There are plenty of people to blame for the recent struggles of the Sacramento Kings, and it starts at the top with Vlade Divac.
After an 0-5 start to the season, the Sacramento Kings went 12-9 in their next 21 contests to rally back to 12-14, despite missing both of their franchise building blocks with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley for the majority of that stretch.
Since Bagley and Fox have both been healthy in the last four games, the team has looked somehow worse than they did without them in the lineup. Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes have been unable to throw the ball in the ocean, Marvin Bagley has been outplayed by Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes, and guys the Kings committed serious money to in the offseason are either sitting on the bench (Dewayne Dedmon) or are complete liabilities on offense (Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph.)
A lot of Kings fans have pointed the brunt of their frustration towards head coach Luke Walton, due to his questionable rotations and the team’s overall lack of passion and cohesion on the court. These things are true, and Walton definitely deserves some blame. But make no mistake about it, the reason the Kings are where they are is because of general manager Vlade Divac.
On April 8th, 2015, a Sacramento Kings team in need of stability and direction hired beloved former Kings big man, Vlade Divac as General Manager. Despite Divac having no prior front office experience, the Kings put the future of the franchise in the hands of the seven-foot Serbian.
Now, already in year five of Divac’s reign as the team’s lead decision-maker, things don’t seem that bright for the team moving forward.
Yes, the talent on the roster has certainly improved since Divac became GM. However, I don’t think Divac deserves much credit for the meager influx of talent.
Divac’s draft picks (aside from drafting Fox in 2017) range from abject disasters to regular swings and misses. Despite this being Divac’s fifth year with the franchise, Fox is the only player he has drafted that appears to be on track to becoming a surefire piece of the future.
Amongst Divac’s worst blunders was picking ground-bound, Greek center Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, despite already having Demarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein at the same position. The pick was rightly chastised around the league as Papagiannis was seen as more of a second-round talent who the team decided to select in the lottery. Papagiannis was out of the league before the start of his third NBA season.
An Unforgiveable Mistake
Divac’s most egregious error, however, was selecting Bagley ahead of Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic, who is already one of the 10 best players in the NBA in his second season at age 20. While hindsight is 20-20, even at the time this moved seemed like a huge leap of faith, to pass over a generational talent for a big man tweener with an underdeveloped offensive repertoire.
It’s definitely too early to label Bagley as a bust, but to expect him to be on the same career trajectory as Doncic at this point is downright laughable.
Divac’s team building foibles extend beyond the draft though, as he has made several ill-fated trades and free-agent signings for the franchise. While none of these individual moves are as egregious on their own, they have certainly contributed to the team’s ineptitude on and off the court.
Divac seems to have a complete lack of understanding in the way the NBA changing. While smarter front-offices have strayed away from drafting big men high in the lottery, the Kings have repeatedly done so in Divac’s tenure. This has caused the team to have an everlasting glut at the center position.
Divac repeatedly saying that he thinks Bagley could play the small forward position for the team shows his lack of understanding about the modern NBA and what makes teams successful.
The team is the same mess it was when Divac took over, just with some new characters involved. It’s time for the team to let go of the nostalgia surrounding Divac and hire a real, qualified GM.