Is Omri Casspi the key to the Kings’ offseason?
The Sacramento Kings may or may not be done with their free agent buying spree. The team was close to the cap, but then it leaped from $67 million to $70 million on Wednesday afternoon. Sacramento may have a few more cards to play before it’s all said and done, but their offseason haul so far is impressive.
Marco Belinelli was the first shoe to drop, signing a three-year, $19 million deal to compete for a starting job at either the two or the three. Rajon Rondo was next, inking a one-year deal that presumably comes with the starting point guard position. Vlade Divac added Kosta Koufos during the Fourth of July fireworks, giving the Kings a very solid third big in their rotation.
After all of the fanfare was over, Divac was able to appease the fans with the signing of Omri Casspi to a two-year deal worth a total of $6 million. The 27-year-old wing quickly became a favorite of the Kings faithful after returning to the team for his second tour of duty.
The Casspi signing hasn’t gone unnoticed completely, but any murmurs about his deal have to do with how little he took, instead of what his standing with the team may be.
Sacramento has plenty of position battles to play out. Rondo will take on Darren Collison, the incumbent at the point guard position. Belinelli is set to take on 22-year-old Ben McLemore at the two. The plan is to play Rudy Gay plenty of minutes at the power forward position this season. In fact, he may even start for the Kings at the four when the season opens in October. And DeMarcus Cousins is the Kings’ everything in the middle.
If Gay is the starting power forward, who plays the three?
Coach George Karl has a few options, but the one that instantly stands out is the budget hire. Casspi finished the 2015-16 season starting at the small forward position and despite his meager salary, he may be in line to continue that feat when the new season tips off.
There is a lot to be decided between now and the start of the regular season, but Casspi did something that very few of his teammates were able to accomplish in the 30 games following the All-Star break – he earned the trust of Karl. Not only that, but he became the Kings’ most reliable 3-point shooter and he showed a playmaking ability that he hadn’t been able to explore in his previous five seasons in the league.
Following the break, Casspi posted averages of 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 26.7 minutes per game. He shot an incredible 46.2 percent from long range and showed an ability to get out on the break and run, which is a major plus in Karl’s system.
In the final eight games of the season, Casspi got an honest shot to show what he can do and the numbers were spectacular. In the month of April, the Israeli-born wing averaged 19.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 34 minutes a night.
Casspi is an exciting player who has yet to reach his potential as a player. He showed that he can defend at a high level the year before in Houston, but he struggled last season in Sacramento. If he can put his entire game together, the Kings may have found one of the true steals of the 2015 free agency period.
There was no question that Casspi wanted to return to Sacramento, which may have hurt his value on the open market. But there is an opportunity to shine with the Kings if everything falls into place.
Belinelli can really shoot. Rondo is a four-time All-Star who has fallen on hard times. Koufos is a perfect big man to support Cousins, Gay and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein. But Casspi may be the key to the Kings’ entire offseason.