The Sacramento Kings are in the midst of the longest active playoff drought in the NBA. Before the start of the season, the Kings parted ways with inexperienced General Manager Vlade Divac. In his place, Monte McNair accepted the task of correcting the hapless Kings' course. McNair had various front office roles in tenure over a decade long with the Houston Rockets. So now that it's been a whole season in Sacramento, what grade has Monte McNair earned in his first year as Kings GM?
The Sacramento Kings hired Monte McNair on September 17th, 2020, in last year's offseason. His first task at hand was a decision on the coaching staff hired by the previous front office. On April 19th, 2019, former GM Vlade Divac hired his former teammate Luke Walton without giving any other coaches an interview. Despite the botched interview process and being from the previous regime, McNair committed to Luke Walton as his Head Coach. Walton leads the Kings to a 31-41 record in each of his first two seasons with the Kings.
Even though Monte kept Walton on his staff, he did bring in assistant coaches of his choosing to complete it. He hired former Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry as the Kings' new Associate Head Coach. He also hired Rex Kalamian from the Los Angeles Clippers staff to be an Assistant Coach on the Kings. Kalamian has spent 30 years in the league and worked previously with the Kings in 2007-2009.
The hiring of the assistant staff is inconsequential. However, I'm afraid I have to disagree with keeping Luke Walton on this staff. Even speaking before this season, I believe McNair should've done a proper head coaching search, finding a candidate of his choosing, not the previous front office's. Although, I do understand the argument for consistency in this position. The Kings have had one of the highest head coach turnover rates in their now 15-year playoff drought. Coaching Staff Grade: C
2020 NBA Draft
Two months after being hired by the Kings, McNair was tasked with his first NBA Draft. The Kings stayed put with the number 12 pick in the draft. With the selection, McNair selected Tyrese Haliburton from Iowa State. Haliburton took a tumble in the lottery and fell into the Kings' laps at twelve, to Monte's delight. The pick was a home run. Haliburton was a stud from day one, showing veteran talents uncommon in rookies. He won multiple Rookie-of-the-Month awards and finished 3rd in Rookie-of-the-Year voting on the season.
The Kings also acquired Jahmi'us Ramsey and Robert Woodard II in the second round of the draft. Both were deemed late first-round talent at some point in pre-draft projections, so they were seemingly good-value picks for McNair at the time. They received little-to-no playing time this year, as Walton was always reluctant to empty the bench. You can't blame McNair for that. However, they did show some flashes as participants in the 2021 G-League Bubble. It is still unclear whether or not they will have an impact on the Kings, though. NBA Draft Grade: A
First, we need to talk about the Bogdan Bogdanovic blunder that occurred early in the 2020 offseason. McNair handled this situation as well as you could have asked him to. He didn't want to overpay, and I am sure he would've matched a qualifying offer at the right price. He even had a hell of a deal lined up to sign-and-trade Bogi to the Bucks in a deal that would net the Kings Donte DiVincenzo, who would've been awesome to play and grow with our core.
Unfortunately, the deal fell through thanks to it getting leaked and violating NBA's tampering policy; however, that was out of Monte's control. Bogdanovic would eventually sign a contract extended by the Atlanta Hawks. The price was too steep for McNair, and he wanted to keep his pockets flexible for future decisions for the team. While I'm glad we didn't overpay for a likely third or fourth scoring option, it sucks that we didn't get to see DiVincenzo in a Kings jersey.
Also, in the early offseason, McNair signed Fox to his rookie-scale max extension. Locking down Fox was a no-brainer as he's developed into one of the brightest talents in the league. McNair also signed some veteran players to short, team-friendly deals. This ultimately made a ton of sense as I considered this season a gap year for the Kings to figure things out under new management. Most notably was Hassan Whiteside and Glenn Robinson III. The Kings also signed young big Chimizie Metu to a deal before making it a two-way contract early in the year.
Locking down De'Aaron Fox was the number one priority going into this offseason. McNair sealed that deal swiftly and ultimately left his money flexible for future offseasons. The idea is that the flexibility will allow McNair to swing for the fences and bring in a big-name talent to play around the young backcourt of De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Offseason Transactions Grade: B-
The Kings didn't make a ton of noise in mid-season transactions until the trade deadline hit. Then, the Kings made a few moves that ultimately signal McNair's same message with his offseason activity. He made moves that freed up even more cap flexibility for the future. The Kings traded away Corey Joseph and Nemanja Bjelica in separate trades. In return, they only added one player that had future cap implications on his contract.
The Kings traded Nemanja Bjelica to the Miami Heat in exchange for Mo Harkless and Chris Silva. The Kings cut Silva by the end of the season. Harkless played a solid run for the Kings but will ultimately become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. McNair also upgraded his backup PG of the future by trading Corey Joseph and two second-round picks to the Detroit Pistons for Delon Wright.
The Kings also took a flyer on Terence Davis, trading a second-round pick to Toronto in exchange for him. Davis showed some great flashes in his time with Sacramento to close out the season, providing the Kings bench with a flamethrower. However, it is unclear whether or not the Kings will attempt to resign the UFA this offseason. Davis has a troubling history, though, as he was arrested for assault in October 2020.
To close out the losing season, the Kings took some time to evaluate young free-agent talent. The aforementioned Chimezie Metu showed McNair enough to extend him a multi-year deal with the Sacramento. Damian Jones signed a few 10-day contracts before being given a rest-of-the-season contract in April until the young Center was ultimately rewarded with a multi-year deal at the end of the season. The Kings also signed Louis King to a two-way deal after shining in the G-League before spending some time with Sacramento. Mid-Season Transactions Grade: B+
Monte McNair's work is far from over. The team finished out of the playoffs for the 15th straight year. However, Monte McNair's activity indicates he is much more calculated than the Kings' last FO. He's set himself up nicely for the 2021 NBA offseason and should look to make a big swing to get this team over the hump. This offseason is a slow-burning race to get the Kings to a playoff-caliber level, and McNair is in the Driver's seat. In his first year as Sacramento's GM, he set himself up nicely. Now he has to execute. Overall Grade: B