The Sacramento Kings have positioned themselves well coming into the 2018-19 season. They likely still are a year or two away from competing for a potential playoff spot, but financially, they are doing just fine. In fact, they are the lone NBA team with any type of real salary cap space to speak of right now.
Over the next few days, rumors will continue to build as the Minnesota Timberwolves work to find a trade partner for disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler. It’s very possible that a trade involving Butler also will include the Kings and their $11 million in cap room.
These are treacherous trade waters facing the Kings. What we know is Butler isn’t walking through the Golden 1 Center doors and donning purple and black.
The 29-year-old wing has given the T-Wolves a list of teams with which he would consider signing a contract extension. The Kings weren't on that list, and they're only mentioned in this deal as a potential third partner to help facilitate the transaction.
Butler certainly fits one of the Kings’ biggest needs and would provide them with a legitimate star, but he doesn’t fit the player arc of the team, and Minnesota is looking for a king-size ransom in any deal.
The Kings have plenty of young players, but after the Timberwolves ended their long playoff drought last season, they want veteran, star-level players in return with the hopes of salvaging this season.
The Kings are open to being a partner in a potential deal, not a dumping ground. Sacramento is willing to play ball. Banking cap space was one of the team’s plans once the Bulls matched the offer sheet for Zach LaVine.
Sacramento is in a position of power on the trade market, but what it won’t do is damage its future to help another franchise get better.
If the deal improves the Kings today and down the road, they have no problems helping out. They’ll want young players and/or draft picks in return for swallowing short-term contracts.
The Kings also fully understand that a first-round draft pick in the 20’s does very little to move the needle in their rebuild. Taking back a contract like Gorgui Dieng’s three-year, $42 million deal also makes no sense for Sacramento unless it's receiving a bonafide starter that fits the long-term and short-term goals of the team.
Miami has jumped into the Butler conversation as a potential trade partner. The Heat have a bevy of veterans, and almost all of them are on extremely unfriendly contracts. A deal that lands Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters or Kelly Olynyk in Sacramento should be a non-starter for Vlade Divac and Brandon Williams.
The Heat have a couple of young players who might entice the Kings to listen. Bam Adebayo likely is off the table, and the Kings already have a surplus of bigs. If Josh Richardson, 25, or Justise Winslow, 22, become part of the conversation, Sacramento would have to at least be intrigued.
In his third NBA season, Richardson posted solid numbers for the Heat, averaging 12.9 points and shooting 37.8 percent from behind the arc. At 6-foot-6, he is considered a small forward and would compete for a starting job with the Kings.
Winslow took a step back in his third season out of Duke, but the 10th overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft is built like a tank and might need a change of scenery to reach his potential. Like Richardson, he plays the wing and would challenge for starter minutes.
It’s possible that other teams will jump into the conversation and that the Kings still are needed to push the deal through. It’s also possible that the deal gets too expensive for Sacramento and it leaves the other teams involved to figure things out on their own.
Sacramento has plenty of time to use its cap space. The Kings shouldn’t rush into any deal that doesn’t help the franchise, and they should avoid anything that has the team taking on long-term money for an average NBA player.
The Kings worked hard to create this opportunity, and this won’t be the last deal that will come along this season needing a third team. If they play their cards right, this is an opportunity for the Kings to improve the talent on the roster.