DeMar DeRozan is undoubtedly the biggest free agent signings for the Sacramento Kings since Vlade Divac joined them nearly a quarter-century ago. DeRozan’s decision to come back to California in a sign and trade involving the Kings, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs was a signal that Kings GM Monte McNair was willing to make a move to right the ship after a disappointing play-in exit at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans.

The question now is whether or not DeRozan is going to be the one to get them over the proverbial hump. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of bringing him to town.

Another reliable scorer

DeRozan has scored over 20 PPG over the last 11 seasons. He is a proven bucket getter who is able to create his own shot, which is something that the Kings sorely missed at times in crunch time last season. During the 2022-23 season, De’Aaron Fox was that guy, winning the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award, but regressed a bit in 2023-24 because of one key reason: the three-point shot. 

Fox fell in love with his improved three-pointer last season and because of that, sometimes started taking ill-advised three-pointers in close games down the stretch. It was quite a contrast compared to 2022-23 campaign, where he used a godly midrange game to carve up opposing defences, especially in the clutch. 

It’s also fair to say that Fox may have had to take more of those threes anyway, because in crunch time he was truly the only option for the Kings and defenses had clued in on this. They were far more aggressive on Fox, and double teams were more common. With other starters like Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, and Kevin Huerter taking turns pulling disappearing acts, the Kings never found a reliable third scorer on the team that could take the pressure off of Fox and Domantas Sabonis – who is a better facilitator than primary scorer.

The addition of DeRozan adds a tried and tested scorer and fellow midrange god for Fox to play with. The choice to double team Fox in crunch time will no longer be there, because a likely closing unit of Fox, Sabonis, DeRozan and Murray along with Malik Monk means that opponents will REALLY have to think twice about trying to double Fox when he has the ball in the fourth quarter of close games.

However, a big question that will only be answered once the season rolls out is how DeRozan’s offensive skillset will fit in with Sacramento’s three-heavy offense. DeRozan has never averaged four three-pointers or more attempted a season, with his peak coming at 3.6 attempts in the 2017-18 season. His next two highest outputs were 2.8 last season and then 2.7 attempts in the 2013-14 season. He has been below two attempts per game in all of his other seasons.

Yet, that’s actually perhaps what could work in DeRozan’s favor. DeRozan has elite footwork and is a crafty veteran who uses his agility well to leave opponents either hanging in the air or confused about where to go next. When the threes stop falling, which cost the Kings many games last season, having a player of DeRozan’s caliber could swing a few games. Considering that the difference between 5th and 10th place was a mere four games last season, winning a few extra games could be more than enough for the Kings to make the playoffs again.


Defense continues to be a question mark for the Kings

What the DeRozan trade didn’t answer is the Kings’ biggest weakness: a lack of lengthy wing defenders. NBA teams have pivoted toward having multiple defenders who can hit the three and have absurd wingspans, and the Kings were unable to add that to their roster with the deal. Their other target, Lauri Markannen, would have filled a much better need, but Sacramento likely didn’t have the assets to ever make a serious bid with the Utah Jazz, considering Danny Ainge’s history of pulling off absolute heists when trading his star players.

DeRozan is also not a great defender and has never been known for his work on that end of the floor. DeRozan’s defensive rating was 114.6 last season, which is slightly better than the guy who he’s replacing in the lineup in Barnes. Maybe Mike Brown finds a way to make him more effective on defense, but that’s quite a tall ask considering how late in his career DeRozan already is.

The Kings were often punished for their lack of size and length last season and that’s a problem they’ll continue to navigate this season. There’s plenty of time left this summer for McNair to try to fix this problem, but the available list of candidates has dwindled.


The assets lost weren’t terrible

The Kings gave up Harrison Barnes, Chris Duarte, two second round picks and a 2031 pick swap with the Spurs. On paper, the only asset that will hurt the Kings down the line is the pick swap because they’ll likely be in a rebuild by then with their core aging out, while the Spurs could be one of the best teams in the NBA by then while being led by Victor Wembanyama who would be an eight-season veteran by then.

However, after being stuck in basketball hell for 17 years and then finally making the playoffs only to fall back out of the playoffs this year, the Kings ownership and management wanted to try to make a move to help them win now. DeRozan’s contract was also very reasonable especially considering the type of money being thrown around the NBA these days. At $74 million over three years, with the third year not guaranteed, the Kings have still given themselves some wiggle room in case the fit doesn’t work.