Kings

NBA free agency 2019: Examining Kings' current roster construction

NBA free agency 2019: Examining Kings' current roster construction

The 2019 NBA Draft is over and now the real work begins for the Sacramento Kings. They have massive holes to fill in their roster and a Brinks truck full of cash to spend.

Free agency begins June 30, although no one can officially sign until July 6. Teams around the league are lining up for big fish like Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Khris Middleton, Kevin Durant, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and Al Horford.

Sacramento is an up-and-coming team with a solid core and a play style that should be attractive to free agents. Whether they can land a big fish is still in question, but they have the cash to be a player.

Long-term flexibility is still a priority, but adding a major piece or two is a necessity at this point with the improvements throughout the Western Conference.

Cap Space 

$60.8 million (with seven minimum scale -- 7 x $900,000 = $6.3 million) cap holds and without the contracts of Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason and three second-round selections

Current Roster

(Guaranteed contracts): De’Aaron Fox ($6.4 million), Buddy Hield ($4.9 million), Bogdan Bogdanovic ($8.5 million), Marvin Bagley ($8.6 million), Nemanja Bjelica ($6.8 million), Harry Giles ($2.6 million), Caleb Swanigan ($2 million)

Options: Yogi Ferrell ($3.2 million team option July 4), Frank Mason ($1.6 million team option Oct. 15)

Free Agents: Kosta Koufos (UFA -- $16.6 million cap hold), Willie Cauley-Stein (projected RFA -- $6.3 million qualifying offer, $14.1 million cap hold), Alec Burks (UFA -- $17.3 million cap hold), Harrison Barnes (UFA -- $32.7 million cap hold), Corey Brewer (UFA -- $2.4 million cap hold)

Dead Money: Matt Barnes ($2.1 million)

Roster Space: Without counting any of the three second-round selections, the King' roster currently stands at seven, but that number could grow to nine if they pick up the team options on both Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason.

Needs: Center, Small Forward, Defenders, Overall Depth

Trade Chips

In past season, the Kings have had at least a few veteran players on expiring contracts. That is not the case this year. If they are going to improve their roster, it has to come through free agency or as a soft landing spot for a salary dump.

If the team extends a qualifying offer to Willie Cauley-Stein, they can possibly facilitate a sign-and-trade, but there is limited value in this scenario. The team could also dip into their young core, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Expectations

The Kings have holes to fill and this is a strong free-agent class. Vlade Divac has to dip his toe in Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the group, even if that means overpaying or swinging and missing.

He also needs to get on the phone and see if he can improve his team by taking on a significant contract from a team that is either over the luxury threshold or in need of a reboot.

[RELATED: 10 options to replace Willie Cauley-Stein in free agency, trade]

Last summer the team took a cautious approach to free agency. That cannot be the team’s approach this year.

The Western Conference has loaded up. Teams like the Lakers and Jazz have already made significant strides forward. If the Kings hope to compete for a playoff spot, they need help and they need it now.

Sacramento Kings focused on communication, chemistry on defensive end

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AP

Sacramento Kings focused on communication, chemistry on defensive end

The Sacramento Kings have a tall task in front of them.  During a condensed training camp, that included a 17,000 mile round trip adventure to India, head coach Luke Walton and his staff have to install a new base offense and defense, while learning personnel and finding combinations that work together on the court.   

“It’s a new group, there’s new terminology to learn, there’s new playcalls to learn, new concepts to learn and we get that, so it’s going to take time,” Walton explained following practice on Saturday afternoon.

Sacramento has plenty of scoring options and they will continue to play an uptempo style, so the coaching staff has prioritized the defensive side of the ball. Walton and his staff are preaching not only concepts, but they have placed a heavy emphasis on communication during every practice.

“Off the court, everybody is fine with each other, but on the court, everybody is starting to talk a little bit more and that communication is the big difference from we had last year,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said.

Communication was a huge issue for Sacramento last season when the team allowed 115.3 points per game and finished 20th in the league in defensive rating. To combat the issue, the coaching staff is using some old school methods to drive the point home.

“They’re always stopping the practice when we are not communicating well and when we are not loud,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.

The team made defensive upgrades at crucial positions, including their backup point guard and small forward positions, as well as their starting center spot. The added size and length will allow them to expand their defensive playbook to include a switching defense.

“We are really big athletes and we have length, speed and we can guard one through four anyone in the league,” Bogdanovic said. “I think we are pretty talented to switch and I like it.”

In order to run a switching scheme, Walton first had to install a base defense and then expand from there. Communication and chemistry are imperative when handing opponents off from one player to the next, which the team is working on everyday. 

“I think it’s definitely building,” Fox said. “We have a lot of new guys this year and an entirely new coaching staff, so the chemistry is definitely building, but I don’t think it’s at a bad place right now.”

It’s going to be a work in progress, which the team learned in the back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers in India. Sacramento gave up a combined 262 points over the two games before heading home to face the Suns earlier this week.

“Obviously the first two games we didn’t play defense the way we wanted,” Bogdanovic said. “We showed improvement in the game against Phoenix here and that’s the way we want to play.”

Sacramento held the Suns to just 88 points on 31.4 percent shooting. The Kings also outrebounded their opponent 59-43, which was another tremendous improvement.

It should be noted that the Suns won 19 games last season. They are nowhere near the quality of opponent of a team like the Pacers, but they are still an NBA team with plenty of scoring options.

The Kings get another shot to test how far they have progressed on Monday when they travel to Utah to face a very difficult Jazz team. They aren’t expecting to be perfect, but it’s another opportunity to improve.

“Are we anywhere close to where we need to be?,” Walton said. “No, we’re nowhere close. But to me, that’s to be expected. We don’t want to speed up the process and try to rush anything. We know we’re on a journey as a team.”

Following the game against the Jazz, the Kings close out their preseason schedule at Golden 1 Center with a game against Melbourne United on Wednesday. They’ll have a week to further work out the kinks in preparation for the season opener against the Suns on Oct. 23.

Why De'Aaron Fox hopes Buddy Hield, Kings get contract extension done

Why De'Aaron Fox hopes Buddy Hield, Kings get contract extension done

SACRAMENTO -- The clock is ticking.

Can the Sacramento Kings and shooting guard Buddy Hield agree on a long-term contract extension before the Oct. 21 deadline, or must he play out this season and enter the summer as a restricted free agent?

Hield has been vocal about remaining in Sacramento, and he even might be willing to take less than the maximum.

On Saturday afternoon, De’Aaron Fox lent his support to his starting backcourt mate.

“Everybody deals with their own, so it’s something I worry about, but obviously, I want to continue to play with a guy like that,” Fox told NBC Sports California. “For me, just hopefully they get it done.”

Fox and Hield built chemistry on the floor last season, and are developing into a dynamic backcourt. While Fox isn’t going to jump in and help out with negotiations, he'd like to keep Hield and the rest of the young core together in Sacramento and see if they can develop into something special.

“For sure,” Fox said when asked about the core staying together. “I think we have a lot of things that we can continue to get better at, and I think once everyone is at their peak, I think we’ll be a hell of a team.”

Hield is the first of the Kings' key players to go through the negotiating process with general manager Vlade Divac, but this is only the beginning.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is in the final year of his first NBA contract. While he falls under the league’s restrictions for rookie-scale contracts and can become a restricted free agent after this season, the Kings have until June 30 to work out an extension for the 27-year-old wing.

Divac and his staff also can begin negotiations on an extension with Fox next offseason, and Marvin Bagley is eligible for a new deal during the summer of 2021.

The Kings have decisions to make on other players as well, but their core four of Hield, Fox, Bogdanovic and Bagley are all due extensions over the next 24 months. Divac will have to balance the salary cap, as well as make decisions on which players will receive the team’s two “designated player” five-year extensions.

Hield and Divac were seen joking around together after practice Friday. If a deal isn’t done soon, those smiles might not last as we draw closer to the extension deadline.