Editor's note: This is the first installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.
His smile lights up a room. His passing ability is stunning. His connection with the Kings’ fanbase is second to none.
Harry Giles is more than a fan favorite, which might be a huge issue when the NBA offseason begins, whenever that may be.
The Kings chose not to pick up Giles’ fourth-year option last October, which puts the 21-year-old center’s tenure with the team in doubt moving forward.
While basketball is on hiatus, we are going to look at some of the more pressing questions facing the Kings moving forward. Giles’ future with the team is one of the more intriguing issues the Kings face when basketball eventually returns.
The Nuts and Bolts
Giles' situation isn’t all that rare, but the idea of a player returning to a team that chose not to pick up an option year is.
Rookie scale contracts for NBA first-round picks all come with two guaranteed years, followed by two, one-year, team options. The Kings picked up Giles’ third-year contract in October of 2018 but declined his fourth-year option in 2019.
This decision set into motion a complicated situation for the Kings. They can only offer Giles the contract he would have received if they had picked up his team options. He is eligible for a one-year, $3.98 million contract from Sacramento for the 2020-21 season, with potential annual raises of eight percent.
Sacramento can offer Giles a multi-year contract, but the eight percent raise and starting salary limitation would hamper any deal. The most they can offer is two-years at $8.28 million, three-years at $12.92 million or a four-year, $17.93 million contract.
Giles also is an unrestricted free agent, which means the Kings do not have the right of first refusal for an offer sheet signed by another team. He is free to sign with any other franchise without any compensation for returning to Sacramento.
Why are Giles and the Kings in this situation? Again, it’s complicated.
Giles went home last summer and according to multiple sources, the team was unhappy about the work that he put in. First, he wasn’t available to play in the California Classic and when he showed up to training camp, his knee swelled up on the first day and the Kings shut him down.
What exactly happened over the summer has remained mostly a mystery, but according to sources, Giles missed a meet-up with the training staff and the team believed he wasn’t ready to compete when camp opened.
There was a vote amongst members of the front office and while it wasn’t unanimous, the decision was made not to pick up the option and to force Giles into a “prove-it” season.
While the Kings’ intention was to show tough love to a young player, the decision opened a door that might cost them. Giles has worked his way back into the good graces of the team during the season and he played very well during a 31-game stretch leading up to the suspension of the league.
In his second official season in the league, Giles is averaging seven points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.2 minutes per game.
Team officials have made it clear following their initial decision to not pick up the option and again later in the season as Giles returned to the rotation, that they haven’t given up on the possibility of a return.
Both the coaching staff and training staff worked with the talented young big throughout the season, even when his minutes on the court were limited.
General manager Vlade Divac has spoken glowingly of Giles, even after making the decision not to pick up his option.
The issue the Kings have is two-fold. First up, the decision did at least some damage initially to the relationship with Giles. The team took away guaranteed money and basically called him out publicly.
Giles had a series of major knee injuries during his prep career. Having the guarantee that another year's paychecks are coming is big for any player, but especially for one with a history of injury.
Secondly, the Kings opened the door for opposing teams to come in and steal away a young player without compensation. According to a league source, there were multiple teams that contacted Sacramento to check on Giles’ availability at the NBA trade deadline, which the Kings turned away.
Whether anyone is willing to offer $4 million a year is unknown, but it might not take that much. As an unrestricted free agent, Giles can go to any team offering up a salary, regardless of whether it is more than what the Kings might offer.
What happens next
Giles could very well have 18 games or less remaining in a Kings uniform, depending on if/when the regular season resumes.
Once the season ends and free agency begins at some distant point in time, the Kings can offer the third-year big a contract if they so choose. Giles can search for additional offers elsewhere and then make a decision that makes sense for him.
The Kings have relied on Giles heavily during Richaun Holmes’ absence, so they have a much better idea as to what they have in him as a player. But Sacramento also knows that Holmes is the starter at the position, Marvin Bagley will return at some point and will need minutes at both the four and the five and there is also a need for a bigger player like Alex Len at center.
The path for a return
In a perfect world, the Kings and Giles would have one more season to figure all of this out. Sacramento took that option away when they decided not to pick up his option year.
If there is a starting point for a return, the Kings likely would have to offer Giles a two-year, $8.28 million contract with the second year as a player option. That would allow them to regain their Larry Bird Rights entering the following summer, which means they could go over the salary cap to re-sign Giles.
A contract like this would also give Giles the security of knowing that he has at least two seasons of guaranteed money to count on.
With the shutdown, it’s likely that the entire summer schedule will be condensed to a few short weeks. Having familiarity between the two sides is a plus.
The likely outcome
With the NBA and the world in general turned on its head, there is potential for a return, but the likely outcome in this situation is different from what Kings fans will hope for.
It’s possible that the Kings and Giles have mended all fences after a rocky start to 2019-20. It’s also possible that Giles’ attachment to the community and fanbase, which isn’t always repeatable in another location, will provide at least some draw to coming back.
Saying all of this, there are plenty of reasons for Giles to look elsewhere. While the Kings were the team that took a chance on him and worked for over a year to help him build up physically for the grind of the NBA, both his original coaching and training staff are gone.
Sacramento also had an opportunity to give Giles security for next season, but they opened the door for whatever might come. Any team in the league can offer Giles a contract. Whether they offer him more than the Kings might even be irrelevant.
California taxes versus Texas or Florida or plenty of other states, means that a team like the San Antonio Spurs or Miami Heat could offer less money and have Giles still come out ahead of what the Kings could offer.
Hope isn’t completely gone for Kings fans who would love to see Giles stick around long term, but it’s waning. We’ll know more when the NBA reopens for business, but Giles did enough during his opportunity to intrigue plenty of teams around the league.