Sacramento Kings: Roster Makeover May Lead to Slow Start


This offseason for the Kings has seen a great deal of change. Only 5 players that have guaranteed contracts remain on the Kings roster from last season: DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, Darren Collison, and Omri Casspi. That much roster turnover can lead to inconsistency and a struggle to find a rhythm as a team. Finding an example of a team having success following so much turnover isn’t easy but it certainly is not impossible either.

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An example of a successful roster makeover that Kings fans should be familiar with is the 1998/99 Sacramento Kings roster that marked the beginning of an 8-year run of playoff appearances. With a series of moves orchestrated by then President of Basketball Operations, Geoff Petrie, the Kings traded Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe for Chris Webber, drafted Jason Williams, convinced 1996 draft pick Peja Stojakovic to make the leap to the NBA, and added Vlade Divac, Vernon Maxwell, Jon Barry, and Scot Pollard through free agency to join roster holdovers Corliss Williamson, Lawrence Funderburke, and Tariq Abdul-Wahad.

This was the Kings renaissance that turned a losing Sacramento franchise into “The Greatest Show on Court”, as dubbed by Sports Illustrated, and a playoff mainstay for nearly a decade.

The prevailing theme of that 98/99 50 game, strike-shortened season was inconsistency. During that season, the Kings had 8 different winning streaks to go along with 7 different losing streaks and after 39 games the Kings mustered a record of 17-22. Then the Kings caught fire and rattled off 10 wins in their last 11 games, finishing 4th in the Western Conference and eventually losing to the Utah Jazz 2 games to 3 in the first round of the playoffs.

One difference of the current roster to that 98/99 roster is that Petrie brought back 2 starters from the previous season in Williamson and Abdul-Wahad, whereas Vlade will likely have 3 returning starters with Cousins and Gay as a lock to start, and either Collison or McLemore at shooting guard.

Also, even with as much turnover as the Kings have had this offseason, they will be bringing back 5 players who look to contribute significantly this season as opposed to the 3 holdovers on the renaissance roster (not including Terry Dehere who only played 20 minutes for the Kings during the 98/99 season).

In listening to local sports radio shows, I have heard a good number of Kings fans who expect the Kings to win 50 games this coming season. Those fans may need to temper their expectations. I too believe the Kings, who have won less than 30 games for 7 straight season, will skip the 30’s and win 40 plus games next season.

However, fans should expect a learning curve from our team while George Karl mixes and matches all of new pieces until he finds the right rotations and while the players themselves learn each other’s games.

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