With each step of the NBA offseason, we get small slivers of information that help form a more complete puzzle. With the NBA’s Draft Lottery over and done with, the Sacramento Kings now know they hold the No. 9 overall pick in the upcoming draft, which is a huge piece of intel.
General manager Monte McNair knows that his club hasn’t vaulted into the top four of a star-studded draft. He also knows that his club didn’t drop in the lottery, and which eight teams are ahead of him in the order.
The Kings, as well as every other team in the league, can now start developing a strategy for the offseason.
While we broke down some of the reasons why McNair should call the Philadelphia 76ers on All-Star Ben Simmons earlier in the week, the fact that the Kings didn’t move up in the lottery should further advance their interests in the 24-year-old Australian.
Does Simmons fit with the Kings’ roster?
The answer is simple. Yes, Simmons fits with the Kings, although he won’t have the same role he has had in Philadelphia.
Sacramento already has De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in the backcourt and plenty of additional guard options. Simmons, who stands 6-foot-10, 240-pounds, would shift to either forward position for the Kings, where he would play alongside Harrison Barnes.
The switchability of this pairing on the defensive end would be perfect. Barnes is already a solid defender and Simmons made the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team the last two seasons. Simmons would help fix the team’s biggest issue, which is that Sacramento finished 28th in the league in points allowed and 30th in defensive rating.
On the offensive side of the ball, Simmons would be asked to be a fourth or fifth option in the Kings’ starting lineup. He would still have plenty of opportunities, especially if the Kings add players like Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley in the package to acquire him.
Simmons doesn’t shoot the 3, what does that mean for the Kings’ spacing?
This is probably the biggest issue the Kings would have if they acquired Simmons, but it’s more complex than it appears. Simmons is an elite distributor, which in theory, could help open everything up for Luke Walton’s offense.
Last season in Philly, Simmons posted a 31.3 percent assist rate, which ranked 18th in the league, just three spots below Fox’s 32.7 percent. He also posted a usage rate of 20.2 percent, which is less than Fox, Hield, Hassan Whiteside, Marvin Bagley and Terence Davis posted last season in Sacramento.
Simmons’ presence in a lineup with Fox, Haliburton and Barnes would take some of the ball-handling duties away from the Kings’ main offensive cogs and give Sacramento another athlete capable of leading the break.
It should also be noted that Fox is a 39.3 percent 3-point shooter in catch-and-shoot situations, versus a 30 percent shooter off of pull-ups. Haliburton knocks down 43.8 percent from behind the arc off the catch-and-shoot, against 37.5 percent off pull-ups. Harrison Barnes’ numbers spike from 35.1 percent on 3-point pull-ups to 42.1 percent as a catch-and-shoot marksman.
The point is, having an additional creator is something that will help the Kings, not hinder them. Simmons is just 24 years old. He still has time to develop a 3-point shot, especially if he’s in the right style of offense.
Can the Kings fit Simmons into their salary cap?
The Sixers are a tax-paying team, which means that they can absorb up to 125 percent of Simmons’ contract value plus $100,000 in a trade, without adding more players to the mix. Philly also has plenty of young players under small contracts that could be used to balance a trade.
To match Simmons’ $33 million contract for next season, the Kings would have to trade away a minimum of $24.65 million in salary and a maximum of $41.35 million. Those are huge numbers, but basically, a swap of Hield ($22.8 million) and Bagley ($11.3 million) is nearly a perfect match for Simmons’ contract. The Kings also have Delon Wright ($8.5 million) that could work instead of Bagley or even in addition to the package of Hield and Bagley, if the Sixers throw in an additional young player.
Philadelphia is currently on the hook for Simmons’ $144.6 million over the next four years. That’s a lot of money for a player averaging 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, but his defensive prowess and ability to play multiple positions brings additional value.
Best trade for Kings
There are plenty of ways to design a trade with the Sixers if you are Sacramento, all of which save Philly’s salary cap long term. In a best-case scenario, the Kings trade Hield, Bagley and Wright, along with a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick that becomes two 2022 second-rounders if not conveyed.
In this construct, the Kings lose plenty of scoring, but Hield is already in danger of losing his job to Haliburton, Bagley needs a fresh start and Wright would be an extra piece with Fox, Haliburton and Simmons all capable of manning the point. This deal would also save Sacramento enough money to put in a competitive free-agent offer for starting center Richaun Holmes.
Bagley and Wright are both free agents after next season and Hield has a declining scale contract. The Sixers would save roughly $62 million over the next four seasons in this scenario, minus the salary of the 2022 draft pick(s).
Best trade for Philly
If the Sixers want to move on from Simmons, but are looking for a short-term dump, a straight swap for Hield, Bagley and the Kings’ No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 draft might be the best they can come away with.
Like the previous deal, the Sixers would save a tremendous amount of salary long term. The difference between Simmons and the package of Hield and Bagley is in the ballpark of $80 million over the next four seasons, although the No. 9 pick requires a commitment of approximately $12 million over the next three seasons.
Philly might ask for additional draft compensation, but Simmons’ value is at an all-time low and it’s hard to imagine the Sixers landing a 3-point scorer like Hield, as well as multiple first-round selections, without taking back massive amounts of salary.
Whether the Kings are interested in Simmons or not is unknown at this time. Whether the Sixers are 100 percent ready to pull the plug on a former top pick is also in question. What we do know is that both of these clubs need to shake things up this summer and they have the necessary pieces to be solid trade partners.
It’s a tremendous risk for McNair to take on an additional $146 million in salary over the next four seasons, but at the same time, it’s not often you have an opportunity to land an All-NBA defender and three-time All-Star under the age of 25.
The Kings are mired in a 15-year playoff drought. They need to be bold. The No. 9 pick in the draft has very little chance of changing the Kings’ fortunes in year one or even year two. Simmons is a risk, but he could also be a catalyst for a revival in Sacramento.