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Does Thompson trade move needle for Kings in free agency?

NBC Sports

The roster reshuffle is underway.

The Kings are acquiring center Tristan Thompson as part of a three-team trade that includes the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports California on Friday. 

While all the final details are unknown at this time, the initial deal has the Kings sending veteran point guard Delon Wright to Atlanta, with the Celtics landing Kris Dunn and Bruno Fernando. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first with the news

The Finances

Thompson is in the final year of a two-year contract that will pay him $9.7 million this season. Wright was in the last year of a three-year, $28 million deal and was set to make $8.5 million this season in Sacramento. 

If the parameters of the trade stay the same, the Kings are taking on an additional $1.2 million this season in salary, but no additional money past the 2021-22 season.

Why Thompson?

The Kings need big men in a serious way. Walking into free agency, they only have Marvin Bagley, Chimezie Metu, Damian Jones and newly drafted Neemias Queta to work with. 

 

There still is hope that starting center Richaun Holmes will return for another tour of duty, but the Kings need depth either way. Thompson, 30, has started 472 games over his 10-year career, including 43 last season for the Celtics.

He didn’t provide much on the offensive end last season in Boston, averaging just 7.6 points in 23.8 minutes per game. But Thompson posted 8.1 rebounds per game and still has the ability to be impactful on the defensive end of the court.

RELATED: McNair explains why Kings went off-script with Mitchell pick

Wright on the move ... again

Acquired at the trade deadline for Cory Joseph, Wright played extremely well in his 27 games in a Kings uniform. He played big minutes down the stretch with both De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton on the shelf and there were times when he carried the Kings.

When the Kings selected Davion Mitchell, Wright’s time in Sacramento obviously was over. The 22-year-old out of Baylor will play major minutes in year one as a defensive stopper in the backcourt and with Fox and Haliburton set to play substantial roles, Wright wasn’t going to see much time.

Sacramento also has Buddy Hield under contract for another three seasons, Jahmi’us Ramsey on a short-term deal and restricted free agent Terence Davis still considered part of the future. You can’t play six guards, so a reshuffling was needed. 

Wright now is on to his sixth team heading into his seventh NBA season. 

Analysis

General manager Monte McNair is in a tough spot. He needs depth in order to trade Marvin Bagley. He needs depth in case he loses Holmes. He needs depth, even if both Bagley and Holmes come back. 

Thompson can provide some of that depth, increase the team’s overall defensive IQ and is serviceable for the 20-25 minutes a night he played last season in Boston. But this has to be step one of a multi-prong approach. 

He is a perfectly fine rotational NBA player, but he doesn’t move the needle at all. If he’s the Kings' backup center/power forward coming into the season, then that’s fine.

If he is the starting power forward or center, then McNair has plenty of explaining to do. He can’t stretch the floor, isn’t an impactful pick-and-roll offensive player, isn’t built for the Kings pace and he’s a substantial downgrade overall from Holmes.

 

On the plus side, this is a close to cap neutral move that swaps one expiring contract at a position of wealth for an expiring contract at a position of need.