Sacramento Kings 2024 NBA offseason preview: Patience and pursuing improvement should be prioritized

2023-24 season: 46-36

Highlight of the season: While the Kings failed to make the playoffs, their ability to remain competitive, and win a boatload of games, proved that last season wasn’t an outlier. The franchise is heading in the right direction, and confirmation alone was worth it for Kings fans.

The Kings took revenge on the Golden State Warriors, who beat them in the playoffs last season. While this was just a play-in situation, the Kings cleared their cupboard of ghosts, which signaled a potential change in mindset for the future. Unfortunately for the Kings, they couldn’t sustain their play, losing to the New Orleans Pelicans in the last play-in round.

It’s difficult to point fingers at a team that won 46 games and played a strong brand of basketball in the Western Conference. Sacramento was a victim of being in an enormously talented conference and likely would have gotten close to, if not over, the 50-win mark had it been located on the other side of the country.

However, since this is the NBA, where no crying is allowed, the fact is the Kings failed to live up to the success of last season. Their No. 1-ranked offense dropped to 13th this season despite stellar production, as usual, from De’Aaron Fox (26.6 points, 5.6 assists) and Domantas Sabonis (19.4 points, 13.7 rebounds, 8.2 assists).

Going into the summer, the Kings have some questions. Malik Monk, their sixth man who has improved dramatically during his two-year tenure in Sacramento, will be an unrestricted free agent, and due to the Kings having early Bird rights on his contract, they’re limited in what they can offer him. Other teams can offer Monk a maximum contract — in theory — yet the Kings are limited to $78 million over four seasons. While Monk is assuredly not going to receive a max offer, teams can beat the aforementioned number Sacramento is limited to.

There’s also the case of Keegan Murray, the second-year man who was the fourth overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. Murray, 23, had a solid albeit unspectacular season, scoring 15.2 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game. His offensive skill level is so vast, the Kings would be well within their right to expect more from him as he enters Year 3.

Finally, the Kings must enter next season with another focus, even if it feels miniscule. They ranked dead-last in the NBA in free-throw percentage (74.5%), which cost them 5.4 points per game at the line. In a league where the margin of error has become razor thin, they need to close as many holes as possible.

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 14: De'Aaron Fox #5 and Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings warms up before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Golden 1 Center on April 14, 2024 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
The Kings should continue to build around De'Aaron Fox, left, and Domantas Sabonis. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Kings could stand to use a defensive-oriented center who can run the floor and switch onto the perimeter when needed. Those aren’t always widely available, but given that they’re going to select in the late lottery, there are some players to pick from in that area.

Depending on where the Kings fall in the lottery, they could luck out in getting 6-9 French wing Tidjane Salaun or possibly add some size in Baylor's Yves Missi or Duke's Kyle Filipowski toward the back half of the lottery. — Krysten Peek

Draft picks: Nos. 13, 45

The Kings are over the salary cap even before having to deal with a potential Monk contract. However, due to how they’ve structured their books, they should be able to squeeze their way under the luxury tax, if they so wish.

That being said, this Kings team is one you pay for. It wouldn’t be prudent of ownership to avoid the tax just to save money. They should go into this summer as buyers and try to take a leap.

Key free agents

Malik Monk (UFA)

Get back into the playoffs and get Murray cooking. Those two unquestionably go hand-in-hand, so it would be in Sacramento’s best interest to prep Murray for a big season, as his progression will propel it forward.

Fox and Ox (Sabonis) are one of the best guard-center tandems in the Association. However, the Kings' success hinges on whether Murray can take that next leap next season. The Kings are objectively better when Murray is aggressive offensively, and heading into his third NBA season, he's on my short list of players to watch. Keon Ellis is a keeper, and he proved late in the season that he should be the team's starting shooting guard. Ellis offers far more defensively than Kevin Huerter and inserting Huerter with the second unit adds more firepower. — Dan Titus