James Ham

Source: Nemanja Bjelica, Kings having deep contract discussions

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USATSI

Source: Nemanja Bjelica, Kings having deep contract discussions

The Sacramento Kings are ready to strike a deal.

After a slow start to free agency, NBC Sports California has confirmed that the Kings are in deep discussions with free agent forward Nemanja Bjelica on a two-year contract. Terms are unknown at this time. 

News of potential interest between the parties first broke Wednesday afternoon.

Bjelica agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on July 5, but he never signed on the dotted line and informed the team earlier this week of his decision to return to Europe this season.

The 6-foot-10 combo forward spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He posted 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game under coach Tom Thibodeau, but his opportunities were limited in the T-Wolves' system.

At 30, Bjelica is older than most of the Kings’ recent targets, but he potentially could fill a glaring hole in the roster as a shooter at both the three and the four. Bjelica split his minutes between both forward positions in Minnesota last season, knocking down a career-best 41.5 percent on 2.7 attempts per game from behind the arc. 

There is no word yet on the exact dollar figure offered by the Kings. Sacramento has a whopping $20.5 million in salary-cap space to work with, and the free agent market is nearly dried up. 

While four years older, Bjelica compares favorably as a player to the Spurs’ Davis Bertans, who signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract to return to San Antonio earlier this month as a restricted free agent. 

According to a source, Sacramento likes Bjelica’s versatility and believes he can eat minutes at small forward this season, as well as shifting over to play the four.

It will be a surprise if Ben McLemore or Deyonta Davis actually wear a Kings uniform

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AP

It will be a surprise if Ben McLemore or Deyonta Davis actually wear a Kings uniform

We have a trade. Garrett Temple is on his way to the Memphis Grizzlies. In return, the Sacramento Kings receive former King Ben McLemore, along with big man Deyonta Davis, cash considerations and a 2021 second round draft pick.

Temple opted in to the final year of his 3-year, $24 million deal in late June and was due $8 million this season. Lost in the shuffle of young players at shooting guard, Sacramento made it clear to the 32-year-old wing that he was not part of the plan for the 2018-19 season before he picked up his option.

Known for his work in the community and presence in the locker room, the eight-year NBA veteran posted 8.4 points on 39.2 percent shooting from long range in 65 games last season in Sacramento. 

After being drafted with the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft by Sacramento, McLemore spent the first four seasons of his career in a Kings uniform. He signed a two-year deal with the Grizzlies last season and will make $5.4 million this season. 

Davis struggled to find court time with the Grizzlies in his first two seasons out of Michigan State. The 6-foot-11, 237 pound center has potential, but he’ll join a crowded frontcourt in Sacramento. He averaged 5.8 points and four rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game in his sophomore season in Memphis. 

Why Temple?

Sacramento has struggled to find strong veteran leadership over the last decade, but Temple fit the bill. After working his way into the league on 10-day contracts and trips overseas, the LSU grad seemed to find a home with the Kings.

But the emergence of shooting guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield made Temple the odd man out in the rotation this season. The Kings were able to break his contract up into smaller pieces in this deal, which opens the door for more transactions. 

In a perfect world, the Kings may have looked to move Iman Shumpert instead of Temple, but his injury history and $11.4 million contract for this season is a tough sell in a cash strapped market.

Why McLemore and Davis?

It’s hard to see either of these players sticking around for very long. McLemore struggled to find playing time in his final two seasons in Sacramento and that’s before they had emerging players at his position. It’s unlikely he’ll get another shot at competing for minutes. He makes $5.4 million this season, which can be bought out and either stretched over three years to open more space or paid out in one lump sum this season.  

Davis is owed $1.5 million this season, making him an affordable reserve option if the Kings choose to keep him around. He’s on the final year of his rookie contract and is a restricted free agent after this season.

What’s next?

The Kings saved roughly $1 million in cap space with the deal, pushing their available total to approximately $20.5 million. 

This deal was more about adding another second round pick and clearing Temple’s $8 million off the books, while finding the veteran a soft landing spot. While the team has yet make their plans known, it would be a surprise to see either McLemore or Davis in a Kings uniform this season.

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.