Kings

Kings vs. Thunder projected lineups, injury report, player usage

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AP

Kings vs. Thunder projected lineups, injury report, player usage

The Sacramento Kings can score, but they have yet to figure out the defensive end. They are coming off a 149-129 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday evening and still looking for their first win of the season.

Sacramento will face an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is struggling to find an identity without star point guard, Russell Westbrook. But the former MVP will make his season debut on Sunday, head coach Billy Donovan announced.

Pregame show on NBC Sports Bay California begins at 3:30 p.m., with tip-off scheduled for 4:00 pm.

Following the game, the Kings finish off their three-game road trip with a stop in Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday. They’ll return home to Golden 1 Center to play the Memphis Grizzlies on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday. 

Line: Thunder by 10

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Yogi Ferrell
SF Buddy Hield
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Thunder

PG Russell Westbrook
SG Terrance Ferguson
SF Paul George 
PF Patrick Patterson
C Steven Adams

Injury Report

Kings 

SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (left knee) OUT, C Kosta Koufos (hamstring) OUT. 

Thunder 

PG Russell Westbrook (knee) has been cleared to play and won't be on a minutes restriction.

Rotation Outlook

Kings

Coach Dave Joerger is looking for answers after a poor defensive showing against the Pelicans on Friday. He turned to rookie Marvin Bagley III early in both the first and third quarters against New Orleans, playing the big a team-high 32 minutes in the loss.

De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein have all put up big numbers in the team’s first two games and should be expected to play 30 plus minutes a night early in the season. Frank Mason came off the bench to put up 18 points and dish out six assists last game, but his minutes will likely fluctuate greatly early in the year.

Zach Randolph is out of the rotation and not expected to see playing time for the foreseeable future.

Thunder

Billy Donovan is using a focused nine-man rotation early in the season with rookie Hamidou Diallo playing sparingly as a 10th man. That might all change if Westbrook returns to action.

Patrick Patterson is in the starting lineup playing stretch four alongside big man Steven Adams. Patterson’s shooting ability creates plenty of space for Adams to go to work in the post. Paul George has been carrying the scoring load with Westbrook out of action. 

Al Horford's reported Celtics exit has some thinking he'll join Kings

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USATSI

Al Horford's reported Celtics exit has some thinking he'll join Kings

The Al Horford era in Boston reportedly is over.

After three seasons with the Celtics, the All-Star big man reportedly has decided to opt out of his contract and will look to sign a longer-term deal elsewhere, The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett reported Tuesday, citing league sources. 

Horford arrived in Boston ahead of the 2016-17 season, viewing the C's as a team that was about to take the leap into NBA Finals contention. Three years later, Kyrie Irving's expected departure has made Danny Ainge's giant asset Jenga board crumble, and now Horford appears to be on the market, looking for a chance to win a title during the latter stages of his career. 

This news, naturally, sent Twitter into a tizzy, and it had some pinpointing the Kings as a likely destination for Big Al.

The Kings, fresh off a 39-43 season where they showed they were one of the up-and-coming young teams in the league, are projected to have the cap space to sign Horford to the long-term deal he reportedly is seeking.

Horford, obviously, would be a great veteran piece on what is a young, inexperienced team. The Florida product has been the model of maturity and consistency during his NBA career and would be a respected veteran voice for a young Kings team. With Sacramento looking to make a leap into the playoffs next season, Horford could serve as a steadying force -- the same way he was in Boston -- and help the Kings navigate the rigors of the NBA season.

Putting Horford next to Marvin Bagley III also would give the Kings a loaded frontcourt that would have the ability to dominate the glass. Also, Horford's intelligence and veteran savvy on the defensive end of the floor is something that could help the Kings go up a level as they look to move above the .500-mark next season. 

Now, are the Kings in a position to take a leap and potentially win a title during the next few seasons? That part's a little iffy.

[RELATED: What Barnes' decision to opt out means for Kings]

NBA free agency begins June 30.

What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

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USATSI

What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

SACRAMENTO -- Harrison Barnes, unrestricted free agent.

The news certainly came as a surprise Tuesday morning when the Kings forward chose to walk away from the final year of his contract that would have paid him $25.1 million next season.

While it might have been slightly unexpected, it wasn’t for Kings general manager Vlade Divac and his team. It might have even been the plan all along.

At 27 years old, Barnes has plenty of basketball in his future, and the Kings would like him to remain a part of that. According to multiple sources, the Kings are confident they can lock up their starting small forward to a long-term deal.

There's always a risk that Barnes will find the open market enticing and leave without compensation for Sacramento. That would be bad news for the Kings’ offseason plans, but it also would open up a massive amount of salary-cap space for the team to aggressively pursue other options.

Don’t be shocked if Barnes and the Kings move quickly on a four-year deal once free agency opens June 30. Barnes follows the age arc of most of the roster, and he instantly fit in as a veteran leader with deep playoff experience.

Barnes had the option of accepting his player option and then working on an extension with the Kings later in the offseason. By opting out, there is a possibility that he is willing to forgo some of the $25.1 million this season for a long-term stability.

Is Barnes worth a four-year, $72 million to $80 million contract? To the Kings, the answer is yes. And a contract like that immediately would impact Sacramento’s bottom line.

With Barnes, the Kings have approximately $67 million in guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. That doesn’t include a $6.3 million qualifying offer for Willie Cauley-Stein, $1.6 million in non-guaranteed money for Frank Mason, or a team option on Yogi Ferrell at $3.1 million.

Without Barnes’ $25.1 million, Sacramento has $41.9 million in guaranteed deals and $67.1 million in available space. The Kings have another $6.3 million in minimum salary-cap holds, giving them roughly $60.8 million in available space, again, without Ferrell, Cauley-Stein or Mason.

There are further cap implications, like massive holds for Barnes and Cauley-Stein, but those are complicated and require far more explanation. The short answer is that the Kings can eliminate those holds by renouncing their rights to either player.

While nothing is locked up with Barnes as of June 18, this might be a perfect world scenario for the Kings. If he takes a longer-term deal, but with a reduced salary in Year 1, it gives the team additional resources up front while retaining an important part of their core.

A starting salary of $18 million to $20 million would open an extra $5 million to $7 million in cap space for this summer, giving Divac and his staff the ammunition necessary to chase a major free agent and still have enough to make one or two major additional improvements.

[RELATED: Kings get good look at two guards in final pre-draft workout]

This likely is the Kings’ road map for this summer, although there are no guarantees that they can pull it all off. Step one now is to retain Barnes. Step two is to swing for the fences and fill the voids in the rotation.