The Sacramento Kings came into the offseason with a couple of looming decisions regarding their veterans. First, Kosta Koufos picked up his player option last month, choosing an $8.7 million payday over free agency. It now appears that Iman Shumpert is ready to make a similar decision.
According to Shams Charania of Yahoo!, Shumpert has informed the Kings that he will exercise his player option for the final season of the four-year, $40 million deal he signed in 2015. Shumpert is scheduled to make $11 million this season in Sacramento.
Shumpert joined the Kings at the trade deadline as part of the deal that sent George Hill and his $20 million contract for the 2018-19 season to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 27-year-old wing sat out the second half of the season after developing plantar fasciitis in his left foot while rehabbing from left knee surgery. He has never officially suited up in a Kings uniform for a regular season game.
Limited to just 14 games with the Cavaliers, the seven-year NBA vet scored 4.4 points and grabbed 2.9 rebounds per game. After missing most of the 2017-18 season, his decision to opt in was almost foregone conclusion from the moment he was acquired.
The Ripple Effect
Shumpert’s decision to stay in Sacramento might have a carry-over to another veteran weighing his options. Garrett Temple has to choose whether to return for one season at $8 million or test free agency.
The Kings have made no effort to hide their youth movement, leaving both Shumpert and Temple in a precarious position when it comes to minutes. The duo can play spot duty at the small forward position, but both are natural shooting guards.
Sacramento has Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield ready to take the majority of minutes at the two, and the team hopes to address the small forward position via the draft or through free agency.
With Shumpert in tow, the Kings have 10 players with guaranteed contracts next season, before Temple makes his decision. They also have the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and an early second round pick as well, which could conceivably push their roster to 12 or 13 players before the opening of free agency on July 1.
If the Kings hope to make the roster changes necessary to improve, they’ll need to be aggressive on the market with their group of expiring contracts and possibly one or more of their young players.
Shumpert’s $11 million is a tough pill to swallow, but much better than paying George Hill’s $19 million owed next season. Vlade Divac saved $8 million in cash and roughly $6 million in cap space for the 2018-19 season when factoring in Georgios Papagiannis’ $2 million in dead money. The 20-year-old big was waived to make room for the Hill transaction.
If Temple opts out and hits the free agent market, the Kings would have roughly $28 million to spend in free agency this summer. If Temple opts in, that number would be reduced to $20 million, which is still substantially more than most teams have this offseason.
Sacramento is in a strong, long-term financial position. Willie Cauley-Stein is the only young player entering the final year of his rookie deal and he will likely have to play out this season without a contract extension offer.
Koufos, Shumpert, Zach Randolph and Temple, if he opts in, will all become free agents after this season, giving the Kings an estimated $63 million in cap room for the summer of 2019.
Shumpert opted in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will open the season in Kings purple. Sacramento can shop the veteran now to teams on the trade market looking for veteran defensive help or hold on to him until closer to the deadline when expiring contracts have potential value.
If the Kings decide to jump into the free agent market with two feet and need extra cap space, they also have the option of waiving Shumpert and using the NBA’s stretch provision. His $11 million salary would break down into three separate chunks, clearing $7.3 million in cap space this season while costing the Kings roughly $3.7 million each of the next two seasons when they have plenty of cap space to work with.