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Grading the Sacramento Kings’ 2021 NBA offseason

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Davion Mitchell, De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley

It’s like clockwork at this point for the Sacramento Kings. Miss out the playoffs, hope for favorable ping pong balls, draft in the lottery. The California-based franchise missed the postseason for the 15th consecutive year in 2020-21, finishing with a 31-41 record and tied for 12th in the Western Conference.

They landed the no. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, which marks the 11th time since 2009 that they’ve picked in the Top 10. Sacramento has been in rebuild mode in what seems like forever. The Kings feel like they’re in a never-ending cycle of aspiring for an offseason that could finally turn their fortunes around during the regular season. This 2021 summer feels like more of the same, though there could be some optimism that their playoff drought–the current longest active streak in the league–could come to an end in the near future.

Sacramento Kings’ Offseason Grade: B

Despite being in California, Sacramento has never been a main free agency attraction. They need to build through the draft and that’s what they’ve been doing over the past decade and a half. For the most part, their past draft picks have been a miss. But these last couple of years, including this recent draft, it seems like the Kings have finally hit on their selections. After taking Tyrese Haliburton with the no. 12 overall pick in 2020 and watching him blossom into a Rookie of the Year finalist, they took Baylor stud Davion Mitchell with the 9th overall pick in 2021.

The Kings definitely nailed it with Mitchell. They garnered an A- in our draft grade series for selecting the National Champion. Mitchell led the Bears to the NCAA title, taking down the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs in pretty convincing fashion.

Mitchell’s biggest strength is his hard-nosed, get-in-your-face defense and this will undoubtedly be his main calling card the moment he steps foot in the NBA. In fact, Mitchell emphatically showed just why he became the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA Summer League. Like he did with the Bears this past NCAA season, Mitchell led the Kings to the Summer League Championship, where they absolutely obliterated the Boston Celtics in the title-clinching game.

Davion Mitchell, Baylor, NBA Draft

Not only did he show out on the defensive end, he also showcased his capabilities on the other aspects of his game. In five games in Las Vegas, Mitchell averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 42.3 percent from the field. Heading into the draft, there were concerns that his 44.7 3-point shooting in his junior season may be an aberration. It’s just five games, but he did shoot an efficient 47.1 percent from beyond the arc in Summer League. That should be a positive sign that he could become an elite from long distance at the next level.

There may be some concerns with where Mitchell fits in Sacramento, as they already boast a solid guard rotation of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Tyrese Haliburton. Nonetheless, his defensive impact will make it difficult for Luke Walton to leave Mitchell off the floor. It may be a problem down the line as those three talented guards will definitely compete for minutes. Nonetheless, it’s a good problem to have.

The Kings also took Neemias Queta with the no. 39 overall pick in the draft. The 7-foot, 245-pound center is the first Portuguese-born player drafted in the NBA. He played his college ball at Utah State, where he averaged 14.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks in his junior year. Sacramento signed Queta to a two-way contract and could see majority of his time in the G-League with the Stockton Kings.

In free agency, the Kings retained three of their incumbent free agents. They re-signed starting center Richaun Holmes to a four-year, $46.5 million deal. Holmes has been a steady hand for the Kings down low over the last couple of seasons and should continue to play a major role in coach Luke Walton’s rotation. In 105 games with the Kings, Holmes has turned in averages of 13.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks while shooting 64.1 percent from the field.

Sacramento also brought back Terence Davis, whom they acquired from the Toronto Raptors last March. Davis and the Kings agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract. In 27 appearances with Sacramento, the 24-year old averaged 11.1 points on 43.9 percent from the field, while averaging 21.9 minutes per game.

The Kings also re-signed forward Moe Harkless to a two-year, $9 million deal. Harkless played 26 games for Sacramento last season, starting in 20 of them. His return should help establish continuity and provide the Kings with a steady rotation player that could provide defense and hustle.

Sacramento’s only addition via free agency is former center Alex Len. The 28-year old journeyman played 15 games with the Kings in the 2019-20 season and spent majority of last season with the Washington Wizards.

Buddy Hield Lakers Kings

As for trades, they acquired Tristan Thompson in a three-team deal with the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. In the blockbuster, Sacramento sent Delon Wright to the Hawks. Thompson is a former NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers and will enter his 11th season in the NBA. The 30-year old should provide some veteran leadership for this relatively young Kings squad, and he will likely start the season as Richaun Holmes’ main backup at center.

Likewise, their starting shooting guard Buddy Hield once again found himself in trade rumors this past summer. In fact, there were reports that a Hield trade to the Los Angeles Lakers almost came into fruition. Instead, the Lakers opted to trade for Russell Westbrook, slamming the door shut on that potential deal. In the end, Hield remains and should begin the 2021-22 season in Sacramento.

All in all, the Kings didn’t do much to move the needle. They kept majority of their core together, while adding and retaining some veterans that should build on their continuity.

Sacramento’s Summer League Championship run is undoubtedly the highlight of their offseason. This comes hand-in-hand with their selection of Mitchell, who played a major role in leading them to the championship. The title may not mean much on the NBA record books, but they definitely could use that as a step toward the right direction. It could also help them break the curse in the big league.

With that said, the Kings’ 2021 offseason is perhaps one of their better ones in recent memory.