Sunday Musings: Pete D’Alessandro aggressively remakes Sacramento Kings

Pete D'Alessandro watches the Kings take on the Warriors from the tunnel. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Agressive.  Determined.  Bold.  Audacious.

These are words that we have used to describe Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro.  From the moment he took over the team last June, it has been a whirlwind of wheeling and dealing.  This is no longer Geoff Petrie’s team. That ship sailed a long time ago.

D’Alessandro is a gunslinger, who makes no apologies.

The signing of Darren Collison on Thursday has Kings nation abuzz, but it is just one move in a series of dramatic, roster-altering transactions by Sacramento’s new front man.

We won’t know what the Collison signing means for restricted free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas for another few days, but no one should be surprised if the fan favorite has played his last game in a Kings uniform.  Sacramento lacks talent, cohesiveness and the ability to win and that is something D’Alessandro hopes to rectify.

“Sacramento is giving me the keys to help this team and try to turn it around,” Collison told the Orange County Register.

D’Alessandro signed Collison to a three-year, $16 million deal, because he believes that the 26-year-old point guard makes his team better – probably at the expense of retaining Thomas, who has apparently lost his starting job either way.

From what we have seen so far, D’Alessandro is a collector of assets.  While he was willing to let Tyreke Evans leave to the Pelicans, he snatched up Greivis Vasquez in the deal to hide on the shelf.  He added Luc Mbah a Moute for a pair of second-round picks, and he later dealt both players for different assets.

There is no question that the Kings roster is more talented today than the one D’Alessandro inherited last season.  After more than a half decade of band-aid fixes at the small forward position, Rudy Gay now patrols the wing.  He is a clear upgrade over anyone not named Peja Stojakovic in the Sacramento era.

In his first summer on the job, D’Alessandro prioritized the extension of star center DeMarcus Cousins.  He inked the talented big man to a four-year deal for more than $60 million that starts this season.  A core of Cousins and Gay is a healthy start.

Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore are both talented young shooting guards, with completely different skill sets.  They both have higher ceilings than Marcus Thornton, the player that previously manned the off-guard position.  Ray McCallum looks like a very solid second-round pick and we haven’t seen the best of last summer’s free-agent acquisition, Carl Landry.

Only Cousins, Travis Outlaw and Jason Thompson remain on the roster that D’Alessandro took on last summer.  To say that he has been aggressive in his rebuild would be an understatement.

D’Alessandro, owner Vivek Ranadive and head coach Michael Malone have touted most of the team’s roster decisions as “consensus” moves.  But it’s difficult to believe that is accurate.

Malone made his name in the league as one of the best defensive assistant coaches in the game.  In his first season as a head coach, he not only had massive roster upheaval, but no defensive stoppers to speak of.

Malone was just getting the defensive-minded Mbah a Moute going when D’Alessandro dealt him for Derrick Williams, a player with a higher offensive acumen.  The deal for Gay sent out two more defenders in John Salmons and Chuck Hayes, although it’s doubtful Malone had any qualms with that swap.

Players like Elfrid Payton or even big man Noah Vonleh might have been higher on Malone’s 2014 NBA Draft list than Stauskas, strictly for their defensive abilities. Shooting and defense are two of the team’s biggest needs coming into the offseason.  Stauskas fills one of those needs.

D’Alessandro will leave no stone unturned in his quest to rebuild the Kings, taking a low-risk chance on Royce White and larger gambles on Gay and Williams.

He’s shown that he is willing to swing for the fences and that his job is about improving the team, not selling tickets.  We have seen this play with the waiving of Jimmer Fredette, and his upcoming decision on Thomas will very likely tax the fan base as well.

D’Alessandro inherited an imperfect roster.  Due to his predecessor, he can’t trade a first-round pick, perhaps until 2018 and drafting in the middle of the lottery is never the recipe for rebuilding.  He is up against the luxury tax this season, but he has an opportunity to clear up to $36 million off the cap next summer.

It’s not fair to look at the current product and assess the job that D’Alessandro has done to date.  There was a general lack of talent on the team and plenty of bad contracts to clear out.  Many of those contracts will take multiple trades to truly clear off the cap and others he might be stuck with.

Be it big moves or subtle changes to the roster, it is clear that D’Alessandro is making the decisions.  While he likes to “crowdsource” his moves, in the end they are his own.

Like Petrie before him, D’Alessandro is bound to look like a genius one day and be questioned the next.  It’s part of being an NBA general manager.

While there is still excitement over the team staying in Sacramento and the upcoming arena, the day is coming when, once again, the performance on the court will matter most.

D’Alessandro has a long way to go to make this team respectable, which he knows and accepts as reality.  He has an aggressive, hungry ownership group that wants to keep the excitement going. Twentry-eight-win seasons will not cut it for long.

Call him a gambler.  Call him aggressive.  But make sure to call him, because the Sacramento Kings are a work in progress and Pete D’Alessandro is ready to make a deal.


James Ham

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