The build up to the NBA’s Feb. 7 trade deadline has already begun. If fact, it started for the Kings coming into opening night, when they walked into the season as the only team in the league with any real cap space.
The rumor mill is churning, but NBC Sports California continues to hear that the Kings have no intention of taking on any long-term deals, unless it helps the team win today and down the road. They also aren't in the mood to help another franchise save money, unless assets are attached.
Sacramento’s front office has worked hard to create the financial freedom they currently possess. They understand the power of their position in the market and they have a list of needs.
According to sources, high on the Kings’ priority list is adding more length and size at the small forward position, as well as a veteran point guard to bring off the bench.
The team is high on their young core, and would like to find a piece or two that fits with the style of play and direction the franchise is heading.
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The NBA’s cap is set at $101.869 million for this season, with the luxury tax threshold of $123.733 million. Sacramento has $90.844 million on the books, including $10.8 million in dead money from Matt Barnes, Georgios Papagiannis, Deyonta Davis and Caron Butler.
Outside of the Kings and their $11 million in available cap space, no other team in the league is under the cap.
With available space, the Kings can act as a conduit to reduce other clubs’ cap space, potentially saving them millions in luxury tax. They can also accept more incoming money than they send out in a potential trade.
In addition to $11 million in cap space, the Kings also have a bevy of expiring contracts to work with. Veteran big man Zach Randolph has yet to play a minute this season in Sacramento, and is in the final year of a deal that pays him $11.7 million this season.
Kosta Koufos is a valuable big on an affordable $8.7 million deal. At 29 years old, he is a veteran defensive presence and keeps himself in spectacular shape. With the Kings going young up front over the last two weeks, Koufos gets in a full workout following games to make sure he’s ready to play, either for Sacramento or elsewhere.
Ben McLemore, 25, is owed $5.5 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s found it difficult to get on the court with the Kings loaded at the wing, but he’s had a few moments when given an opportunity.
Iman Shumpert is in the final year of a long term contract he signed back in 2015 with the Cavs that pays him $11 million this season. Shumpert has started 32 games at the small forward position for the Kings and has provided a nice bump both on and off the court. He’s a defensive-minded wing and he’s shooting 38.6 percent from long range this season.
Lastly, starting center Willie Cauley-Stein is in the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He makes $4.7 million this season, and will enter the summer as a restricted free agent if the Kings extend a qualifying offer. Cauley-Stein has reached the NBA’s “starter criteria,” which means his qualifying offer has jumped from $4.5 million to $6.3 million this summer.
Not including Cauley-Stein, the Kings have roughly $37 million in expiring contracts. Shumpert is playing rotational minutes, and Koufos is a nice insurance policy for the team.
If the right deal were to come along, the Kings would have no problem taking back long-term money in exchange for a combination of expiring deals. Again, any deal would need to check the right boxes of improving the team in the short-term as well as down the road.
One of Vlade Divac’s first moves was to trade his 2019 first-round pick. That move really comes into play right now. Due to the Stepien Rule, Divac cannot trade back-to-back picks, so his first round selection in 2020 is off the table.
Sacramento can trade a first round pick further off in the future, like in 2021 or 2022.
Without a first-rounder to work with, the Kings have loaded up on second-rounders. The team doesn’t have their own second-rounder in 2019, but they have two incoming picks (second-most favorable from the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, plus the most favorable between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers).
The Kings also have their own second-round selection in 2020, as well as the Detroit Pistons' and Miami Heat's. In 2021, they have Miami’s second round pick again, as well as their own selection and the Memphis Grizzlies' pick.
Values of second-round picks vary, but the Kings have a total six second-rounders over the next three seasons. They have no restrictions, and can be used as sweeteners in a larger deal if necessary.
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Sacramento has a lot of young and talented players, but they aren’t going to move any of them unless it means the team is making a massive long-term investment in a star-level player. Even then, there is a core group that is close to untouchable.
It’s an interesting roster. The Kings have nine players on rookie scale-contracts. Nemanja Bjelica is the only veteran with a guaranteed deal that extends beyond the 2018-19 season. They have plenty of expiring contracts, and a few young players that are out of the rotation.
What to Expect
Divac and Co. should be incredibly active. They’ve worked hard to be a player in the trade market, and they are the only team with available space. They can also change the look of the roster using open money and expiring contracts from players that aren’t part of the rotation.
The Kings have the ability to pull off multiple trades that could yield not only players to help with a playoff push, but add future assets as well.
Sacramento should be weary of taking on long-term salary that bites into their available cap space this summer, unless the player fits the age and salary trajectory of the team.
It would be shocking if they stand pat at the deadline.There will likely be a deal or two that could help change the course of the franchise for the better. At 23-21, this team has done their job on the court, but they could use a few reinforcements.