city or sell the team to someone that would move it. They got their wish in selling to a Seattle-based ownership group, but the city of Sacramento put together an incredible response. The fate of the ownership,decisions on the front office and coaching and the next era in the Kings organization was hanging in the balance as the offseason started.
Needs entering the offseason
What did the Kings need? Owners. A general manager. A coach. Roster pieces that fit together a lot better than they previously had.
The Kings needed a complete makeover as an organization -- one that wouldn't require a drastic change of scenery too (unless you're a fan in Seattle). The owners seemed too broke to run a team. The front office seemed too dated to shape a team. And the coaching situation was turning into a mess for the fifth time since Rick Adelman was let go in 2006.
On top of that, the team didn't have a point guard that was adept at setting up his teammates, even though they ranked 13th in offensive efficiency. More so, the team had very little actual veteran leadership and the defensive efforts showed all of the warts of the roster. They ranked second to last in defensive efficiency, giving up 108.6 points per 100 possessions.
The Kings needed a roster that worked together, not just a collage of unmolded talent. They also needed to make a decision on the restricted free agency status of Tyreke Evans.
I'm not sure this year's draft could have gone better for the Kings. They held the seventh pick for a draft class unlikely to produce stars and ended up grabbing one of the more dynamic players when Ben McLemore of Kansas, who some projected as a top pick, slipped down the board. While McLemore certainly has issues on the court (gets lost on defense and struggles to create going to his left, which was exposed at Las Vegas Summer League), he does have a great shooting stroke and the ability to score.
In the second round, the Kings grabbed Ray McCallum out of Detroit, who should give the team both a lot more defensive tenacity and steadiness on offense. Sure, they already have sparkplug Isaiah Thomas at point guard, but McCallum gives them a potentially cheaper option in a couple years when the free agent market starts calling Thomas' name. And McCallum could end up being a better player than Thomas because of his fundamental approach at both ends of the floor.
The Kings needed wing help in the form of small forward, but they found a way to draft the best player available at No. 7 and then fill another need with their second-round pick. This could end up giving them a real shot at impacting the roster.
Free agency and trades
It's very possible Tyreke Evans ends up being the player we thought he might be after he averaged 20-5-5 in his rookie season. He bounced back last year and looked like he had a bit of a better handle on his own shot-taking and shot-making abilities. But he didn't really fit with the team dynamic (what little there was) and for the price the New Orleans Pelicans gave him, I'm not sure it would have been a great decision to match. They let him walk and gave the keys over to DeMarcus Cousins.
They needed to round out the roster with a more veteran look as they begin Year One of their latest rebuild. The team acquired Greivis Vasquez in the three-team deal that sent Evans to the Pelicans. The acquisition didn't fix the Kings' defensive struggles by any means (Vasquez is one of the worst defensive point guards in the NBA), but it did give them a facilitator to get teammates good shots on offense.
Sacramento also brought in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in a trade with the Bucks (for two second-round picks) to give them more versatility at forward and bolster their defense.
The big signing the Kings made was bringing Carl Landry back for four years and $26 million. This signing was a bit confusing because they needed defense and Landry is much more of an offensive weapon off the bench. To commit such a long-term contract to a player who is much more of someone that completes the rotation of a playoff team, rather than help rebuild an organization was a bit confusing, but he does complement guys like Cousins, Mbah a Moute, and Jason Thompson fairly well.
Overall grade and accomplishments: A
The Kings didn't become a playoff team this offseason and they aren't even close to truly threatening to compete for a playoff spot next season in the loaded Western Conference. But the Kings did make it back to looking like a real NBA organization and not some basketball incarnation of the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League.
The sale of the team to Vivek Ranadive's ownership group not only keeps the Kings in Sacramento, but it also gives the organization its first real glimpse of what it's like to be owned by a progressive group of wealthy businessmen that are going to look at problems from all angles and find solutions that makes sense to fixing what's wrong with the roster. One of those solutions was to bring in Pete D'Alessandro as general manager to replace Geoff Petrie.
They also brought in first-time head coach Mike Malone, one of the most well-respected and sought-after assistant coaches in the NBA, from the Warriors. Couple all of that with the beginning of reshaping the roster and you have to feel a lot better about the direction of the Kings.
The chaos has subsided and now we can watch this team just go to work and try to improve without feeling like there are a lot of smoke and mirrors in play. The Kings aren't back yet, but it looks like they're finally on their way.