SACRAMENTO -– December 15 is a big day in the NBA. It’s the date that the league’s moratorium is lifted for trading players who were acquired during the previous offseason. It officially kicks off Stage 1 of trade season for the league.
The magic started early, with the Wizards, Suns and Grizzlies engaging in a potential three-way deal that would have sent veteran Trevor Ariza back to the Washington Wizards for a second tour of duty.
After some crazy finger pointing and misinformation, Memphis was removed from the transaction, and Ariza reportedly is on his way to Washington in exchange for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers.
This is the first of many deals that will go down between now and the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline.
The Kings have gone from a potential salary dump site to possible buyers in what should be an active market. Sacramento is the only team in the league with measurable salary-cap space, sitting roughly $11 million under the cap.
Vlade Divac and his group also have four expiring contracts in Iman Shumpert ($11 million), Zach Randolph ($11.7 million), Kosta Koufos ($8.7 million) and Ben McLemore ($5.5 million). That's nearly $37 million in moveable assets.
Of those four, Shumpert is the only player seeing regular minutes in the rotation. He has been a big part of the Kings' culture this season. According to sources, moving him would be on the bottom of the team’s priority list when it comes to expiring deals.
Koufos has played limited minutes for the Kings this season. He’s the team’s best post defender, but with a glut of bigs, he’s played in just 14 games this season and should have value around the league.
With so many other options at the power forward position, Randolph hasn’t stepped foot on the floor for Sacramento this season, and McLemore has totaled just 41 minutes through 28 games.
Sacramento has little interest in shopping its two free-agent acquisitions from this past offseason. Nemanja Bjelica is starting at power forward and playing major rotational minutes for coach Dave Joerger.
Yogi Ferrell was out of the Kings’ rotation for much of the season, but he’s found himself back in the mix over the last two games and is scheduled to get a 10-game look at the backup point guard spot. He is inexpensive, and the Kings have a team option on the 25-year-old for next season as well.
The list of players who now have become available for trade is lackluster. No one jumps off the page as a “must have” for Sacramento, but Dec. 15 usually starts the barrage of conversations.
According to reports, the Suns might look to find another home for Oubre. He is a restricted free agent following the season and a potential target for the Kings when they walk into the summer with an estimated $60 million in cap space.
The Kings like the former Wizards forward and could make an early run at the 23-year-old, which would then give them the option to match any offer for him during the summer.
Sacramento also kicked the tires on James Ennis (Rockets) and Mario Hezonja (Knicks) during free agency last summer.
Ennis was starting until recently when a hamstring injury put him on the shelf. He’s played solid basketball for Houston and isn’t likely to be moved.
Hezonja has been a bust in New York, averaging 7.3 points on 37.6 percent shooting from the field and 29.1 percent from 3-point range.
Neither of these players present an upgrade over what the Kings currently have at small forward.
Sacramento could use a player or two to fortify its rotation. The Kings are off to a very good start to the season at 15-13. They don’t have a first-round draft pick to offer until 2021, but they have multiple second-round selections in each of the next three drafts to sweeten a deal.
Expect the Kings to come up in lots of rumors over the next two months. They’ve positioned themselves well with regards to the cap, and they look like buyers -- not sellers -- for the first time in a while.