NBA free agency is a make-or-break moment for the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers have added Anthony Davis. Mike Conley joined the Jazz. The Western Conference is getting better, and general manager Vlade Divac has no choice but to keep up with the Joneses.
The Kings have a vault full of cash and a group of young players in dire need of two or three veteran pieces. With over $60 million to spend, the Kings have an opportunity to put themselves back on the map and snap a 13-year playoff drought.
Sacramento is all over the rumor mill, being tied to Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Steven Adams, Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon and plenty of others. Speculation is fun, but at some point, the Kings need to add a big-time player to get this team over the hump.
Free agency moves quickly. The Kings will jump in feet first and hope for the best.
Here is a look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the team as it heads into the most crucial time of the offseason.
If everything goes to plan, the Kings will come away with major improvements at multiple positions. The team’s first priority is to finish off a projected four-year, $88 million-to-$90 million contract with forward Harrison Barnes.
Barnes joined the team at the trade deadline, with Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph going to Dallas in exchange. Barnes fits the Kings’ play style and can play both forward positions.
With Barnes in tow, the Kings need to quickly turn their attention to the center position. A perfect move might be to absorb the two remaining years on Steven Adams’ contract. Sacramento doesn’t want to dip into its young core to accomplish the move, but Adams instantly would improve the team’s rebounding, defensive acumen and toughness.
If a deal for Adams isn’t in the works, Divac should turn to the free-agent class, specifically Al Horford, and swing for the fences. While Horford enters the summer at 33 years old, he still has plenty left in the tank. He can stretch the floor and pass, and he would be a massive improvement on defense.
The Kings are interested in landing the five-time All-Star. It likely will take the rumored four-year, $100 million contract to get it done, but that still would leave the Kings with plenty of salary-cap space.
A cheaper option would be Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon. He runs the floor and protects the rim, and he shot the 3-ball at a 38.2 percent clip last season. At 29, he would be a solid pick-up who fits what the Kings are trying to build.
In addition to Barnes and either Adams, Horford or Dedmon, Sacramento still would have the cap space to add another strong piece at the wing and potentially upgrade at backup point guard. Cory Joseph makes a lot of sense as a reserve guard, and a wing like Danuel House, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Stanley Johnson would help solidify the position with a young, inexpensive player with 3-and-D potential.
Kings fans are used to this idea. Things can go badly in Sacramento, and in the blink of an eye. It appears Barnes is all but locked up in Sacramento, but what if a last-minute mega-offer comes in from a team with tons of cap space? That would be disastrous for Sacramento.
There are plenty of young budget options, but with $60 million to spend, the Kings would have to pay someone well over their market value to fill a hole they believed they took care of at the trade deadline.
OKC could decide to keep Adams, Horford could balk at the Kings' offer, and Dedmon could land somewhere else while Sacramento is in line for an All-Star. That would leave the Kings with a few options, but they’d come at a cost.
The absolute worst-case scenario would be Willie Cauley-Stein returning as the team’s primary center. It’s not that Cauley-Stein is a horrible player, but he clearly wants out, and the Kings might have a disgruntled employee on their hands. Sacramento could chase Houston’s Clint Capela, but like Adams, it might stick with the 25-year-old big and see where the 2019-20 season takes them.
There are other options like Robin Lopez and DeAndre Jordan, but if the Kings really hope to improve their current squad and compete for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference, they'll likely need a more impactful player.
What's likely to happen
The Kings will sign Barnes to open free agency, and then go to work. They’ll chase Horford hard and probably be in the discussion. If they land the 6-foot-10 center, they’ll move directly to the secondary market and try to add value at the wing and point guard. If not, they’ll sign Dedmon and move on to filling their remaining roster holes.
Joseph is a hot commodity. Elfrid Payton and TJ McConnell might work at the spot as well, but there is a good chance that Divac will stick with in-house options such as Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason while using his money up front.
Plenty of quality wing upgrades will be available in the $5 million-to-$10 million range. So, the Kings shouldn’t have an issue finding someone who can knock down a shot and defend a variety of players at that position.
Keep an eye on veteran forward Jae Crowder, who was traded to the Grizzlies in the Conley deal. If he’s not in Memphis’ long-term plan, he would make a nice addition for Sacramento as a combo forward and enforcer.