Kent Bazemore

NBA free agency: Warriors' best targets for 2020 NBA offseason

NBA free agency: Warriors' best targets for 2020 NBA offseason

If things were going as scheduled, NBA free agency would be starting about a month and a half from now. But these are not normal times, and any schedule that was once conceived is no longer valid.

Important NBA dates are not the only things that will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, as the financial ramifications of any lost games or games without fans will be significant.

How will this change the NBA salary cap? Will teams be more frugal with their payroll with all their financial losses? These are some important questions that will have to be answered at some point.

[RELATED: Warriors' culture appeals to veterans, youngsters]

In the meantime, however, the Warriors are preparing to enter an offseason in which they will have a high draft pick, and not much salary flexibility as they will be a luxury tax team yet again. Unless the Warriors were to make significant moves to shed money, they will only have the ability to sign veteran free agents with the tax-payer midlevel exception, and veteran minimum contracts. 

Here are some unrestricted free agent possibilities to fill veteran roles, with their 2019-20 stats and age at during the 2020-21 season. Some of them are definitely more realistic than others.

VIEW WARRIORS' TOP FREE-AGENT TARGETS HERE

NBA rumors: Kings GM Vlade Divac, coach Luke Walton's jobs likely safe

NBA rumors: Kings GM Vlade Divac, coach Luke Walton's jobs likely safe

After an 0-5 start to the 2019-20 season, the Kings looked stunned. An eight-game losing streak in the month of December had the team all but dead in the water, and a six-game downturn in January had the Kings in need of some changes.

But a couple of moves at the trade deadline changed the chemistry of the Kings and righted the ship. Those trades might have saved the team from a tumultuous offseason filled with changes to the front office and coaching staff.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the pairing of head coach Luke Walton and Vlade Divac is likely to continue into the 2020-21 season, at a minimum.

“Owner Vivek Ranadive had made his frustrations known with both the front office and coaching staff during the Kings’ 15-29 start,” Amick writes. “Questions arose about whether he might be compelled to make changes in the offseason, but sources say Divac and Walton appear very likely to remain (their contracts run through the 2022-23 season).”

There was plenty of tension in the room as the Kings stumbled out of the gate and completely fell apart during one of the softer parts of their schedule in December. But with the Kings rattling off a 13-8 record in their final 21 games and jumping back into the postseason chase, the noise began to quiet down.

The Kings had 18 games remaining on the schedule when the NBA went on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone in the building appeared focused on the challenge at hand, which was ending the franchise’s 13-year playoff drought.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

At the time of the shutdown, Sacramento was in a three-way tie for ninth place in the Western Conference standings with the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans. The trio trailed the Memphis Grizzlies by three and a half games for the final postseason spot. 

There is no question that Walton and Divac are tied together in this venture. After a 39-43 record under head coach Dave Joerger during the 2018-19 season, the team’s best record since the 2005-06 season, Divac chose to go in a different direction. 

Rumors of Walton’s arrival had begun in Sacramento while he was still coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. The courtship lasted hours, not days, once Walton left the Lakers in an amicable split. 

Walton was Divac’s target and the Kings’ general manager landed his top option. 

Throughout the season, Walton asked for patience. Injuries to Marvin Bagley, De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic played a role in the slow start, as did the challenges brought on by installing new offensive and defensive principles. 

[RELATED: What is Marvin Bagley's long-term position in NBA?]

The team’s turnaround coincided with two major moves. Veteran Kent Bazemore was added to the squad in a trade for Trevor Ariza, and Walton moved sharpshooter Buddy Hield to the bench in favor of Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Hield has thrived in his role as a sixth-man, although he isn’t ecstatic about the move. Bogdanovic was still making adjustments with the starting group, but the team was winning.

At the time of the shutdown, the Kings were playing their best basketball of the season. They had positioned themselves in the thick of a postseason chase and the improvements on both sides of the basketball were apparent. 

While the Kings currently sit eight games under .500, there is no question that the team was trending upwards and Walton had bought himself another season, at least. 

Kings 20 questions: Has Kent Bazemore found a home in Sacramento?

Kings 20 questions: Has Kent Bazemore found a home in Sacramento?

Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.

The NBA has a handful of what I like to call self-made men. Players that went late in the draft or not at all, but defied the odds to carve out a niche in the league.

It takes a certain personality to endure disappointment and failures. Many of these players are hardened by trips to the G League or stints playing professionally in Europe or Asia. When they finally get a chance in the NBA, they find ways to stick with more than just talent and ability.

Kent Bazemore of the Kings is one of these rare players who survives the trials and tribulations to earn a living in the league. He’s actually done a lot more than just make a living.

Undrafted out of Old Dominion, the 6-foot-4 wing scrapped his way onto the Golden State Warriors' roster during the 2012-13 season. In July of 2016, he had performed well enough that the Atlanta Hawks signed him to a four-year, $70 million deal. 

Sacramento acquired the veteran, along with Anthony Tolliver, in a February trade for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel. Bazemore proved to be a missing link for the Kings as they rattled off a 13-8 record in the 21 games since the swap.

With the season on hiatus, it’s a good chance to look at how Bazemore fits with the Kings and whether he’ll return for more once basketball resumes.

Nuts and Bolts

Bazemore is at the tail end of one of the richest deals in NBA history for an undrafted player. He’s making $19.3 million this season and when the offseason eventually begins, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. 

At 30 years old, Bazemore has plenty of basketball left in the tank. He’s proven to be a defensive disruptor and he has the ability to get hot on the offensive end as well. 

He won’t make $19.3 million a season on his next contract, but there is a good chance he gets another 2-3 year deal with a starting salary of $8-10 million per season.

Why he stays

This was the type of player the Kings hoped they were getting when they signed Ariza last summer. Ariza had a personal issue that kept him away from the Kings for stints early in the season and he never really found his voice with the team when he was available.

Bazemore walked in the door, called a team meeting and began taking ownership of his role as a veteran leader behind the scenes. 

This doesn’t work everywhere, especially for a mid-season acquisition, but Bazemore was the right personality at the right time for a Kings team that had lost a bit of its confidence.

Bazemore will have options, but he flourished with Sacramento and seemed to fit in with the personality of the team. When asked about the potential to stick around past the season, Bazemore made his position clear. 

“I know this is a good place for me because when I first got here, a couple of games in, I’m like, ‘man, if I would have started the season here...’” Bazemore told NBC Sports California late in the year. “When stuff like that creeps into your mind, you feel like it’s a good place. The vibe has been great, I love coming to work and I enjoy the people here. For sure man, it checks all the boxes.”

On the court, Bazemore was a breath of fresh air for Sacramento. His energy and defense made a tremendous difference. He also found his shooting stroke in Sacramento, knocking down 38.6 percent from long range in the Kings’ run and gun offense.

Eight seasons into his career, Bazemore knows who and what he is as a player. He understands his role and his Kings teammates embraced him both on and off the court as well.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why he leaves

Money might come into play, especially with the Kings’ current roster makeup and their focus on retaining Bogdan Bogdanovic, while extending De’Aaron Fox this summer.

Bazemore won’t get another $70 million in salary, but he will still cost. Can the Kings afford another mid-level exemption level contract? Will the market drive his rate up? These are issues that will take time to work out. 

Sacramento also has a stack of players that can play Bazemore’s position, although they can’t really fit his role. Bogdanovic can play both the two and the three and Buddy Hield needs major minutes as well. 

The Kings also have a young player in Justin James that may eventually develop into a similar type of player as Bazemore. He has the length and athleticism, although he will need more time to reach his potential. James might make a good understudy to Bazemore for a season or two.

Lastly, at 30 years old, Bazemore has made a lot of money and his style of play can fit in with just about any group. Is there a sure-fire playoff team that could come calling with promises of championship runs, albeit at a discounted rate? 

[RELATED: Kent Bazemore quickly became fan favorite in short audition with Kings]

Prediction

Bazemore loves to golf and he loves the California sunshine. While Sacramento may not have been on his radar before, he instantly fit in with the team and felt appreciated. 

There will be other opportunities, but for at least the next two or three seasons, Bazemore and the Kings seem like a really good fit. The Kings could probably work a three-year, $21-27 million contract into their budget and this is the type of player and personality they need. 

It’s early and there is an incredible amount of uncertainty moving forward with the league, but signs point to Bazemore sticking around past the 2019-20 campaign.