If Saturday’s five-player trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to the Portland Trail Blazers is any indication, the Kings are open for business and aren’t waiting around for the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline to start overhauling the roster.
At 15-27, this is the right move. The Kings got off to a rough start and they currently are spiraling out of control as they make their way through the longest road trip on their schedule.
General manager Vlade Divac and his group need to be bold if they hope to hold their core together and perhaps build on it.
Here is how the roster shakes out with a little over two weeks before the deadline.
De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley
Fox and Bagley are completely off the board in any trade scenario, according to a source with knowledge of the Kings’ thinking. Fox is taking another step in his development in Year 3 and is the face of the franchise. Bagley has battled injuries throughout his two NBA seasons, but the Kings still believe in his talent and aren’t even close to moving on from the 20-year-old power forward.
Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes
Holmes is the surprise of the 2019-20 season for the Kings. It took him four games to displace starter Dewayne Dedmon, and at two-years, $10 million, he’s one of the best deals in the league. He’s a hard worker and a high character guy and his age fits the current player arc.
While Barnes isn’t having his best offensive season, there is a reason why the Kings traded for him and then signed him to a four-year, $84 million contract. He’s a pro’s pro who rarely misses a game. The Kings can run him out on the court for 38 minutes a game and know they are going to get solid production at the small forward position.
Rather keep, but it's complicated
Bogdanovic is a wild card for this team. They are just 2-9 when he misses a game, but are just 13-18 when he plays.
After paying Barnes and Buddy Hield over the summer and knowing that Fox and Bagley extensions are just around the corner, the Kings are going to have to scramble to keep everyone. Bogdanovic will be a restricted free agent on July 1, but he likes Sacramento, they like him and as long as the money doesn’t get completely out of control, the two sides would like to continue their union.
On the Block
On paper, Dedmon was the perfect fit next to Bagley in the post. Poor shooting, high turnover rate and a general malaise cost the veteran center his starting job, and his decision to go to the press demanding a trade cost him $50,000.
The Kings would love nothing more than to find a taker for Dedmon and his three-year, $40 million contract. There are teams that have sniffed around, but no takers as of yet. Dedmon is owed $13.3 million next season, but the final year of his deal is guaranteed at just $1 million. Expect the Kings to do their best to move on from the 30-year-old big, even if they have to get creative.
Veterans worth keeping
Cory Joseph, Nemanja Bjelica
Joseph signed a three-year, $37.2 million deal to back up Fox and provide veteran leadership. Early season injuries cost Fox 18 games, leaving Joseph to play heavy minutes. While he isn’t the offensive weapon that Fox is, Joseph plays hard and has one of the longest current games played streaks in the NBA. He’s owed $12.6 million next season, with a $2.4 million buyout in the third year. If the right deal came along, the Kings would listen, but Joseph has been as advertised in his first season in Sacramento.
Divac and his staff went searching for a perfect frontcourt pairing for Bagley, but they may have had the guy they needed already on the roster. Multiple teams have scouted Bjelica and would love to take the 31-year-old Serbian off the Kings’ hands. He’s on a team-friendly deal with a club option for next season at $7.2 million. He’s far outplayed his contract and he’s tough as nails.
Would they listen?
Contract negotiations were contentious leading into the season, but Hield finally got his payday from the Kings. Injuries to Fox and Bogdanovic have forced coach Luke Walton to use Hield in ways that he’s not suited for and he hasn’t responded well to the challenge. While he’s still leading the team in scoring at 20.1 points per game, his shooting numbers have taken a massive dip and his turnovers have spiked.
Hield’s contract status is complicated. He signed a four-year, $86 million extension during training camp, but he currently is making $4.9 million under his old deal. Dealing him before July 1 almost is impossible under the current collective bargaining agreement. Hield's bouts with inconsistency, specifically on the defensive end, have frustrated plenty of folks in Sacramento and his decisions to go public with internal matters haven’t helped his case.
The magnifying glass only gets hotter when he starts making $26.4 million next season.
Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Yogi Ferrell, Harry Giles
The Kings now have a variety of expiring contracts to work with, including the massive $19.2 million owed to Bazemore that they picked up in the deal with the Blazers. Tolliver is a veterans minimum player who makes $2.6 million and Ferrell is in the final year of his deal that pays him $3.2 million this season. Bazemore and Tolliver are slightly complicated because they were just acquired, but there still is a chance they can be moved, although as individual pieces.
In addition, the Kings have Harry Giles and his $2.6 million contract for this season. The team declined his fourth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent after the season and limiting their ability to re-sign the 21-year-old big. Giles' contract limitations move with him, making his contract more of an expiring deal than a trade asset.
In addition to players, Sacramento also has a massive stash of second-round selections, including four in 2020, three in 2021 and a total of 13 over the next six seasons. They also own all of their own first-round selections moving forward, although it would take a blockbuster to get them to move one of them. The Kings also have an open roster spot that can hold value under the right circumstance, and rookie Justin James is on a minimum scale deal, although he is well-liked and is unlikely to be moved.
Expect the Kings to be active and in asset collection mode. The season has not gone as planned, at all. They’ve made moves at the deadline the last few seasons and they've already started the activity this year. The Ariza deal opened up some new avenues and the team would love to move on from Dedmon and his contract, as long as it doesn’t hamper the franchise long term.
Lastly, despite the poor showing this season, the Kings still are just five games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference with 40 games remaining. There still is enough time for Divac to swing for the fences and try to change the team's fortunes this season.