The Sacramento Kings haven’t been a prime free-agent destination in recent years. In fact, the luckless franchise has had more misses than hits in terms of their recent dealings in free agency.
Plus, the team’s culture of losing has definitely scared off a lot of potential talents from potentially choosing to play for SacTown.
While that’s just the grim reality as of late if you’re a Kings fan, it hasn’t always been that way. Sacramento actually once boasted one of the most exciting teams in the league and was primed to end the Lakers’ dominance in the early 2000s.
Players were actually lining-up to join that up-and-coming team anchored by Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic, among others. They also managed to sign unheralded but productive players after that glorious era ended.
Let’s have a look at five of the best free-agent signings in Kings history.
5. Scot Pollard
Pollard will always be remembered as that back-up center who had goofy hairstyles each season. His interesting choices include a mohawk, a ponytail, and some intricately designed facial hair, which stood out even more with his rather bold hair colors.
Theatrics aside, the 6-foot-11 center was actually a decent role player throughout his 11-year NBA career. Pollard initially came to Sacramento after the team picked him off waivers in 1999.
The Kings loved what they saw out of Pollard, as he embraced his reserve role and often stepped up whenever Webber and Vlade Divac missed some time. They extended his contract and Pollard stayed in SacTown from 1999 to 2003.
His numbers were rather modest at best, but Pollard provided a lot of positives not seen on the stat sheet. Moreover, he was also a good locker room guy.
Pollard knew his limitations and didn’t overextend himself whenever he was on the floor. He stuck to what he does best, which is rebounding, defending, and setting hard screens. He notched 5.9 points and 6.0 boards in five seasons with the Kings.
4. Beno Udrih (2008)
Udrih was supposed to just be a temporary replacement for injured guard Mike Bibby in the 2007-08 campaign. The Timberwolves immediately waived him after dealing with Udrih’s first NBA team, the Spurs. The Kings were in desperate need of a facilitator and took a gamble on the lefty Slovenian by claiming him off the waivers.
Udrih relished in his new-found starting role and shined as a shoot-first point guard, where he averaged 12.8 points on 38 percent shooting from three that year. The 6-foot-3 guard’s stock rose the following season and the Sacramento brass made the wise decision of bringing him back.
They locked him up with a 5-year deal worth $32 million and gave him the starting job full time as Bibby’s successor. Udrih became a well-traveled journeyman after his Kings stint, but no doubt he enjoyed the best years of his NBA career in SacTown.
3. John Salmons (2006)
The Kings didn’t have a lot going on for them in the post-Webber era, but the signing of John Salmons at least gave them some excitement during those dark times. The 6-foot-6 swingman was supposed to sign with the Raptors in ’06 but changed his mind and elected to go to Sacramento with a five-year, $25.5 million contract.
The University of Miami alum gave the Kings some much-needed versatility due to his ability to play multiple positions. Salmons was also a two-way threat, as he torched opposing players with his shooting and locked them up on D on the other end.
The 2008-09 campaign was his best season in SacTown, where he notched 18.1 points and a career-best 41.8 percent shooting clip from past the arc. He became a wanted man around the league after that and he was traded to the Bulls the following season.
Salmons returned to Sacramento in 2011 but was no longer as effective as he was in his first stint.
2. Bobby Jackson (2000)
What made that 2000 Kings extremely dangerous was that they were loaded with scorers at every position. That team didn’t lose a step even when the starters took a breather, as their super-sub Bobby Jackson usually came in and added more points to the board.
After three underwhelming seasons with the Wolves and the Nuggets, Jackson wasn’t considered a hot commodity when he entered the market in 2000. The Kings appreciated the energy he brings to the court and welcomed him to the fold.
Despite being undersized at just 6-foot-1, “Action Jackson” quickly emerged as one of the best combo guards off the bench that season.
The speedy guard became a favorite in head coach Rick Adelman’s system for his ability to provide immediate impact upon checking into the game. Jackson had his best year with the team in the ’02-’03 season where he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year plum.
Jackson notched had career averages of 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in a Kings jersey.
He continued to be a beloved figure in the city even after his playing days, as he served as an assistant coach with the team from 2011-13. Jackson currently works as Sacramento’s player development coach.
1. Vlade Divac (1998)
Way before Nikola Jokic became known as the best passing big in the game today, Vlade Divac was already throwing dimes left and right for the Kings.
The 7-foot-1 Serbian is perhaps best remembered as the Lakers’ trading piece that allowed them to take the Hornets’ pick in 1996 — which they used on the late Kobe Bryant.
After his rather forgettable two-year stint in Charlotte ended, Divac agreed to terms with Kings and formed arguably one of the best passing frontcourts of all-time alongside Chris Webber.
Divac’s 2.4 career assists average certainly didn’t do his fantastic court vision justice. The Kings’ lethal offensive sets usually started with him at the high post. Vlade picked up a lot of hockey assists during that time, with guys like Bibby and Stojakovic benefiting a lot from those open looks.
He made his lone All-Star appearance in 2001, right around the time he was entering the twilight of his career. His no. 21 jersey now hangs high up the rafters of the Golden 1 Center, alongside Webber and Mitch Richmond.
His involvement with Sacramento continued after his retirement, assuming the position of vice president of basketball operations and general manager in 2015. Divac stepped down from the post last August.