The typical path for the various cellar-dwellers around the league this season has been the "tanking" route in an effort to secure the highest possible pick in the draft; on top of that, they're almost all in the "sellers" market, looking to unload pricey assets to acquire young talent and/or draft picks.
But not the Sacramento Kings. Despite being tied for the worst record in the Western Conference, this team is looking to take action now. It's already forked over the big bucks to 'Boogie' (DeMarcus Cousins) and made the decision to bring in guys like Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay along the way. The Kings also owe a first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls (via Cleveland) for J.J. Hickson (ugh), but it's top-12 protected this season, which makes it all the more interesting that they're trying to add veteran assets at this point in the season. Right now they're well within that bottom-12 bubble, and with this draft coming up, why not just hang out in that spot?
Still, there seems to be a plan in place. On top of the acquisitions they've already made, they recently attempted to lure Rajon Rondo from Boston. It appears Sacramento wants to get good now by bringing in proven veterans rather than delving once again into the uncertainty of the NBA Draft. And who can blame them?
All the Kings' men
The Kings actually have an interesting roster, one that doesn't appear on the surface as if it should be 18-35 at the All-Star break. But they're still quite bad defensively — though they're steadily improving — and Cousins and Isaiah Thomas aren't much helping that. Sacramento has already shown interest in bringing in a franchise-caliber point guard in Rondo, which means they're likely not sold on the thought of employing the tiny Thomas as their starter for the long haul. He's a very exciting offensive player, but he's a major liability on the defensive end and he's more of a scorer than a facilitator, so it kind of makes sense. Besides, he'll be entering restricted free agency this summer and will likely command a pretty substantial salary on the open market for his services.
Sacramento could also use an athletic "four" to put alongside Cousins, preferably of the "stretch" variety. Cousins takes up plenty of space on the block and in the paint, and he's an absolute monster from there with the ball in his hands. A power forward who can shoot the ball would be a hugely valuable asset, especially if he's also capable of defending in space against the pick-and-roll, something 'Boogie' does poorly.
But great point guards and "stretch fours" are difficult to come by in this league. Everybody wants them, and those who have them want to keep them. So what can the Kings offer?
While they're still $10 million below the luxury-tax line, the Kings are all capped-out, which means they have zero flexibility to take on any contracts that exceed 150 percent of their outgoing price tags, per NBA rules. They also don't have the ability to trade their first-round pick as it belongs to the Bulls via the Luol Deng trade to Cleveland. (The Cavs originally owned it but sent it to Chicago in exchange for the small forward.)
They have some intriguing, tradable young talent in Sacramento, but given that McLemore is apparently off the marketand Thomas is a difficult piece to trade, it will be interesting to watch moving forward. Thomas' contract — worth less than $1 million — won't be able to bring back much in equal value, especially considering his performance this season. On top of that, teams are going to have to pay a pretty penny to employ him. It might not be worth it despite the fact he's putting up 20.2 points and 6.3 assists per game.
The Kings might be one of the active teams at the moment, but they're running out of assets to pitch and moves to make if they'd like to get better with less than 48 hours until the Feb. 20 afternoon deadline.