Steven Adams

Kings’ best-case, worst-case scenarios after NBA free agency starts

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AP

Kings’ best-case, worst-case scenarios after NBA free agency starts

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.

Best-case scenario 

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.

Worst-case scenario

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.

[RELATED: Cousins reportedly open to reunion, but Kings are not]

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.

Where Kings stand with potential targets heading into NBA free agency

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AP

Where Kings stand with potential targets heading into NBA free agency

In what could be the most important offseason for the Sacramento Kings in more than a decade, they have a chance to take their upstart young team to another level. 

The competition is fierce, but general manager Vlade Divac and his front office are armed with more than $60 million in salary-cap space, zero restrictions on their first-round draft picks and seven second-round selections over the next two seasons.

More than one of their Western Conference competitors already have made stunning improvements. So, if the Kings want to join the ranks of the elite, they’ll have to chase the top tier in free agency.

Whether they can land a franchise-changing player still is unknown, but here is the latest on the Kings and the players to whom they’ve been linked before free agency starts Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.

Free agents

Al Horford

The Kings need a center, and despite his age, Horford might be a perfect fit. The 33-year-old five-time All-Star can shoot from the perimeter and facilitate the offense, and he’s one of the better defensive bigs in the league.

According to a league source, the Kings are one of the teams in on Horford. He might be a perfect fit next to Marvin Bagley on both ends of the court, and he’d be a perfect mentor for both Bagley and Harry Giles. 

Rumors have Horford landing a four-year, $100 million contract on the open market. Don’t be shocked if the Kings are the team throwing that money around.

Tobias Harris

Harris’ name has bounced up and down the halls of Golden 1 Center for a while. He’s a player on the brink of stardom and a massive improvement in talent. After posting 20 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last season between the Clippers and 76ers, he is an unrestricted free agent.

According to a league source, the Kings have some interest and are ready to chase the sought-after forward. His fit with the team would be interesting, and he’d cost the max. Can he play small forward? Is there room on the front line for both him and Harrison Barnes? Can Bagley move to center in Year 2?

This is the type of swing the Kings should take. Talent wins in the NBA, and at 26 years old, Harris fits the team’s player arc and so much more. 

Patrick Beverley 

Tough as nails, Beverley is a player who’s worked hard to carve out a niche in the NBA. At 30, going on 31, he has created value for himself and is ready to chase the cash.  

Contrary to published reports, an NBA source tells NBC Sports California that the Kings are not in on Beverley. But they have a void at backup point guard and could use a heavy dose of what Beverley brings to the table. He can play behind De’Aaron Fox and steal some minutes at the off-guard as well.

Rumors have Beverley looking for a three-year, $40 million contract. The Kings can afford that and still have plenty of room for other improvements, although Beverley likely will want a bigger role than what the team can give.

Nikola Vucevic

A first-time All-Star, Vucevic is trying to cash in. At 28 years old, he makes some sense for Sacramento, but according to league sources, the Kings are not interested, especially not for the max money Vucevic is seeking.

The 7-footer can do it all. He averaged 20.8 points, 12 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 36.4 percent from long range last season, and he also posted 1.1 blocks and a steal per game for Orlando, but there are questions whether he could keep pace with the Kings’ offense. 

Expect Sacramento to sit this one out unless the bottom drops out on the Magic’s star big. Early rumors have him returning to Orlando on a new four-year, $90 million contract.

Harrison Barnes

The outside world was shocked when Barnes opted out of his $25.1 million player option for this season. The Kings weren’t surprised at all.

According to league sources, Sacramento is extremely confident in its ability to bring Barnes back on a long-term contract. Don’t be surprised if the 27-year-old forward returns on a four-year contract worth between $88 million and $90 million. 

With Barnes in tow, the Kings have a lot of work in front of them. If he bolts, the struggle to build the roster becomes that much more difficult.

Trade targets

Clint Capela

Houston is looking to move on Jimmy Butler, and that would require cleaning house. According to published reports, the Rockets are looking for teams with cap space to take on Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker. 

The Kings have the space, and at 25 years old, Capela checks almost every box for them. He averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game playing on the Rockets' frontline last season. He’s owed more than $70 million over the next four seasons, but he is the rim runner they hoped Willie Cauley-Stein would become.

According to a league source, Sacramento is interested in the 6-foot-10 center, but the Rockets are looking for a first-round pick, which might be too steep for the Kings. 

Divac doesn’t have time to wait around and see what Houston and Philadelphia come up with on Butler. If this deal happens, it has to be wrapped up well before the free agent clock strikes 3 p.m. PT on Sunday.

[RELATED: Kings extend Cauley-Stein qualifying offer]

Steven Adams 

The Thunder need some cap relief, and they didn’t find it on draft night. On the hook for over $50 million in luxury tax, Sam Presti has some work to do. Dealing away Adams could save the franchise approximately $75 million in tax and salary. 

Losing a player of Adams’ ilk would severely damage OKC’s chances of competing, and word on the street is that their asking price was too high for Sacramento’s liking. 

That could change, but for now, a deal for the NBA’s strongest man is off the table for the Kings, according to a league source.

Why Kings should call Rockets if Clint Capela is available via trade

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USATSI

Why Kings should call Rockets if Clint Capela is available via trade

Having more than $60 million in available salary-cap space is both a blessing and a curse for the Sacramento Kings.

On the one hand, they need to spend at least $50 million to get to the NBA’s salary floor. On the other hand, they don’t want to spend, just to spend.

While the team hopes to be a player in free agency, there is a full menu of ways to improve the team. One of those options is to package a future asset and some of their coveted cap space, and trade for an established NBA player on a long-term deal.

Steven Adams was the first major center to potentially come available, but it looks like he won’t be the last. The Rockets reportedly are trying to make a play for Jimmy Butler, and they're willing to deal away a couple of their key players. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that one of those players is center Clint Capela.

Capela checks all of the boxes for the Kings. At 25 years old, he fits the team’s player arc, and he is the rim-running, shot-blocking rebounder they desperately need.

He’s also locked up on a four-year, $72 million contract that is completely affordable for a player who averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season in Houston.

It likely would cost the Kings a top-10-protected first-round draft pick, but the team is young enough to withstand another year without a selection. Sacramento also has seven second-round selections over the next two years to sweeten a deal.

If the Kings were feeling generous, they could make a mega-deal out of the situation. They have the available cap space to absorb Capela ($16.4 million), Eric Gordon ($14 million) and P.J. Tucker ($8.3 million), freeing up just under $40 million for the Rockets.

In a scenario like this, the Kings still would have more than $20 million per year to pay Harrison Barnes. They also could clear $22 million off the books next season when Gordon and Tucker expire and Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic come up for extensions.

Whether or not the Kings have held discussions with the Rockets is unknown at this time, but Sacramento needs to be aggressive in all facets of the summer schedule. The team knows Willie Cauley-Stein wants out, and there are options to replace him on the market.

But very few offer the contract, numbers and age fit that Capela does.

[RELATED: Kings' 10 options to fill small forward opening in free agency]

Kings general manager Vlade Divac selected three players in the second round, but the likelihood of any of them making an impact this season is minimal. If the Kings are going to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, they have to take risks in free agency and on the trade front.

A deal for Capela would add another impact player to the foundation of the team. It would come with future costs, but it’s hard to imagine finding a better fit than the 6-foot-10 center.