NBA: Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings

For months I’ve wanted to write about the Brooklyn Nets. They’ve traded their next three first round picks, might only have one second round pick over the next half decade, and just threw $110 million at the eight seed inducing combination of Brook Lopez and Thad Young. They’re basketball’s version of the zombies in The Walking Dead: somewhat alive, but lacking any real future. They’ve passed the modern NBA’s “how you know it’s bad” barometer by not even having the option to tank because they don’t have their own draft picks. So, that was the game plan: analyze the Nets’ basketball apocalypse.

-== 8 Moves That Paved Way for Warriors’ NBA Title ==-

But then Sacramento started happening, and it kept happening. I mean, what in the good name of Mike Bibby is happening in Sacramento?!

In gratitude for all the ways the Kings helped shape this championship Warriors team*, I’m going to write about the franchise from California’s capital. Mostly because the Warriors have been rightfully boring during free agency, but also because Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé is more confusing than your girlfriend when she says, “I’m fine”.

*2009 Draft: Kings take Tyreke Evans 4th, Curry goes 7th.
2011 Draft: Kings take Jimmer Fredette 10th, Klay goes 11th.
2012 Draft: Kings take Thomas Robinson 5th, HB goes 7th.

Vivek’s ownership of the Kings has been like my HBO subscription: a gift that keeps on giving. Let’s start from the beginning…

Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé. Photo credit: Max Whittaker

-May 31, 2013: Ranadivé (a Warriors minority owner at the time) buys the Kings at a $534 million valuation. One of the many absurd parts of this story is that for all of Vivek’s failures, the team has increased in value by at least $250 million*. Imagine failing, but still making the profit of a lifetime.

*Forbes put a $800 million estimate on the franchise.

Analogy: Buying Apple stock a decade ago ($6 per share), thinking you were buying into a fruit company. You would have failed in your fruit industry aspirations, but still would have made the investment of a lifetime.

-June 3, 2013: Ranadivé commits the timeless sin of hiring a head coach before a GM. Mike Malone (the Warriors’ lead assistant and Mark Jackson’s arch-nemesis at the time) is Vivek’s choice, beginning his continual endeavor to impersonate the Warriors (more on this later). In related news, Malone just called coaching his 4th grade daughter’s team more fun than coaching the Kings. At least Vivek lasted four days in his ownership before his first mistake!

Analogy: Picking your honeymoon location before finding a wife.

-2013 Off-Season: The Kings were surprisingly competent during this off-season. They drafted Ben McLemore fifth in a draft that’s beginning to rival the 2000 draft in its atrociousness; of the top ten selected in 2013, six are looking like busts and and three still have the potential to semi-bust. Props to the Kings for getting a player who might only be a semi-bust. Sacramento also lost Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade to the Pelicans; this was also fully acceptable. But, the Kings couldn’t resist an off-season without a terrible move, and signed Carl Landry to a four year, $28 million deal. This was questionable on many levels, but mostly because Sacramento already had three power forwards (PF) under contract (Jason Thompson, Chuck Hayes, and Patrick Patterson), and Demarcus Cousins. This marks the second stage of Vivek trying to be like the Warriors (Landry spent the season prior on the Warriors).

Observation: Vivek’s least destructive off-season was the one in which he had the least experience as an NBA owner -interesting.

-September 23, 2013: Bad karma alert! Shaq AKA the man who used to refer to Sacramento’s squad as “the Queens”, becomes a minority owner. Then our man Vivek describes Shaq as, “the most iconic person on the planet”. That quote belongs on Shaqtin A Fool.

Analogy: Draymond Green buys a portion of the Clippers in ten years.

Credit: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports

-2013-14 Season: While the season was a massive disappointment for the Kings, it was integral in building the foundation for the “how is this team going to fit together” squad we’ve enjoyed the past two years. Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay were acquired, furthering Sacramento’s shooting and defensive woes. Demarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas supposedly feuded, and rumors began circulating that Vivek wanted the Kings to play defense with four players with the fifth cherrypicking on the other end of the court. Of course, Vivek didn’t vouch for this idea without beta testing it: the strategy derives from when he coached his daughter’s youth league team.

Analogy: A new soccer owner proposes that his side play two goalkeepers at once because it worked in FIFA 15.

-2014 Draft: The Kings draft Nik Stauskus. Grantland produced a great video series on this, helping me form power rankings for the most hilarious parts of this pick.

  1. Vivek has the Kings’ draft room yell “Nik rocks!” to conclude their first phone conversation with their new player. It can be concluded that at this moment, Stauskus immediately contacted his agent about a trade.
  2. Vivek referred to Stauskus as “Klay Curry” because he could supposedly shoot like Steph, but had Klay’s size. Example number three of Vivek wanting to be like the Dubs.
  3. The Kings drafted a shooting guard one year after drafting a shooting guard (McLemore).
  4. Vivek’s pitch to his GM for Stauskus was, “he claims that he made 91 out of 100 three point shots once”. Advanced analytics in full force!
  5. The Kings’ decision came down to Stauskus or Elfrid Peyton, and they chose Stauskus. One of those players just got traded after one season, and another is the starting floor general of one of the budding teams in the NBA.

2015 Season: Ah, the season that crushed Demarcus Cousins’ basketball soul. Perhaps the most daunting question the Kings face is how to keep Cousins happy. So logically, after playing the second toughest schedule over 24 games, going 11-13 during that stretch even while missing Cousins for nine of those games, the Kings fired the first NBA coach Cousins ever truly followed: Mike Malone. The Kings then brought in Ty Corbin for a couple months as coach -they must have been inspired by his 25-57 record with the Jazz the year before. But, Vivek quickly became dissatisfied and hired George Karl to coach his band of disjointed misfits. Of course, Karl’s up-tempo style doesn’t exactly mesh with the style of the Kings’ biggest asset, Cousins, but that shouldn’t be a problem! And oh by the way, the Kings lost their GM (D’Allesandro) and top advisor (Chris Mullin), and anointed Vlade Divac as GM. It seems Divac’s a bit unqualified for the job.

Divac is largely unfamiliar with the collective bargaining and salary-cap rules, causing him to struggle with grasping the machinations of negotiating and completing deals. 

-Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports

The Insanity Ever Since: Over the past couple months, the Kings have operated like a fantasy football team whose owner’s continually trying to compensate for missing their league’s draft. They’ve defied all sports conventionality, and have been treated as such by the rest of the NBA. It was too difficult to write a comprehensive paragraph for this zig-zag of an off-season, so I went to the bullet points.

The volatile Kings picked the draft’s least stable player: Willie Cauley-Stein.

The Kings offered John Calipari a dual role as head coach and GM, even though their coach (Karl) has held the job for a mere 30 games.

In free agency the Kings offered Monta Ellis $4.3 million more than the Pacers; he chose the Pacers. They offered Wesley Mathews about $8 million more than the Mavericks; he chose the Mavs. It’s even been reported that Tobias Harris turned down a max offer from the Kings, to stay with the Magic on a non-max deal.

Better yet, the big-name free agent the Kings did sign was literately kicked off his last team and is one of the least efficient guards in the NBA: Rajon Rondo. This evokes questions of who they were even bidding against to sign Rondo in the first place, and why they’re surrounding a post-up scorer and driving wing with a point guard who can’t shoot?

Finally, the Kings traded Jason Thompson, Carl Landry (remember that contract?), and Nik Stauskus (“Nik rocks!”) to the Sixers as part of a salary dump to sign free agents. But, that wasn’t all. They also sent a protected first rounder to the Sixers and gave Philly the right to swap picks with them in two other drafts! This was terrible on so many levels. If the Kings really wanted to clear some cap space they could have used the stretch provision on Carl Landry, but I’m honestly not sure if GM Divac knows what that provision is. Or, think about it this way: Sacramento just sacrificed a first rounder and two pick swaps, to sign Rajon Rondo and Marco Belinelli. Good lord.

Ranadivé isn’t a bad man; his personal story’s actually quite incredible. But, the extent to which the Kings have become the laughingstock of the league is also quite incredible. For all his failures, Ranadivé has succeeded at one thing: copying the Warriors. The only problem is, he’s copied the dysfunctional Warriors of the past -not the modern Dubs. Could the minority owners of the Kings rebel against Ranadivé? Anything is possible. This is the current state of the Sacramento Court Jesters.

About The Author

Born and raised in San Jose, Jared was an All-City basketball player in high school. He then realized that writing about Steph Curry's jump shot is exponentially easier than trying to replicate it, and he's been writing editorials for Warriors World ever since. He's currently a sophomore at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and is majoring in finance (so if you have any stock picks, let him know). He hopes to write pieces that readers find informative, mediocre joke packed, and statistically savvy. The only thing he dislikes more than the Clippers is when Chipotle's out of guacamole. Every season he's written for the Warriors, the Warriors have won the title. Jared can be reached at [email protected].

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One Response

  1. Mark Magana

    I’ve been a Sacramento Kings fan since birth. I’ve lived in So-Cal the majority of my life. Yet, I’m still loyal to Sacramento, like all loyal Sacramento fans (who are only in Sacramento and no where else in the world). Everything in this article is absolutely true. The move to open salary cap room was stupid. Signing Rondo was stupid. Letting go of draft picks was stupid. Even sign Kosta Koufus for 33 million was stupid. This has been the worst off-season and, damn, there has been a handful those, but none compare to this one in my opinion. We’re a laughing stock. It’s been sad, but when Sacramento becomes a winning team (in another lifetime), I’ll be proud of my boys. I love Sacramento.