The trade deadline is coming. With the Sacramento Kings sitting just a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race, they have a difficult decision to make. Are they buyers or are they sellers in what is expected to be an active week of transactions?
For those who are pulling for the Kings to snap their decade-long playoff drought, swooping in to pick up an immediate fix to one or two of the team’s roster holes sounds appealing.
But there is another group of fans that would prefer the Kings not make a run at the eighth seed and instead sell off some of their veteran pieces for assets - be it young players or picks, while retaining their 2017 draft pick.
It’s a complicated mess that requires a deeper look. Here is what the Kings have to offer if they decide to become active at the deadline.
Sacramento doesn’t have a free pick to offer until the 2021 NBA draft. Their 2017 pick is wrapped up in a complex set of “what ifs.” If the Kings continue their current pace and fall outside of the top 10 in this year’s draft, they forfeit the pick to the Chicago Bulls as part of a Omri Casspi for J.J. Hickson swap from 2011.
If the Kings stumble down the stretch and remain in the top 10 following the draft lottery, the Philadelphia 76ers have the option of swapping picks with Sacramento. Philly currently sits 2.5 games behind the Kings in the standings, making the pick swap unlikely.
In addition to the 2017 pick fiasco, the Kings dealt the rights to their 2019 pick to the 76ers as part of a salary dump in the summer of 2015. Due to the Stepien Rule, NBA teams are not allowed to trade consecutive first-round picks, leaving Sacramento without an available pick until 2021.
This is where things get interesting for Sacramento. In the past, expiring contracts were worth gold in the NBA, but that has lessened considerably with the increase in salary cap. If a team is looking to dump massive salary or there is a multi-team deal that needs a flexible team, the Kings might be an option.
Sacramento has three unrestricted free agents at the end of the season in Ty Lawson ($980K), Darren Collison ($5.2 million) and Omri Casspi ($3 million). Both Lawson and Collison have played major roles for the team this season. While they are moveable, they also represent all the Kings have at the point guard position.
Casspi was really good for Sacramento last season, but illness, injury and role have reduced his value considerably. He should be healthy enough to trade at the deadline as either a 3-point shooter or cap filler in a larger deal.
Ben McLemore has had a resurgence over the last few weeks, building his value slightly around the league. He’s under contract at $4 million this season, but the Kings also have the ability to extend a $5.4 million qualifying offer on the 24-year-old for next season, making him a restricted free agent.
Both Rudy Gay ($13.3 million) and Matt Barnes ($6.3 million) have player options for next season. Gay is out for the rest of the year with a torn Achilles tendon, but that doesn’t automatically mean he is going to opt in. He is due $14.3 million next season and if his rehab isn't going as scheduled, he may choose to rebuild his value in Sacramento instead of risking free agency. At 36 years old, Barnes is likely a lock to take his player option for next season.
On top of the these six players, Sacramento also has team options on Anthony Tolliver ($8 million) and Arron Afflalo ($12.5 million) for next season. The Kings hold a $2 million buyout on Tolliver and a $1.5 million buyout on Afflalo, making both players enticing as potential salary savers if Sacramento decides they are expendable.
DeMarcus Cousins ($17 million), Kosta Koufos ($8 million), Garrett Temple ($8 million) and Willie Cauley-Stein ($3.6 million) are all under contract for next season. Cousins is expected to sign a monster $219 million extension in July. Both Koufos and Temple are under contract for the next two seasons, while Cauley-Stein is under team control for another three years.
In addition to these veterans, rookies Georgios Papagiannis ($2.2 million), Malachi Richardson ($1.4 million) and Skal Labissiere ($1.2 million) are all in the first year of their rookie scale contracts.
Sacramento owns the rights to three additional pieces that are currently playing overseas. Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic were added as part of the salary dump with the Sixers in 2015, but neither are frontline prospects.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is expected to come to the NBA next season after a successful run with the Serbian national team during the 2016 Summer Olympics. He is currently playing for Fenerbahçe of the Turkish Basketball Super League. The former 27th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft is considered an NBA ready shooting guard with plenty of upside.
Outside of dealing Cousins, the Kings don’t have a true blue chip asset to deal and he’s been assured repeatedly that he’s not going anywhere.
Collison and Lawson could step in and make an immediate impact for a playoff team looking for an additional playmaker, but the Kings have no other answer at the point guard position.
Koufos has drawn interest all season as a quality big and with the recent play of Cauley-Stein and young depth in Labissiere and Papagiannis, the Kings might listen.
Teams are always looking for shooters like Tolliver and Casspi. And the development of McLemore over the last two weeks might catch the eye of an NBA exec looking for a buy low prospect with upside.
The Kings might not be the most attractive trade partner in straight up swaps, but they have value as a third or fourth team in bigger transactions. They have a variety of moveable short-term contracts. If Vlade Divac is willing to take on longer term, big money players, Sacramento could very well be active between now and the Feb. 23 deadline.