Kings Offseason

Kings brass feels urgency to sustain success, take next step forward

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SACRAMENTO – As one of only two Western Conference teams to win at least 46 games in each of the past two seasons, the Kings are in rarefied company along with the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

While that’s head and shoulders above where the franchise had been floundering for nearly two decades, Kings general manager Monte McNair understands fully that it’s not enough to hang his hat on.

The bar of expectations in Sacramento understandably has been raised, and it’s no longer acceptable in the state capital to look better.

There has to be results, significant results. And McNair is completely in line with thinking as he and his staff prepare for what should be a busy NBA offseason.

“A lot to be positive on, and at the same time, those expectations got raised last year,” McNair told reporters at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday. “That’s a great thing. And it’s a great thing for our organization. I love that 46 wins and beating Golden State in the play-in is not good enough anymore.”

A year after ending the longest playoff drought in NBA history and garnering the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Kings kept themselves in the hunt again this season before stumbling down the stretch.

Sacramento won 46 games in 2023-24, two fewer than it did a year ago. It was a small decline but was large in the standings. The Kings beat the Warriors in the Western Conference’s 9-vs.-10 Play-In game before getting bounced out of the postseason by the New Orleans Pelicans three days later.

There were plenty of highlights along the way, too.

Domantas Sabonis evolved into the league’s most consistent two-way threat. He had his best offensive season since 2020-21, garnering 19.4 points, a career-best and a league-leading 13.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists that was second among all NBA centers.

Sabonis tallied a whopping 77 doubles in 82 games and set a franchise by recording one in 61 consecutive games.

Point guard De’Aaron Fox was another bright spot while averaging a career-high 26.6 points.

Keegan Murray, the No. 4 overall selection during the 2022 draft, took another step forward in his development while Keon Ellis, an undrafted player in 2022, made significant strides across the board both as a backup and later as a starter when injuries began to pile up.

So even though the season ended in frustration and disappointment, the cupboard isn’t bare and the belief is that the Kings have plenty to build off as they head to the offseason.

“There were some good things in terms of our growth,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “I’m proud of our guys. They competed, they prepared the right way, they tried to lock in and focus on the details. They continued to try to improve upon our identity, trying to play fast, trying to play physical, and then playing for each other. This group has been connected from Day 1 and that connectivity has gone a long way in terms of our growth.”

As much progress as the Kings have made, they still haven’t won a playoff series since advancing to the Western Conference finals 20 years ago.

“We always feel urgency,” McNair said. “In this league, windows don’t last forever. But I think we’ve seen a lot of what we can build off of. If you look at this from a two-year horizon, I’m proud of what this team accomplished.”

Problem is, more has to be done not only just to keep the Kings afloat in the top-heavy Western Conference but in also in order for the franchise to take the next step.

And there are plenty of steps to be taken.

Sacramento made notable progress with its defense but struggled with an uneven and inconsistent offense. A year after leading the NBA with an offensive rating of 118.6, the Kings fell to 13th during the 2023-24 season at 116.2.

They also had trouble closing out games, blowing 15 double-digit leads and letting 14 fourth quarter leads slip away.

So yes, the Kings have a full plate of issues to address in the coming months.

Sacramento’s offseason already got in full swing when assistant coach Jordi Hernandez was hired by the Brooklyn Nets to be their new head coach.

Now the Kings will have to figure out what additions or subtractions to make to their roster. Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Malik Monk is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Fox, Harrison Barnes and Murray are among a handful of Sacramento players who will be entering the final year of their respective contracts in 2025.

The Kings also have a lottery pick in the draft at No. 13 overall. Sacramento will either stand pat or could use the selection as part of a bigger trade package, something that McNair did not rule out.

Free agency will also be a tool that the Kings’ brass uses to try to improve their overall package.

“The biggest thing is, especially over the last couple of years, guys want to be a part of what we’re doing here in Sacramento,” McNair said. “Coach Brown, his staff, our players, all deserve a ton of credit for that. And winning helps.”

One topic that could come up in the offseason is the status of Brown.

Since getting hired by owner Vivek Ranadive prior to the 2022-23 season, the Kings have won 94 games. That’s their most over a two-year period since 2004-05 when they also had 94 victories.

But Brown has two years remaining on his deal, the second year including a mutual option that either side can exercise.

Considering the Kings’ recent history of having a revolving door for their head coaches, keeping Brown – the NBA Coach of the Year last season – has to be a top priority for the franchise.

“I’m excited about being here,” Brown said when asked about his contract. “I’m excited about our future, so I’m going to go into this summer trying to figure out how we can be better next year. And then next year try to attack it.”

Because Brown is under contract for next season, there isn’t exactly a pressing need to get an extension done. But McNair indicated that the subject will be part of his offseason agenda.

“Mike and I will sit down and try to figure out how we get back to where we want to get to,” McNair said. “We’ll have all those conversations here starting soon.”

The general feeling is that something indeed will get done. Brown has helped elevate the Kings to contender status and has a core group of players that he believes can be a major part of the franchise moving forward.

“I truly believe we’re on track to have a winning culture here that is sustainable,” Brown said. “I like our group. I like the competitiveness of the group. I like the togetherness of the group. I really believe our guys will lock in on the things that they need to do to get better this summer, knowing how hard it is going to bee overall just to be able to compete and get to where we want to go.”

Regardless of what happens, McNair is not looking at long-term plans for the franchise. For the Kings, the future is now.

“It’s not something in the West where you can bide your team and just wait it out forever,” McNair said. “We do have a rather young group, but we’re not so young that our horizon is five or six years in the future. We’re ready to win now, We’re built to win now and we’re going to figure out ways to improve the team internally or externally however we can.”

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