Several reasons why the Kings opted to ship George Hill to Cleveland


Several reasons why the Kings opted to ship George Hill to Cleveland

SACRAMENTO -- Boom. The Sacramento Kings jumped in the trade deadline action Thursday morning, sending George Hill to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 3-team deal including the Utah Jazz.

The final deals haven’t been announced by either of the three teams and a source confirms that the situation is still fluid.

What’s Coming In

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Kings receive veteran Joe Johnson from the Jazz, as well as wing Iman Shumpert from the Cavs. Also included in the deal for Sacramento is the Miami Heat’s 2020 second round pick and $3+ million in cash.

There is a good chance that the Kings will buyout the remainder of Johnson’s $10.5 million contract for this season, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. The 36-year-old posted 7.3 points per game in 21.9 minutes for the Jazz this season.

Shumpert has missed much of the season with a knee issue and hasn’t played since Jan. 23 due to plantar fasciitis. He’s averaging a career-low 4.4 points over 14 games for the Cavs this season. He’s on the books for $10.3 million this season and has a player option for $11 million next season.

What’s Going Out

First and foremost, Hill. The deal is still fluid, but in order to make the roster spots work, the Kings have to either include a second player in the trade or waive a player to bring both Johnson and Shumpert in.

Reports have the Kings working on a second deal to send Malachi Richardson to the Raptors for Bruno Caboclo. If they consummate that deal before the three-team swap with Cleveland and Utah, they can potentially waive Caboclo to clear a roster spot.

Why Sacramento Makes the Deal

Sacramento was tied to Hill’s massive $20 million contract for this season, another $19 million for next season and a $1 million buyout for the 2019-20 season. The 31-year-old guard is having one of his worst seasons as a pro for the Kings, averaging just 10.3 points and 2.7 assists per game.

With the Kings going young, Hill has come off the bench behind rookies De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Rookie point guard Frank Mason is out until after the All-Star break with a plantar fascia tear in his right heel, but he showed that he’s more than capable of playing minutes before the injury.

The Kings also save a ton of cap space for next season in the transaction. If Shumpert opts into his deal and is not bought out using the NBA’s stretch provision, the Kings will clear an estimated $8 million off the books.

Why Cleveland Makes the Deal

In a mad scramble to get back on the right track, the Cavs have made over their roster with a series of deals Thursday morning, including trading away Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

Hill is now the Cavs starting point guard and will play a substantial role as Cleveland prepares for another playoff run.

It’s a gamble for Cleveland. They’ve made major moves and have very little time to reorganize their team. Hill is on the books for next season, which will be a tough pill to swallow if LeBron James leaves via free agency.

Overall Thoughts

The Kings get out from underneath a huge contract and they clear the deck for Fox to become the man in Sacramento. The pieces coming in aren’t overwhelming, but the backcourt was littered with bodies in Sacramento, making a move like this a necessity.

In addition, Hill didn’t want to be in Sacramento and he’s underperformed all season long. The Kings might get raked over the coals by the national media, but they just successfully dealt away a gigantic contract and brought back moveable pieces.

Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings


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


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%