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Where Do We Go From Here?

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Once again, the Sacramento Kings will search for a true identity in a brutal Pacific Division

How long have you supported the Sacramento Kings?

Since the very beginning in 1985? Maybe the entertaining late-1990’s team grabbed your attention.

Hey, the 2018-19 team was fun to watch. That could be what brought you on board.

Nonetheless, I’m guessing that you support the team if you’re reading this. Unless you’re here to drink sad Kings tears, that is. Well, have at it.

I’m 26 years old. I’ve been supporting the Kings since I was four years old, falling in love with the 1998-99 team that marked the beginning of an incredible eight-year postseason streak.

I’ve stuck through the few highs and many, many lows. It was fun be a part of the atmosphere, going to games at ARCO/Power Balance Pavilion (yuck)/Sleep Train and then Golden 1 Center.

I have been able to work for the team, which was an incredible experience. Now I cover the team for a station that I have listened to since I was a kid.

Since 1998, you could say that I have literally been on every side of the fanhood fence and experienced almost every emotion that a supporter of a professional sports team can feel.

A lot of you reading this can relate, I’m sure.

Maybe you have similar experiences. Maybe you don’t. But the feelings that Kings fans are experiencing right now–confusion, frustration, etcetera–aren’t foreign to any supporter of the franchise.

Do we ask for sympathy? No. It’s far too late for sympathy.

Sacramento Kings fans want one thing: a legitimate, reliable, respected and structured roster. The fanbase has not seen one in almost 15 years.

Just two years ago, after 12-plus years of pain and well below average basketball, the Kings appeared to gain some steam.

The young core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III had fans excited, invested and above all, optimistic.

Fast forward to today.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is gone. The 28-year-old is headed to Atlanta after new general manager Monte McNair decided to pass on matching the four-year, $76 million offer sheet.

Harry Giles III, after former general manager Vlade Divac declined his fourth-year option, has moved on and joined a talented Portland squad.

Buddy Hield desperately wants out of Sacramento.

The sharpshooting guard has been ‘liking’ tweets that include trade rumors, pictures of himself in other team’s jerseys, making fun of the fact that the Kings still consider the guard ‘part of their future’ and more.

Marvin Bagley III has played in only 75 games over the past two seasons.

Fox, the talented budding superstar, signed a five-year max extension over the weekend, something that McNair and company should be ecstatic about: having a star to build around.

Of course, the main storyline today is Bogdanovic.

After reported deal with the Milwaukee Bucks–a failed transaction that is currently being investigated by the NBA–fell apart last week, Boganovic signed an offer sheet with Atlanta.

Many respected analytical and salary cap-minded personalities such as John Hollinger and Bobby Marks stated that Sacramento should not let a talent like Bogdanovic walk for nothing in return.

Alas, Bogdanovic departed after McNair opted to not match the offer.

There are a few ways to look at this.

Financially, adding Bogdanovic’s $18 million per year salary to Harrison Barnes (three-years, $60 million), Buddy Hield (four-years, $90 million) and De’Aaron Fox’s (five-years, $163 million) contracts isn’t an ideal situation.

But hey, Bogdan is expendable because Buddy Hield, a top-three shooter in the NBA, is still on the roster. Right?

Wrong.

Hield, who was sent to the bench after struggling last season so that Bogdanovic could start, has wanted out of Sacramento ever since.

After the news broke of Bogdanovic’s deal with the Hawks, Hield was seen ‘liking’ tweets that poked fun at the guard still being referred to as part of the team’s core.

By losing Bogdanovic for absolutely nothing, Hield is once again the primary option at the shooting guard position.

Can the talented scorer set aside the chip on his shoulder and move on with the franchise? That is a massive question-mark. Sacramento would love for Buddy Hield, the player, to show up and contribute with his hustle, above-average rebounding and unbelievable outside shooting.

What the team does not need, is for Hield to muddy up the chemistry and team moral by placing a dark cloud over the franchise.

If the Hield-Kings marriage is to end, it would be a lot easier for Monte McNair to move the shooting guard with little-to-no emotional baggage attached.

Bogdanovic is gone. McNair is banking on Fox, Hield and recently-drafted rookie Tyrese Haliburton to play big minutes at the guard positions this season.

The fact is that when Haliburton, a prospect that several draft boards had within the top-seven, fell to Sacramento at pick number 12, it was the beginning of the end for Bogdanovic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN echoed the same ideas in his article published on Tuesday night:

Keeping Bogdanovic would’ve severely limited the organization’s ability to continue reshaping the team around its young core of De’Aaron FoxMarvin Bagley III and Buddy Hield.

And once Tyrese Haliburton dropped to the Kings at No. 12 in Wednesday’s NBA draft, Sacramento suddenly had a deeper, more talented backcourt than it originally anticipated heading into free agency — another factor in Tuesday night’s decision.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

The idea behind building a future behind a backcourt of Fox and Haliburton is one that most Kings fans can get behind.

Haliburton, 20, had a superb year with Iowa State, averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 50-percent from the field and 41-percent from the three-point line.

While on the air during the draft, Bobby Marks of ESPN stated that “the Kings are winning the night” shortly after the selection.

Bogdanovic’s departure means that there is a huge hole in the rotation, with 20-plus minutes per game available at the backup shooting guard slot. Those minutes are expected to go to Haliburton–pending any last minute deals that McNair could make before training camp opens up next week.

Along with 20-year-old Haliburton and 22-year-old Fox, the other piece of the puzzle is 2018 second-overall pick Marvin Bagley III.

Bagley, who has produced in his limited sample size, only appeared in 13 games during the 2019-20 season due to an assortment of injuries.

If the Sacramento Kings want to re-shape this roster and build behind the young talent that they already have, Marvin Bagley III will be a massive part of the team’s successes and failures.

Bagley has 20-10 potential, as he holds career per-36 averages of 21.0 points and 10.8 rebounds.

Over 10 career starts, Bagley has averaged 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting 47-percent from the field. In games that the Duke product has played in 30-39 minutes, he has averaged 20.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

If the Kings want to reshape the look of this roster, the three guys that will be leaned on the most to take the team to the next level will be Fox, Haliburton and Bagley.

The torch was passed to these three on Tuesday night when Bogdanovic’s departure signaled the official end of the former regime’s blueprint for success.

As for the rest of the roster, time will tell on what will become of the older veterans.

It’s likely that McNair shops Nemanja Bjelica, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and Cory Joseph. Contending teams could use all of these players once the trade deadline rolls around in February.

At this point, gaining assets is the name of the game for the Sacramento Kings–something that they should have done with Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Divac and his staff failed the franchise first by not moving Bogdanovic during last season’s trade deadline, instead opting to offer the guard an extension that was capped in the $50 million range.

Bogdanovic knew he could get more on the free agent market, and he was right.

So here the Kings are, after losing Bogdanovic for nothing, staring the upcoming regular season right in the face. Training camps are set to begin the week of December 1st, with opening night right around the corner on December 22nd.

There will be more moves before Sacramento takes the court, with the possible first move being the signing of free agent center Hassan Whiteside.

It isn’t clear how Whiteside fits into the Kings longterm plans. The possible signing almost goes against the reasons why the franchise decided to pass on matching Bogdanovic.

Whiteside is 31. For comparison, Holmes, arguably the team’s second-best player during the 2019-20 season, is 27.

Will the Kings add age to the roster anyway?

Even if they do, one thing is certain. The days of Fox, Buddy, Bogi, Giles and Bagley are over.

The ‘Young Super Team’ is no more.

The new young core of the Sacramento Kings will need to get the job done. They will need to lead this struggling team out of the darkness that has engulfed the franchise for most of the past 20 years.

Change was needed, but was it the right change?

Let’s find out.