The NBA landscape is changing. After a few years of madness, salary cap space is once again becoming a valued commodity. With a tempered approach and a big move at the trade deadline, the Sacramento Kings have set themselves up as a player moving forward.
Sacramento’s plan is centered around the summer of 2019, when they are completely free of all veteran entanglements. 2018 is now back on the table after George Hill’s relocation to Cleveland, but the team might not have as much room as you think.
The evolving market could have an immediate effect on the Kings this summer, where the franchise will have anywhere from $25-53 million in salary cap space.
Last summer, the Kings entered the offseason with the assumption that veteran guard, Langston Galloway would opt in to his $5.4 million player option. He instead chose to become an unrestricted free agent, signing a three-year, $21 million deal with the Detroit Pistons.
It’s unlikely that the Galloway situation will repeat itself this summer. The NBA salary cap is projected to climb to $101 million, but much of that cap space is already spoken for.
Early projections around the league have the NBA’s middle class taking a major hit this summer with a lack of available money. If the players needed a reminder of the current state of the league, look no further than Lou Williams’ three-year, $24 million extension with the Clippers.
The 31-year-old guard is having his best season as a pro, posting 23.3 points per game for Los Angeles. In any other year, his market value would have been considerably higher.
Sacramento has three veterans with player options for next season and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see all of them stick around instead of risking their salaries on a tightening market.
Newly acquired Iman Shumpert has a player option for next season at $11 million. At 27-years-old, Shumpert could gamble that a team would offer him a long-term deal, but a series of injuries have damaged his value on the open market.
Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are durable, team-first veterans known for their locker room presence. Temple is owed $8 million next season. He’s said he wants to win, but at 31, the safe bet is that he remains in Sacramento for one more season before testing the ever changing waters.
Every team has a need for a big man like Koufos, but like Temple, he might be better served waiting to see if the landscape improves in 2019. The soon-to-be 29-year-old has another long term contract in him as a reliable big that brings his lunch pail to work everyday.
If all three stay for the 2018-19 season, the Kings will have $25 million to spend this summer. They will have to pay another high draft selection, which will eat between $3.5 and $6.7 million of cap space, that still leaves plenty of room to add talent.
They can comb the free agent market for players that fit their current youth arc. Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine and Rodney Hood are all young and could fill a need. They are also restricted free agents and their respective teams are more than likely going to match offers for their services.
The Kings can also use their cap space to free up other teams, taking back bloated short-term contracts attached to assets like young players or draft picks. They would love to get back into the 2019 NBA Draft after losing their pick in a salary dump in the summer of 2015.
Sacramento’s plan will still likely center around the summer of 2019 when they have a better idea of what they have in their young core. At that point, Shumpert, Temple, Koufos and veteran Zach Randolph will all be off the books.
With the cap expected to hit $108 million in 2019, the Kings will have upwards of $70 million in cap space to spend, if they haven’t tied up large chunks beforehand.
There are plenty of variables that still need to prove out, but the Sacramento Kings’ path is clear. They are set up to be players in the next two summers as they continue their rebuild.
The team has a lot of work in front of them as they search for the right players to complete their roster. They need to make quality decisions, both through the draft and with their cap space. They also need to prove up their talent while creating an environment that can entice the right free agent.