Kings

How two-way contract additions Cooley, Sampson fit with Kings

How two-way contract additions Cooley, Sampson fit with Kings

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.

Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings

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USATSI

Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings

The murmurs have already started. Teams are lining up for a potential run at one of the game’s best players. We aren’t talking about LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Paul George, who all have early termination clauses in their contracts this summer. That trio will dominate the news July 1 when the NBA’s free agency period begins. 

There is another player who has an ability to change the course of a franchise and the way things are heading, who might become one of the biggest trade targets in recent league history. 

No one really knows the entire story about what is going on with Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs have their side and Leonard’s team likely has a different version. What is known is that the 26-year-old small forward was cleared by San Antonio’s medical staff to resume game action a few months back. 

Leonard returned to the court for a nine-game stretch during December and early January. And then he shut it down again. 

The two-time All-Star and former NBA Defensive Players of the Year has been diagnosed with tendinopathy in his right quadricep. He’s bounced back and forth between San Antonio and New York City all season, having his injury evaluated and re-evaluated by both the Spurs and his own medical team.

Where the Spurs go from here is anyone’s guess. They have the best two-way player in the game and he has made the decision on his own not to play. 

A season ago, San Antonio rattled off a 61-win season before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. They made additions in the summer to make another run, but without Leonard, they didn’t stand a chance.

To make matters worse, the Spurs roster is aging quickly. Manu Ginobili turns 41 in July. Pau Gasol is almost 38 and Tony Parker will be 36 soon and in the last year of his contract. Six players in their rotation are 30 or older and the clock is ticking.

Leonard’s decision wiped out any chance of winning a ring for the Spurs. It also threw away one of the few seasons left for a couple of his teammates.

For the last four decades, San Antonio has been the model NBA franchise. They don’t get into situations like this. And now they have to make one of the most difficult decisions a team has to make. 

To complicate matters, Leonard has two years left on his five-year, $94 million deal he signed in 2015. The final year is a player option worth $21.3 million and it’s very unlikely that Leonard will exercise that option.

Why is this of interest to the Sacramento Kings? It might not be, but that won’t stop fans from turning to the trade machine to find a way to land Leonard in purple and black.

Anytime a player of this ilk comes available, it’s within every team’s best interest to at least make a call. It’s possible the Spurs would turn the Kings down three seconds into the conversation. Then again, they might listen.

While San Antonio is going to want a star in return for Leonard, that isn’t the way these things usually work out. The question then becomes, do the Kings have the assets to acquire Leonard?

It’s very possible that the Spurs can get more than what the Kings would be willing to offer. Sacramento has a group of young players, two or three of which might draw interest. They also have a top seven pick in the upcoming draft.

Due to the Stepien Rule, the Kings can’t trade their draft pick prior to the 2018 NBA Draft. League rules prohibit teams from trading draft picks in back-to-back seasons and Sacramento has already given up their 2019 pick in a salary dump in the summer of 2015. 

The Kings can make a selection for another team and consummate a deal once the new season begins in July, so there is still an opportunity to include the pick in player form. 

San Antonio would likely ask for multiple young players, as well as the Kings’ 2018 selection. Sacramento also has cap space and a few veterans on expiring contracts to make the dollars and cents work. 

Whether the Kings could come up with the pieces to make a deal work is debatable. The real question is, should they try and chase Leonard if he becomes available? 

The simple answer is no. 

No, the Kings shouldn’t offer up a top 10 pick and two or three of their young core to acquire one of the game’s best players. 

Take all of the issues that Leonard has had this season and throw them out the window. At 100 percent health, the risk is still too much for a team like the Kings to take.

It’s about the contract and it’s about the talent that you would have to give up. The Los Angeles Lakers might be able to absorb the risk of trading for Leonard. They would likely have to give up Kyle Kuzma and plenty more to make something happen. But they would also have a fighting chance of retaining Leonard once he opts out of his current deal and becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Kings fans will reach deep on this, bringing up that Chris Webber made the decision to stick around in Sacramento back in 2001, inking a seven-year, $122 million deal. 

Not only were those different times, but the Kings’ franchise was on a roll. Webber was the best player on one of the best teams in the league. He was also surrounded by quality teammates, many of who remain extremely close more than a decade later.

Leonard would come to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006. It is also a franchise that would have to give up plenty of assets to acquire him. He wouldn’t make the Kings an instant success and although the team would have plenty of money in the summer of 2019 to not only pay Leonard, but add a few more pieces, the risk would never be worth the reward.

If the team truly believes that Leonard is an option, they might as well draft a high quality player in 2018, develop the current talent base, make a move or two to improve the roster and then chase the All-Star wing a summer later when they have upwards of $70 million to throw around.

It’s a fun conversation, but one that can only lead to ruin for a team like the Kings. The best chance to turn things around for Sacramento is to stay the current course and continue to develop the players on the roster. 

If the team can begin to build something, landing the right player and then keeping them around will happen for the Kings.

Kings lose coin flip to Bulls, hold No. 7 overall pick heading into NBA Draft Lottery

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AP

Kings lose coin flip to Bulls, hold No. 7 overall pick heading into NBA Draft Lottery

The Sacramento Kings’ win over the Houston Rockets in the season finale has officially cost the team a spot in the NBA’s Draft Lottery. After posting identical 27-55 records, Sacramento and the Chicago Bulls were part of the NBA’s coin flip rule Friday afternoon at the Board of Governors meetings. 

Unfortunately for the Kings, the Bulls picked up a victory in the game of chance and now sit in the sixth spot in the pre-lottery standings. Sacramento holds the seventh position, but both teams have an equal opportunity to move up into the top three positions when the lottery is officially held on May 15. 

Once the top three selections are drawn, the draft goes in order of worst remaining record, taking coin flip results into consideration. If the Kings do not move into the top three and no one slated behind them in the draft move up, they will draft No. 7 overall. 

There is also a small chance that Sacramento doesn’t move up and one or more lottery teams behind them in the standings jump up. In this scenario, the Kings could draft as low as 10, but the statistical probability of them falling that far is astronomical. 

Here are the odds for the potential draft positions for the Kings this season. Both the Kings and Bulls have an 18.3% chance of moving into the top three picks.

No. 1 overall selection: 5.3%
No. 2 overall selection: 6.0%
No. 3 overall selection: 7.0%
No. 7 overall selection: 57.3%
No. 8 overall selection: 22.6%
No. 9 overall selection: 1.8%
No. 10 overall selection: less than 0.0%