The offseason for the Sacramento Kings just keeps getting more interesting. There was the issue between coach George Karl and star big man DeMarcus Cousins, the trade that sent away Nik Stauskas and a bunch of other assets to the Sixers for cap space, and now the signings that have used the cap space they created. The Kings have put themselves in a rather precarious long-term situation.
The Kings have signed Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos and Rajon Rondo with that cap space, which actually aren’t bad moves, in theory. They brought in three good basketball players on fair-value deals. Belinelli signed a three-year, $19 million contract, which places the average annual value of the deal right at $6.3 million.
Forgetting, for a minute, that the salary cap is about to explode and the value of NBA contracts will change at that time, but looking around the NBA, you can find some comparable contracts for players of comparable value. J.J. Redick is making $7.08 million this season, Jodie Meeks is making $6.27 million and Gerald Henderson is making $6 million. The Belinelli contract is essentially the same as the one Meeks signed last offseason with the Pistons.
Koufos signed a four-year, $33 million contract that has some people shaking their heads, but unfortunately this is market value in the NBA for quality big men. Taj Gibson, for example, signed a four-year, $33 million extension with the Bulls just prior to the 2012-2013 season. At the time, he was a year older than Koufos and coming off a season in which he averaged 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 20.4 minutes per game.
Koufos averaged just 5.2 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Grizzlies last season, but he’s just 26 years old and only played 16.6 minutes per game. If you bump that to around 30 minutes, which is fairly likely given that he’s the only other experienced big on the team outside of Cousins, he’s probably putting up 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
For further comparison, Boris Diaw is making $7.5 million, Ersan Ilyasova is making $7.9 million, Channing Frye is making $8.2 million and Ryan Anderson is making $8.5 million. For the kind of offensive and defensive production that can be expected of Koufos, the money is right, especially with the cap rising.
Then there’s the Rondo signing. He was in the midst of another Rondo-like season last year with the Celtics, averaging 8.3 points and 10.8 assists, when he was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks in a multi-player deal. Once he arrived in Dallas, things started to go sour. He didn’t fit in with the Mavericks’ offense, and by the end of the season he was routinely playing less than 30 minutes per game.
In the playoffs, Rondo played 27 minutes in their opening loss to the Rockets, then just five minutes in the next game. He was ruled out with a back injury, but it was pretty clear to most that Rondo had quit on the team. That was the last we saw of Rondo in a Mavericks uniform, but the story wasn’t done. Later, it was revealed that the Mavericks didn’t give Rondo a share of the playoff money, necessitating an explanation on the topic from Dirk Nowitzki.
Now, Rondo ends up with a one-year, $10 million contract with the Kings. All things considered, this isn’t a bad deal. To compare fairly like we did with Belinelli and Koufos, there are a few players making similar money in the same tier of player (arguably) as Rondo. Mike Conley is making $9.4 million, Jrue Holiday is making $10.6 million, Kemba Walker is making $12 million, Kyle Lowry is making $12 million and Ty Lawson is making $12.4 million.
Let’s take an overall look at what the Kings’ depth chart looks like, as of this moment.
*Collison is a likely trade candidate.
**Casspi is still a free agent, but many predict he will re-sign with the Kings.
There are a few different scenarios for this Kings team. It’s possible that in a new situation and on a one-year contract, Rondo turns back into the player that he was with the Celtics. It’s not hard to imagine, with quality guys to pass the ball to like Cousins, Gay and McLemore. The Kings still need better outside shooting, but if everything goes right, perhaps there’s an outside shot this team competes for a playoff spot.
The other scenario is that things fall apart. As I mentioned, this team lacks shooting. They ranked 28th in three-pointers made last season, and signing Belinelli while casting out Derrick Williams, Stauskas and possibly Collison isn’t going to make a huge dent in that problem. Adding in Rondo, who’s a dreadful shooter from beyond three feet away from the basket, isn’t going to help either.
If things go really well, the Kings might win 40-45 games this season, Rondo will rebuild his market value and they’ll either give him a big contract next offseason (which could be awful) or watch him leave. If things don’t go well, they’re probably a 30-35 win team. They’ll be stuck deciding whether to bring Rondo back and try again, or cut their losses. If the situation falls apart, Sacramento better hope its record is bad enough to stay in the top 10 of the draft, otherwise the team’s draft pick will go to the Chicago Bulls. It would be a disaster if the Kings had a bad season but still somehow lost that pick.
Hopefully for the Kings, they win enough to make losing their pick to Chicago worthwhile. Otherwise, the long-term future for the organization will be that of being stuck in NBA purgatory; not good enough to contend and not bad enough to get a superstar in the draft.