Kings 20 Questions: What does Harry Giles' Sacramento future look like?

Kings 20 Questions: What does Harry Giles' Sacramento future look like?

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.

The Decision

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.

The Repercussions

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.

[RELATED: Harry Giles surprises Kings fan upset by coronavirus game postponement]

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. 

NBA odds: Where Kings' playoff hopes stand after first NBA restart win

NBA odds: Where Kings' playoff hopes stand after first NBA restart win

So you're telling me there's a chance.

The Kings stumbled out of the gates in the NBA restart, losing their first three games in the Orlando bubble. They bounced back with an impressive 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, barely keeping their postseason chances alive.

Sacramento's playoff hopes aren't dead. However ...

They're mostly dead.

After defeating the Pelicans, the Kings' playoff odds according to FiveThiryEight stand at a whopping 2 percent. Of all the teams still alive in the Western Conference playoff race, only the San Antonio Spurs (1 percent) currently have worse odds.

[RELATED: Kings minority owner Shaq makes virtual cameo during win]

In order to qualify for a playoff spot, Sacramento would at least have to climb to ninth place in the Western Conference standings while remaining within four games of the eighth seed. The Kings currently sit 2.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies, but currently have three other teams situated between them and Memphis.

The Kings dug themselves quite a hole. It's going to be awfully tough to dig themselves out of it.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Bogdan Bogdanovic's career game carries Kings to first NBA bubble win

Bogdan Bogdanovic's career game carries Kings to first NBA bubble win

De’Aaron Fox is becoming a star in the Orlando bubble, but in order for his team to start winning games, someone else had to step up and give him some help. On Thursday, Bogdan Bogdanovic was that player, scoring a career-high 35 points to help the Kings pick up their first win of the seeding tournament.

In a recent recording of the Purple Talk podcast, Fox mentioned his starting backcourt mate and made a statement that may have struck a chord with the Serbian shooter.

“Sometimes, the player that Bogi is, for him to be a team-first guy, is for him to shoot the ball,” Fox said.

There can be an issue with a player being too unselfish. Bogdanovic is a career 37 percent shooter from long range and one of the more versatile scorers on the Kings’ roster, but he rarely looks for his own shot.

He tries to get everyone else involved and then once the game has settled into a rhythm, he looks to get free himself. Fox has struggled with this issue as well, but since the NBA’s restart, he has gone into attack mode.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Bogdanovic followed Fox’s lead Thursday, which led to the 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

After missing his first 14 shots in the Kings' loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Bogdanovic looked like a man possessed against New Orleans. He started firing away in the first quarter and by the time the first 12 minutes were up, his shooting hand was smoldering.

“I was just maybe a little bit more mentally locked in,” Bogdanovic said. “Before the game against Dallas, I did all of the same things I did today. I didn’t change my routine at all.”

Bogdanovic lit up New Orleans for 19 first-quarter points. The only shot he missed in the opening period was a 50-footer as time expired.

With Bogdanovic on fire, New Orleans made adjustments and the Kings countered. First, they got Harrison Barnes loose in the post. When the Pelicans shifted defensive stalwart Jrue Holiday over to slow Bogdanovic down, he went to Fox and told him to attack.

“Whenever I was open, I was decisive, I took my shot, I scored, I didn’t miss my first couple of shots,” Bogdanovic said. “And then they started trapping me and I saw a lot of space for the big guys and tell them, ‘Hey, now it’s your time.’ And then I told Fox, ‘Hey, Holiday is on me, he’s stop blocking, he’s not helping, so you have all the space now, it’s your time.’ That’s how he got hot.”

Bogdanovic was a flame thrower and once Fox started attacking, it was lights out. The starting backcourt for the Kings pinned 65 points on the Pelicans in their best-combined scoring output of the season.

“We know we have a lot of guys on this team that can put the ball in the basket,” Fox said. “But when you have guys like that and they care about each other, it makes the game easier for others.”

An experienced European player, Bogdanovic helped play coach on the floor. Playing within a team concept is how he learned the game and he’s doing his best to share as much as he can with his teammates.

[RELATED: Fox's development silver lining to Kings' struggles in restart]

The Kings' road to a playoff spot is narrow to say the least, but they had to have the win over the Pelicans to keep any hope alive.

“You’ve got to step up as a man and play the game,” Bogdanovic said. “That’s what we did.”

The Kings don’t have a lot of time to celebrate the victory. They jump back into the fray Friday morning when they play the Brooklyn Nets in their lone back-to-back of the tournament.

While the Kings likely will scoreboard watch all day to see what happens to teams like the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, the focus must remain on the things they can control.

“We can’t worry about anyone by ourselves,” Fox said. “Knowing that we got this win, it throws us right back in contention for one of the last playoff spots.”

The Kings now are halfway through their schedule in the bubble. Following the Nets, they’ll face the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans for a second time and then finish off their seasons against the first-place Los Angeles Lakers.