The Toronto Raptors made a huge commitment to power forward Pascal Siakam on Saturday morning, locking up the 25-year-old big on a four-year, $130 million max money contract.
Taken with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Siakam is just the fourth first-round pick from the 2016 class to garner an extension.
That’s a lot of money for a player who worked his way through the G League to become an NBA champion, although it’s well deserved. Siakam was an integral part of the Raptors squad, and with Kawhi Leonard bolting for the Clippers in free agency, he is now the centerpiece of Toronto’s title defense.
The Raptors have their man, but what does this mean for Buddy Hield, another 2016 alum, and the Sacramento Kings team he has been playing hardball with over the last two weeks?
Hield has made it his mission to get an extension before the clock strikes 2 p.m. PT on Oct. 21. He wants a four-year, $110 million contract, which he has been aggressive in trying to obtain. He has even taken a step or two out of bounds while trying to plead his case.
When Siakam’s deal was announced, Hield’s camp likely gave a silent fist pump. Another of Hield’s class got paid handsomely for his skills as a basketball player. But when the dust settles, Toronto’s decision might not be in Hield’s favor.
Sure, Siakam got a truckload of cash. That is what Hield is looking for, which he made sure general manager Vlade Divac understood Saturday afternoon at the team’s Fan Fest.
But the reality of Hield’s situation might begin to sink in very soon. Sacramento holds all the cards with regards to the restricted free agent. The Kings are setting their price now, and next summer might not hold any relief for Hield and his negotiating team.
With Toronto paying out Siakam, there are now just four teams with $20 million or more to offer next summer. That number could adjust slightly at the trade deadline, but it could also shrink, especially if the situation in China becomes more of an issue for the NBA.
If Hield is looking at the group of teams with money, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte and Cleveland are it. If that is what he wants, he’s taking a substantial step back when it comes to the win column, and that is if one of those teams deems him worthy of a long-term contract offer.
Maybe money is more important than wins, but that is not what the Bahamian-born shooter has spent the last two seasons promoting.
If he decides to hit the free-agent market, he’ll do so with the understanding that the Kings can (and in all likelihood will) match any offer. They’ll also likely get a discount, because any offer comes with a 5 percent raise, instead of the 8 percent that Sacramento can offer.
Divac is willing to sit down at the table, but he’s playing with a royal flush, and he knows it. He would prefer an amicable conclusion to what has become a debacle. He would prefer to finish this saga by hugging Hield and welcoming him back into the fray with no hurt feelings.
Hield has an out. He can just play out this season and the 2020-21 campaign as well under a $6.5 million qualifying offer. He would then become an unrestricted free agent and the Kings would no longer have a hold over him, outside of his Larry Bird rights.
Hield would also give up anywhere from $16 to 21 million in salary during the 2020-21 season and enter free agency as a 28-, going on 29-year-old free agent. The chance of him recouping his lost wages would be minimal at best, but he could write his own ticket.
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Siakam is a feel-good story. Hield could be as well. Like Siakam, he has made himself into a bonafide player in the NBA by working hard and finding his niche. But finding common ground with the Kings, instead of practicing a scorched-earth policy, might be his path to salvation.
In a Kings season focused on snapping a 13-year playoff drought, Hield’s situation is quickly becoming an unwanted distraction. There is still a chance for an amicable resolution. There is also a chance that he is creating a toxic situation.
The two sides have a little over 24 hours to work things out. If not, this could drag on into the season and potentially beyond. There is common ground somewhere, and someone needs to find it quickly.