The Sacramento Kings continued their offseason of change Saturday morning, adding two more players to their expanded roster rollover. Jack Cooley and JaKarr Sampson were added via the NBA’s new two-way contract, giving the Kings two more able bodied players to come into camp with.
The two-way contract is the NBA’s next step in establishing a true minor league system with G-League (formerly the D-League). Teams can add a 16th and 17th rostered player that they can then bounce back and forth with their G-League affiliate team. Sampson and Cooley are eligible for a $75,000 contract, which is substantially higher than the $26,000 cap of a standard G-League signee.
Both Sampson and Cooley are also eligible for a maximum of 45 days of call-ups to the parent club, where they make a prorated portion of the NBA’s $812,000 league minimum salary.
On a team filled with highly paid veterans and first round picks on guaranteed deals, both Sampson and Cooley have tried to break into the league the hard way. Neither jump off the page as potential future starters, but there is a way for both of them to fit with Sacramento as the current roster is constructed.
Cooley spent last season with Riesen Ludwigsburg of the German basketball Bundesliga. After going undrafted out of Notre Dame, he’s spent Summer League with the Kings and turned heads with his gritty style of play.
The 6-foot-10 power forward is a banger inside and a plus rebounder. He’ll provide organizational depth in case Skal Labissiere struggles in his sophomore season or an unexpected injury to 36-year-old Zach Randolph.
Cooley, 26, also gives the Kings the opportunity to take it slow with rookie Harry Giles, who has a history of knee injuries and played sparingly last season at Duke. After bouncing around the world chasing his basketball dreams, Cooley will likely act as a mentor to Giles both in Sacramento and with the Reno Bighorns.
Sampson went undrafted out of St. John’s in 2014. He’s played 147 games in his NBA career during stops in Philadelphia and Denver, but he spent last season with the Iowa Energy of the D-League. The 24-year-old small forward earned a D-League All-Star spot, while posting 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game.
Like Cooley, the high flying wing joined Sacramento in Las Vegas and played well. The Kings don’t have a conventional roster spot available for Sampson, but he has a lot more experience than either Malachi Richardson or Justin Jackson at the small forward position.
He has a motor that doesn’t stop and at 6-foot-9, 214-pounds, Sampson has great size at a position of need. He is a strong defender and he likes to finish above the rim. In a perfect world, he might compete for a rotational spot with the club while the rookies fight to earn playing time.
Sampson may earn minutes, but the limitations of the 2-way contract, matched with the team’s need to develop their young additions at the wing will limit his time with the parent club.
Cooley and Sampson are players who have worked hard to earn another shot in the NBA. They play with a blue collar mentality and can bring an interesting perspective for a group of young players that know nothing but the security of a first round rookie scale contract.
82 games is a long season. Chances are Cooley and Sampson will make an appearance this season in a Kings uniform, even if it’s for a quick look.