Young Sacramento Kings Add Pair of Veterans

It’s been a rough decade for Kings fans. In the nine seasons since 2008–09, they have broken the 30-win threshold only twice (33 and 32 wins), and have a combined 238–484 record in that timespan (.330 win %). There was a moment of promise during the 2014–15 campaign in which DeMarcus Cousins and head coach Michael Malone were apparently getting along, keeping the team afloat at 11–13, when Malone was suddenly fired and the team went 18–40 the rest of the season. The point is, the Kings have certainly not lived up to their name.

However, after a strong showing at the draft in which they selected De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III, and with other youngsters Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis, Sacramento actually has a solid base of young talent.

On top of all that young talent, it was reported earlier today that the Kings agreed to a 2-year, $24 million contract with 35-year old big man Zach Randolph, and a 3-year, $57 million contract with point guard George Hill.

Randolph, a two-time All-Star, is beyond his prime at this point, but still managed to put up 14 points and 8 rebounds per game averaging 24.5 minutes a night for the Grizzlies last year. Aside from his solid production as a big man, the 16-year veteran will be able to mentor Sacramento’s younger players. George Hill, meanwhile, is coming off one of the best seasons of his nine-year NBA career, in which he averaged 16.9 points 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, and shot 40% from beyond the arc, as the starting point guard for the 51-win Jazz.

I think this team has potential to be exciting to watch, but it’s also important to remember their competition. The Western Conference this year is so densely populated with hot talent that I honestly think it might cause an ever-expanding explosion that creates a new universe. In other words, Sacramento will once again finish in the bottom four.

In a way, Randolph is serving as Cousins’ replacement, and the Kings’ two best players (barring another notable acquisition) were the third-best players on 51- and 43-win teams respectively. This is not a playoff recipe, especially in the West. Hill and Randolph are in Sacramento to maintain the team’s respectability and help the young players grow, not to lead them to the playoffs. Obviously, their management won’t outright say that, but this team has about as big a chance at making the playoffs this year as the Washington Generals.

On the bright side for Kings fans, which is an unusual statement: There isn’t a team in the West that will be able to compete with the Warriors for at least the next couple years. Seriously. The best any team will do is get knocked out in the Western Conference Finals, and with all the All-Stars piling up in the West, there will be very little room for a fringe team to slip into the postseason. (I promise this gets happier, Kings fans) What does that mean? It sounds pathetic, but there’s really no point for Western Conference teams to try right now given how stacked the top four teams are. But the Kings are not built for the present. These two signings, if anything, are signings to hold them over until 2019, when their young players have improved, and the West begins to settle down, and maybe the Warriors even lose one of their stars, and Popovich retires(?), etc. Once the competition is no longer at this boiling point, the Kings will have a nice crop of talent that is both young, but also with NBA experience—as well as solid cap space.

So, don’t worry Kings fans, just wait a couple years for the young team to find their groove and grow under veterans Randolph and Hill. The West will clear out for them and they will become the new core and lead the Kings back to relevancy for years to come. Or, the young group will become marred by injuries, inconsistency, lack of NBA readiness, lack of talent, and lack of desire to play in Sacramento, returning the Kings to a vicious cycle of lottery picks and third-tier free agents. Then again, what more could you expect from the Kings?

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