Kings

Where the Kings stand two weeks into free agency

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AP

Where the Kings stand two weeks into free agency

Slowly, but surely, the 2018 NBA free agent market is drying up. So far, the Sacramento Kings have dipped a toe in the waters, but never fully committed to the process. As one available player after another comes off the board, the Kings still have glaring needs and very few options.

With $19.5 million in cap space still in hand, the Kings appear content with an incomplete roster. They are the lone team in the NBA that has yet to add a single player via signing or trade as the second full week of free agency comes to a close.

There is still time to wheel and deal, but the price of substantive changes is starting to shift from free agents to more complex deals. There are still a few options, but the chance of landing a true impact player is all but gone. So might the ability to add either a starting level small forward or stretch four, the team’s two biggest needs. 

Restricted Free Agents

Delving into the world of restricted free agents is never fun. More often than not, a player is setting his value on the open market and is then retained by the team that holds his rights. There is danger in playing the fool in these situations and it’s unlikely that Sacramento will continue to dabble in this market after their first swing and miss. 

The Kings overpaid with their four-year, $78 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Zach LaVine and even that didn’t work. They stopped short of handing the 23-year-old guard a deal the Bulls wouldn’t match. With a starting salary of $19.5 million, which the Kings offered, they could have gone as high as $87 million over four years. They knew the moment they signed the offer sheet, the chance of landing LaVine was a 50-50 proposition, at best. 

According to reports Saturday morning, Jabari Parker is signing a 2-year, $40 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team. With Parker off the board, the Kings missed out on one of the final young impact offensive players in this year’s free agent class. Milwaukee was up against the luxury cap and they’re also hard capped. Parker is one of the few restricted players that have changed uniforms this offseason. 

Rumors of Sacramento’s interest in Marcus Smart faded quickly. It’s possible the noise was nothing more than chatter in an attempt to increase interest in the 24-year-old defensive specialist. Boston is likely to match a reasonable offer for Smart, but if the numbers climb over the $14-15 million a year mark, they may balk at retaining the former sixth overall selection from the 2014 NBA Draft. With Parker signing with Chicago, does Smart become more of a target from Sacramento? 

Outside of Parker and Smart, Clint Capela and Rodney Hood are two of the few remaining options on the market. Capella appears locked into a return to Houston, but the two sides are still haggling over price. Hood is more of a shooting guard, but at 6-foot-8, he could easily steal minutes at the small forward position in the modern NBA.

Sacramento has shown interest in Hood, but there is concern that Cleveland is prepared to match a reasonable offer for the wing. Is he worth an offer of $14-16 million a year? That’s unlikely, but anything over $13 million for Hood this season pushes the Cavs into the luxury tax. 

Trying to balance value with production is never easy with restricted free agents. You often have to pay well over what a player is worth and even then, the team that owns his rights might match.

Unrestricted Free Agents

If the market for restricted free agents seems bare, the unrestricted free agent market is even worse. David Nwaba is a player that could draw interest from Sacramento after having his qualifying offer rescinded. The 25-year-old shooting guard is a big, strong, defender that showed marked improvement in his second season in the league. Nwaba averaged 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game for Chicago and has the ability to steal minutes at small forward.

Reports say that Sacramento kicked the tires on James Ennis before he signed with the Houston Rockets this week. Players like Michael Beasley and Corey Brewer are available as stop gaps for the Kings need at small forward, but they likely don’t represent much of an improvement over Garrett Temple and Iman Shumpert. 

This market is thoroughly picked through at this point. 

Make a Trade

Early in the free agency period, rumors had the Kings willing to take on bad contracts in exchange for a 2019 pick. If this is the case, Sacramento missed out on the right deal on Thursday when the Nuggets sent Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, a 2019 first (protected 1-12) and a future second round pick to Brooklyn for Isaiah Whitehead. The deal saved Denver more than $21 million in cap space and the Kings clearly had the room and assets to make this deal.

Maybe there is another deal out there similar to this one. Sacramento, Dallas and Atlanta are the only teams remaining on the market with any tangible cap space and the Mavs have already earmarked their money for retaining Dirk Nowitzki. The Hawks have less than $10 million to spend after taking on Jeremy Lin’s contract this week from the Nets, leaving the Kings as the lone team with major cap space.

Oklahoma is searching for a home for Carmelo Anthony to avoid a $100 million extra in luxury tax, but they lack the assets to attach to any deal. Both Portland and Washington are over the luxury tax threshold and have available players and picks that might make sense for the Kings.

Sacramento also has a log jam at the power forward and center positions. They could attempt to rebalance their roster through trade, although this market usually heats up after the initial free agent period has cooled. 

Stay the Course

The plan has always been to develop the young players. With nearly $40 million in expiring contracts and a ton of cap space, the Kings can stand pat and wait for the market to open up again near the trade deadline in February. At that time, teams around the league might be more willing to dangle a 2019 first rounder or a young player in a deal. 

This isn’t exactly the best look. The Kings have holes in their roster as of mid-July. Having a young team is one thing, but handing Dave Joerger and his staff a structurally flawed group isn’t a great business practice. 

Sacramento shouldn’t spend money just to spend. They should spend because they have needs to fill. If by the end of the season Sacramento fails to reach the NBA’s salary floor of roughly $91.6 million, they have to redistribute the difference amongst their rostered players. 

Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

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USATSI

Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- No team needed the All-Star break more than Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox. An early-season ankle injury was getting heavy. Bumps and bruises were adding up and the time away was an opportunity to both heal up and mentally reset.

That worked for all of one game. 

Fox woke up on Friday morning with a sore left shoulder. He’s had it taped up the last two games, but he’s playing through the issue.

In the team’s 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday, Fox disappeared to the locker room due to tightness in his right groin. He returned to the game and looked no worse for wear.

Fox is fighting through the pain because his team needs him on the court if they have any hope of continuing what has become a hot streak. 

“It’s motivating,” veteran wing Kent Bazemore said of Fox playing through pain. “You can see him wincing out there, but he’s pushing through. It means a lot that he’s bought in. We have his back and he is still demanding a lot of attention, dominating the game.”

Against the Warriors, Fox stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 21 points, five assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes of play. He shot just 4-of-9 from the free-throw stripe, but that has nothing to do with the nagging issues he’s currently struggling with.

“I don’t know,” Fox said when asked about shooting freebies. “I think we just gotta get there and get better. I don’t really know what else to say about it.”

Is there concern that the injuries will take Fox off the court or decrease his effectiveness? Absolutely, but in the NBA, injuries always are part of the game.

“They tell me he’s good to go, I asked him at halftime and he said, ‘play me’,” Luke Walton said. “Between our medical staff and talking to him, I feel confident. He came out and made some big-time in that second half and seemed to be alright.”

The team will be cautious with the 22-year-old budding star, but they also are going to forge ahead. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

“We’ll go about it smartly and we’ll give him off days where he needs it and rehab and treatment and all that,” Walton added.

Fox is averaging 19.9 points and 6.9 assists for the Kings this season. He’s taking another leap forward in his production and growth, but Sacramento needs him at full strength if they are going to continue to stay in the hunt for the postseason. 

Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors

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USATSI

Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- These aren’t your championship Warriors. 

The Kings walked into Chase Center Tuesday night and while it wasn’t always pretty, they put the smackdown on the team from the Bay Area.

Golden State struggled from the perimeter, hitting just 4-of-28 shots from long range. Sacramento countered by knocking down just 19-of-34 from the free-throw line to let the Warriors stick around. 

In the end, it was too much Buddy Hield in the fourth for Golden State (12-46), and the Kings came away with the 112-92 win.

Here are three takeaways as Sacramento (24-33) picked up their third straight victory to improve to 24-33 on the season.

Better late than never

Hield had a quiet game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, scoring just seven points in 15 minutes of action. 

The Kings’ leading scorer got off to a slow start at Chase, but then let it fly to open the fourth. Hield hit the Warriors with three straight 3-pointers to open up a 17-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Hield scored 15 of their 19 points in the final period and chipped in six rebounds. Buddy showed up when his team needed it and put the game away. 

Barnes does it again

Harrison Barnes came into Tuesday averaging 17.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting from 3-point range over his previous five games. He put on another show against the Warriors.

The Kings’ starting small forward posted 14 points in the first quarter to get the ball rolling. He was quiet late but still managed to post 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting including a pair of makes from long range.

Barnes decided back in December that he wouldn’t shave his face until the team got to .500. He now seems to be harnessing the power of the beard. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

Making an impact

After failing to notch a double-double in his first 87 career games, Harry Giles almost got a streak going.

The second-year center scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Warriors' frontline. He struggled in the pick-and-roll against Marquese Chriss, but was active and made an impact on the floor. 

If Giles can continue to play like this, Walton will have plenty of options in the post when Richaun Holmes eventually returns to the court.