The 2018 NBA trade deadline is almost upon us. Teams have until 12 p.m. PST on Thursday to submit deals to the league office for approval. So far, it’s been an active trade season with players like Blake Griffin, Avery Bradley and Nikola Mirotic already changing locations.
Sacramento continues to come up in the rumor mill, most notably, veteran point guard George Hill. With a little more than 24 hours to swing a trade, here is the latest on the Kings.
The Kings went full rebuild after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins last February. They have 10 young players under rookie scale contracts and are looking toward the summer of 2019 as the moment when they have a better assessment of what they have and what they need.
Vince Carter is a free agent after this season and contracts with veterans Zach Randolph, George Hill, Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple all expire following the 2018-19 campaign, giving the Kings a clean slate and tons of cap space.
After multiple conversations, it is clear that the Kings are looking at deals that will not impact the young core of the team or tie them to a bad contract past next season. If they make a deal, it is to improve the team’s outlook for today, tomorrow and two years from now.
A perfect scenario for Sacramento is one that brings in a young asset, be it a player or draft pick, while staying cap neutral for the summer of 2019.
Talent is the biggest need. Regardless of position, the Kings could use upgrades, but that doesn’t usually happen for a team that is looking to sell and not buy at the deadline.
The top priority moving forward is to find a permanent solution at the small forward position and a combo-forward or stretch four. Both of these positions can be filled through the draft or free agency over the summer, but getting a jump on team needs is never a bad idea.
Sacramento has plenty of depth at both guard spots and the frontcourt is crowded as well. A redistribution of talent is in order, but nothing they do right now is going to change the trajectory of this season.
Hill tops the list of players the Kings wouldn’t mind moving. He signed a three-year, $57 million deal over the summer, with a $1 million team buyout for the final season. The 31-year-old guard has gone on record with his wishes to find a new situation, although his path to freedom isn’t an easy one.
If the Kings can find a taker that doesn’t add years to the salary cap, they’ll listen. If they are asked to take back additional money in the form of J.R. Smith’s $3.9 million buyout in 2019, they will want to be compensated.
Randolph could also be had, but at 36-years-old and with $11.7 million owed next season, that’s a tall task. He could help a playoff contender as a low post threat and rebounder and the Kings have plenty of young bodies to eat his minutes.
Temple and Koufos both have player options for next season. If the Kings believe that either or both are going to opt out, they might try to get something in return for them now. They are solid role players and great locker room additions who could help plenty of teams, and their contracts are manageable.
Carter is making $8 million this season, which makes it tougher to move the former All-Star. He can still play and still help a team, but his contract-to-value is a tough sell.
Sacramento isn’t looking to move any of the team’s young players, but that doesn’t mean that one or two couldn’t be added to a larger transaction.
The Kings are still in evaluation mode with their young core. De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic have the makings of a nice backcourt pairing. Buddy Hield is a scoring option off the bench and Willie Cauley-Stein has improved greatly in his third season.
Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason have been in the rotation as well. Labissiere and Mason are currently injured, but both are expected back around the All-Star break. Jackson has started the last six games for the Kings and is showing signs of improvement.
Malachi Richardson is out with an ankle sprain, but he hasn’t been in the rotation, even with the team going young. Georgios Papagiannis is still considered a project in year two.
Lastly, there’s Harry Giles. It doesn’t matter who you talk to around the team, Giles is the name that always comes up. There is a legitimate buzz surrounding the Duke product and his potential.
Sacramento has taken a cautious approach in assessing and strengthening the 19-year-old big. They strongly believe that he is now 100 percent healthy and that if not for his bilateral knee injuries, he would have been the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
In talking to people within the walls of Golden 1 Center, it’s clear that Fox, Bogdanovic and Giles, at a minimum, are all off the table. Unfortunately for Sacramento, the roster sits at 15, which means that unless the team makes a straight player for player deal, one of more of the young players might have to be included.