1 Kings need nobody is discussing heading into 2024 offseason

Mar 31, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings center Alex Len (25) before the game against the Utah Jazz at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings center Alex Len (25) before the game against the Utah Jazz at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the offseason, you've surely heard us discuss how the Sacramento Kings need to re-sign Malik Monk or how they should upgrade the starting power forward position. But the one glaring hole that it feels like no one is really talking about is the one that is soon to open up at the backup center spot.

On the surface, it makes sense. The team's starting center, Domantas Sabonis, is one of their two best players (some may argue their best player). He's also incredibly reliable – missing just three games in the last two years. So, realistically, Sacramento's backup center will only need to play 10 to 15 minutes per night.

However, backup centers still matter. Just look at the Dallas Mavericks, who made it all the way to the NBA Finals in large part because they tout two starting caliber centers and have access to high-quality center play for 48 minutes a night.

Last season, Alex Len and JaVale McGee did an admirable job filling in when Sabonis was on the bench. But neither of them would classify as elite backup big men. Besides, they are both set to become free agents this offseason.

Now, the Kings wouldn't have too much trouble re-signing one (or both) of these veteran bigs if they so desired. But given how cheap backup centers can be had for, the Kings would probably be better off seeing if they can acquire an upgrade with their Bi-Annual Exception (worth about 4.7 million dollars this year) or a veteran minimum.

Who Could The Kings Realistically Sign?

Outside of Len and McGee some centers who are set to become free agents this year that could be signed somewhere in the Kings' price range include Daniel Theis, Mason Plumlee, Andre Drummond, Tristian Thompson, Kevon Looney (so long as the Golden State Warriors actually end up cutting ties with him), DeAndre Jordan, Jericho Sims, Goga Bitadze, Jaxson Hayes, Luke Kornet, and Xavier Tillman, to name a few.

Who Should The Kings Target?

The ideal backup to someone like Sabonis (who, like we said, is incredibly durable) is a center that covers his weaknesses. In Sabonis' case, those weaknesses would be rim protection and rim running/lob finishing.

Last year, Len gave you the rim protection (98th percentile block rate, per Dunks & Threes), and McGee provided the rim running/lob finishing (nine career seasons with 80 dunks or more). But ideally, you want one player who can do both of those things.

In my opinion, the player from the list above that gives you the best blend of those two facets of the game is Bitadze. Last season, Bitadze posted a block rate in the 97th percentile while also punctuating 51 dunks (roughly one dunk for every 18.8 minutes he played). Overall, Bitadze was in the 83rd percentile in Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM).

Bitadze did a great job of filling in for the Orlando Magic as a starter (33 starts) while Wendell Carter Jr. (their usual starting center) was on the mend. He lost his place in the rotation when Carter returned, but that was to no fault of his own (Moritz Wagner is also a really good backup center).

Since Bitadze peaked at the beginning of the season, most people have forgotten how good he really is. A smart team should capitalize on our tendency as humans to over-index on recent information and sign Bitadze to be their backup center. Hopefully, that team is the Kings because they sure do need it.

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