ESPN underrates Sacramento Kings’ offseason moves

De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

I won’t delude myself, the Sacramento Kings have enjoyed a relatively quiet offseason. In a summer where we’ve seen a pair of star rookies fight for draft position and then duke it out in the Summer League, teams like Miami and Chicago execute sign-and-trades to elevate their chances, and Los Angeles and Brooklyn hoard a wealth of veteran talent, it’s easy to see how the Kings have flown under the radar.

But flying under the radar is far from a failure in my opinion. For far too long, Sacramento has been locked in a cycle of overpaying to retain its homegrown talent, failing to develop promising draft prospects, and striking out in free agency.

The Kings did not possess enough cap space to sign any noteworthy free agents this summer, but I still think they opted for the best course of action regardless. When assigning offseason grades for each Western Conference team, however, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton does not seem to hold Sacramento’s summer in the same regard.

In ESPN’s Western Conference NBA offseason grades, the Sacramento Kings were given a low-balled grade of ‘C’ by Kevin Pelton.

Pelton kicks his critique off with praise, “The best news for the Kings is they were able to re-sign starting center Richaun Holmes for $46.5 million over the next four years, the most they could pay using early Bird rights.” Of course, I have to agree here, as I wrote earlier in the month I believe the Holmes signing was the steal of the summer.

The positive tone of Pelton’s assessment soon takes a nosedive, “The perplexing news is that Sacramento also added two other centers — including Chimezie Metu, whose salary is partially guaranteed — giving them five on their roster. That’s not including forward Marvin Bagley III, who also can play center.”

I feel like this criticism is a bit nonsensical, taking into account Metu is not an essential rotational piece and instead just a nice prospect worth developing. Adding Bagley—who is not primarily a center—to the list of centers is also incredibly trivial. That leaves us with a center rotation of Holmes, Tristan Thompson, and Alex Len, which I am quite happy with and grants the Kings insurance in case one of the trio falls to injury.

Pelton adds, “Swapping Delon Wright for Tristan Thompson looks like a downgrade, and it’s unclear where Alex Len (two years, $8 million) fits into a crowded rotation. The Kings should be encouraged about how well lottery pick Davion Mitchell played defensively in helping lead them to the Las Vegas Summer League championship. Still, a return to the real postseason after a 15-year drought seems unlikely.”

I too was confused following the Wright trade, which only made sense following the conclusion of the NBA Draft where Sacramento found an upgrade in Mitchell. This is why Pelton’s criticism strikes me as confusing yet again. The Kings managed to upgrade Wright and Hassan Whiteside into Mitchell and Thompson, that’s a success, not a failure.

To top things off, Pelton throws salt in the wound by mentioning Sacramento’s playoff drought, as if that fact holds any bearing on the talent level of this year’s rendition of the team. Ultimately I cannot criticize what feels like a lazy attempt to evaluate the Kings’ offseason efforts when the team hasn’t given the media much reason to watch in recent memory.

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I’d give a ‘C’ grade to a team that was caught only treading water and making marginal moves for the sake of just making moves. The Kings, on the other hand, improved their depth at multiple positions, secured their long-term financial flexibility, and maintains enough assets to pull off a splashy trade for a player like Ben Simmons. It may have not been the craziest offseason in Sacramento Kings history, but it was a silenty smart one.