De'Aaron Fox

Kings' Trevor Ariza excited to reunite with former teammate Luke Walton

Kings' Trevor Ariza excited to reunite with former teammate Luke Walton

LAS VEGAS -- The Sacramento Kings' newest signee, Trevor Ariza, will enter his 16th season in a new environment, but with a familiar face. 

Kings coach Luke Walton -- who was hired in April -- played two seasons with the veteran wing, a distinction Ariza believes will help his transition.   

"Just knowing him, knowing how he works, the relationship that we have definitely made it easier to try or go to a new situation," Ariza said during his introductory press conference alongside Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph and Harrison Barnes in Las Vegas Monday afternoon. 

"Just his style of play. You know, the understanding that his basketball, how his basketball mind works is similar to my game," Ariza added. "So, I just thought that it was a great fit for me. Whatever the role is I felt like being here we'll have a better understanding of what we're doing, what we're working towards."

Ariza -- who signed a two-year, $25 million contract with the Kings -- played with Walton from 2007-2009, winning the 2009 NBA title as members of the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers. Since his time in Los Angeles, Ariza has played two stints with both the Rockets and Wizards. Last season, he averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds for the Phoenix Suns before a midseason trade sent him to Washington.

Ariza's arrival comes during a critical time in Sacramento's trajectory. Last season, the King won 39 games -- their most in more than a decade -- displaying a fast-paced unit led by De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Barnes. 

Though a team on the rise, the Kings' ascent comes just as the Western Conference is gaining strength. During the same period Ariza signed with the Kings, perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard joined the LA Clippers alongside fellow All-Star Paul George, while the Lakers traded for center Anthony Davis. Adding to the degree of difficulty, Walton is only in his third month on the job. Still, Ariza has faith in the new group. 

"This is basketball," Ariza said. "It doesn't matter who's on the team, you still gotta go out there and win and play. You know, of course, everything looks good in the beginning. Everything looks good on paper, but you still gotta go out and play the game. And every time you go out and play, you give yourself a chance to win."

Ariza's addition is welcome for a team that trotted out the league's fifth-youngest roster last season. Fox -- their best player -- is just 21 years old. The roster construction is similar to Ariza's time in Phoenix last season, when the average age of the team was 25.2 years. Entering his 16th NBA season, Ariza believes he and his former teammate can help the Kings be successful. 

[RELATED: Barnes preaching 'culture of family' to young Kings in Vegas]

"There's guys that have a ton of experience. So all the wisdom or whatever wouldn't just be coming from me," Ariza said. "It'd be coming from a different group of guys. And I think it's easier when you don't have to hear the same voice over and over and over again. That's key for us."

NBA free agency: How Kings bolstered their roster through flurry of moves

NBA free agency: How Kings bolstered their roster through flurry of moves

What a difference a year makes. The Sacramento Kings walked into the 2018-19 season without knowing what they had at any of the five positions on the floor.

It’s a new year and there is no question that general manager Vlade Divac has improved the team’s depth and overall talent level.

In order for everything to work as planned, Divac is banking on his young players to continue their growth. He added seasoned role players at almost every position to support their development, but the team will only go as far as the young core takes them.

After a flurry of moves, here is a look at the Kings' roster compared to the one they walked into last season with.

Point guard

2018-19 depth chart: De’Aaron Fox, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason
2019-20 depth chart: De’Aaron Fox, Cory Joseph, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason, Kyle Guy

In his rookie campaign, Fox had the look of a starter late in the season, but after averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per game, nothing was guaranteed. A year later, Fox is an up-and-coming star primed to take another substantial leap in production as he enters his third season.

The team has yet to announce their plans for Ferrell, but the addition of Joseph on a three-year contract makes his roster spot precarious at best. Sacramento has until July 4 to make a decision on Ferrell's $3.2 million team option.

Mason’s spot on the squad is in question as well, but he’s an affordable fifth guard at this point. There is a good chance the Kings keep him in the fold heading into training camp and allow him to battle with the Guy and fellow second-rounder Justin James for a roster spot. Sacramento has until Oct. 15 to make a decision on their $1.6 million team option for Mason.

Outlook

Fox should be a much better player entering his third season than he was last year or the year before and Joseph presents a huge upgrade as a defensive-minded veteran point guard. There is no question the position is much improved over last year.

Shooting Guard

2018-19 depth chart: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield
2019-20 depth chart: Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin James

How quickly we forget that Bogdanovic was supposed to start last season as the starter, but a late offseason injury cost him 10 games and opened a door for Hield to steal the job.

After posting 20.7 points, five rebounds and knocking down 278 3-pointers, Hield is not only the starter, he’s one of the team’s better players. The 26-year-old sniper improved his scoring average by more than seven points per game and has made himself into one of the elite shooters in the league.

With his starting job gone, Bogdanovic became the team’s jack-of-all trades sixth man. It’s a role he’s very well suited for. He can play the one, two and three, handle the ball and create for his teammates.

Outlook

Hield is a revelation for the Kings. They knew he could score, but he became so much more in his third NBA season. Bogdanovic is a five-tool player and there is hope he will enter the season healthy for the first time in his third year in the league. Both players are entering a contract year and have everything to play for.

James is organizational depth at this point and Fox can steal a few minutes at the position with the addition of Joseph.

Small Forward

2018-19 depth chart: Iman Shumpert, Justin Jackson, Troy Williams
2019-20 depth chart: Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza

Dave Joerger was forced to start Shumpert, a 6-foot-5 guard who had played just 14 games the season before, as his starting small forward. Jackson was inconsistent and Williams was on a two-way contract.

In short, while Shumpert had moments and did the best he could, the position was a disaster from the start.

At 6-foot-8, Barnes is a legitimate starting small forward with the ability to play the four as well. Like Barnes, Ariza is also 6-foot-8, giving Luke Walton the size necessary to compete at the three in the modern NBA game.

These are both quality veteran players who will stretch the floor and defend at a high level.

Outlook

This is the deepest the Kings have been at the small forward spot since they walked into the season with Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes. It easily could be argued that the current duo bring a lot more to the table than those three.

Bogdanovic can steal time at the position as well, giving Walton all kinds of options.

Power Forward

2018-19 depth chart: Nemanja Bjelica, Marvin Bagley
2019-20 depth chart: Marvin Bagley, Nemanja Bjelica

Bjelica was a pleasant surprise last season for Sacramento, especially early in the season. He’s a high basketball IQ player who can stretch the floor and he gave the Kings a chance to bring Bagley along slowly.

When healthy, Bagley showed flashes of stardom, which is what the Kings are banking on in Year 2. Two separate knee injuries cost the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft 20 games, but he still managed to average 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and one block in 25.3 minutes per game.

Outlook

Bagley is an elite prospect that performed at a high level when healthy. Bjelica is the savvy vet. Sacramento is expecting a huge jump from Bagley as he moves into a starting role and Bjelica should continue to provide depth at the position. Barnes, Ariza and Harry Giles can all help out at the position as well.

Center

2018-19 depth chart: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Harry Giles
2019-20 depth chart: Dewayne Dedmon, Harry Giles, Rachaun Holmes

Cauley-Stein showed improvement in his fourth NBA season, but he continued to struggle with consistency and became a non-factor as a rim protector. Koufos was a solid veteran that sat on the bench for much of the season while the team went young, and Giles came into the year playing a total of 300 minutes over his previous three years of basketball.

Dedmon is consistent, he hits 3-pointers, sets screens and blocks shots. He doesn’t have the high-end potential of Cauley-Stein, but he checks more boxes. Giles looked much better in the second half of the season and is likely the long-term answer at the position.

Holmes is an energizer bunny that doesn’t back down from anyone.

Outlook

The Kings needed a change at the position and they now have players that fit their style of play. The years of throwing to DeMarcus Cousins in the block are over. This is a group that will run and bring toughness to the squad.

Overall Outlook

The Kings won 39 games last season under Joerger and have a chance to take another leap forward under Walton.

Divac had a clear plan walking into free agency. He didn’t add a star, but he brought in strong role players to support the young core.

[RELATED: How Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon fit Kings]

Nothing is certain. While Divac made smart, short-term moves, it will all come down to the growth of Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic, Bagley and Giles.

There might be some small moves still left to fine tune the roster, but this likely is the bulk of the transactions this summer for Divac and the Kings.

How Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon fit Kings after quick NBA free agency start

How Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon fit Kings after quick NBA free agency start

SACRAMENTO -- Build through the draft, add the right pieces when the timing is right. That is a formula that has worked for other NBA teams, and now the Kings are implementing the plan in the early hours of NBA free agency. 

With young building blocks in De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles in place, the Kings attacked the free-agent market Sunday like never before.

The first line of business was to re-up Harrison Barnes on a four-year, $85 million contract extension. With one of their forward positions in place, Kings general manager Vlade Divac hit the nitro button.

Sacramento bolstered its center position, agreeing with former Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon on a three-year, $40 million contract. The Kings backed that up with another forward, and agreed to a two-year, $25 million contract with Trevor Ariza.

How do the additions fit?

Barnes slides right back into his starting small-forward role, but now new coach Luke Walton has plenty of options to move him around as the team makes adjustments throughout the game.

With Barnes’ ability to play either forward position, the Kings needed depth at the three. Ariza’s arrival gives Sacramento another shooter on the wing and a strong defender.

After being shipped to the Wizards last season, the 34-year-old averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals in the final 43 games of the season. At 6-foot-8, 215 pounds, he gives the Kings more size and depth than they had at the position for most of last season.

Dedmon is a perfect fit for what the Kings are trying to do. At 29 years old, he still has plenty of life in his legs and checks some extremely important boxes for the Kings.

The 7-footer out of USC averaged 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game last season. He can run the floor and protect the rim, and he shot 38.2 percent from behind the arc on 3.4 attempts per game last season.

Dedmon’s ability to stretch the floor opens up running lanes for Fox and gives Bagley room to work in the post. He likely slots into the starting five alongside Fox, Hield, Barnes and Bagley.

Capology

Barnes was always going to cost the Kings. They knew that when they acquired him via trade from the Dallas Mavericks in February. He saved the team money when he opted out of his $25.1 million deal for this season. His four-year, $85 million deal reportedly declines in value, which is perfect for when Divac is going to have to pay the young core.

Ariza’s initial hit is pretty big, but in the same ballpark of what Kings paid guard Iman Shumpert last season. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Ariza's second year is only partially guaranteed.

Ariza turned 34 on Sunday, and his play last season would lend you to believe he has plenty left in the tank. If the Kings need an upgrade at the position next season, Ariza will likely have enough trade value to be moved.

All of the numbers aren’t in on Dedmon yet, although early reports suggest only the first two years are guaranteed. This is perfect for Sacramento. If Bagley or Giles show they are ready to take over the position, the Kings can opt out in year three and look for younger options. If not, they have an affordable option while they search for answers.

Without having the exact numbers, it’s hard to estimate where the Kings are in relation to the cap as of right now. If we ballpark the numbers for this season, Barnes will make $23 million, Ariza will take home around $12.5 million and Sacramento is likely on the hook for around $14 million for Dedmon.

If these estimates are close, the Kings have roughly $91 million in dedicated salary for next year with 10 roster spots filled. They have team options on Yogi Ferrell ($3.2 million) and Frank Mason ($1.6 million), but they are also in search of a backup point guard.

If they choose to walk away from Ferrell and Mason, they still have an estimated $18 million in salary-cap space, as well as a room exception of $4.7 million.

[RELATED: Latest NBA free agency rumors, live updates, trade chatter]

Outlook

The Kings improved their overall talent level and bolstered major positions of need in the first hours of free agency. They have more work to do, but they made additions while keeping their cap flexibility for the future when they’ll have to pay their young core.

Sacramento likely will use some of its cap space to add another point guard, and potentially a fifth big who can play center behind Dedmon and Giles. Like last season, the Kings might walk into opening night with additional money, which could come in handy early in the season or at the trade deadline.