Willie Cauley-Stein

What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

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What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

SACRAMENTO -- Harrison Barnes - unrestricted free agent.

The news certainly came as a surprise Tuesday morning when the Kings’ forward chose to walk away from the final year of his contract that would have paid him $25.1 million next season.

While it may have been slightly unexpected, it wasn’t for Vlade Divac and his team. It may have even been the plan all along.

At 27-years-old, Barnes has plenty of basketball in his future and the Kings would like him to remain a part of that. According to multiple sources, the Kings are confident they can lock up their starting small forward to a long-term deal.

There is always a risk that Barnes will find the open market enticing and leave without compensation for Sacramento. That would be bad news for the Kings’ offseason plans, but would also open up a massive amount of salary space for the team to aggressively pursue other options.

Don’t be shocked if Barnes and the Kings move quickly on a four-year deal once free agency opens June 30. Barnes fits the age arc of most of the roster and he instantly fit in as a veteran leader with deep playoff experience.

Barnes had the option of accepting his player option and then working on an extension with the Kings later in the offseason. By opting out, there is a possibility that he is willing to forgo some of the $25.1 million this season for a long-term stability.

Is Barnes with a 4-year, $72-80 million contract? To the Kings, the answer is yes. And a contract like that would immediately impact Sacramento’s bottom line.

With Barnes, the Kings have approximately $67 million in guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. That doesn’t include a $6.3 million qualifying offer for Willie Cauley-Stein, $1.6 million in non-guaranteed money for Frank Mason or a team option on Yogi Ferrell at $3.1 million

Without Barnes’ $25.1 million, Sacramento has $41.9 million in guaranteed deals and $67.1 million in available space. The Kings have another $6.3 million in minimum salary cap holds, giving them roughly $60.8 million in available cap space, again, without Ferrell, Cauley-Stein or Mason.

There are further cap implications, like massive cap holds for Barnes and Cauley-Stein, but those are complicated and require far more explanation. The short answer is that the Kings can eliminate those holds by renouncing their rights to either player.

While nothing is locked up with Barnes as of June 18, this might be a perfect world scenario for the Kings. If he takes a longer-term deal, but with a reduced salary in Year 1, it gives the team additional resources up front, while retaining an important part of their core.

A starting salary or $18-20 million would open an extra $5-7 million in cap space for this summer, giving Divac and his staff the ammunition necessary to chase a major free agent and still have enough to make one or two major additional improvements.

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This is likely the Kings’ road map for this summer, although there are no guarantees that they can pull it all off. Step one now is to retain Barnes. Step two is to swing for the fences and fill the voids in the rotation.

Source: Kings unlikely to pursue free agent center Nikola Vucevic

Source: Kings unlikely to pursue free agent center Nikola Vucevic

SACRAMENTO -- The rumor mill is only going to heat up as we approach the start of the NBA’s free agency period on June 30. With $35-38 million to spend, the Sacramento Kings are going to get mentioned plenty, and often the reports will be inaccurate.

Vlade Divac and his team have placed an emphasis on improving the center position, but according to a league source, while the team holds Nikola Vucevic in high regard, the team is not expected to chase the Orlando Magic big man in free agency, despite reports to the contrary.

After posting 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game this season, Vucevic is primed to sign a mega contract, whether it’s with the Orlando or elsewhere.

The 28-year-old is skilled and made his first All-Star team this season, but he’s not a great fit for the Kings’ uptempo style of play.

There are plenty of other centers on the market this summer. Dewayne Dedmon and DeAndre Jordan are both unrestricted free agents and might work as short-term fixes. Jordan is on the wrong side of 30 and Dedmon isn’t far behind, but both are solid rebounders and defenders.

Memphis Grizzlies big man Jonas Valanciunas just opted out of his contract for this season and is an unrestricted free agent. At 27-year-old he fits the age arc of the Kings’ roster, but again, isn’t exactly built for an uptempo style.

The team hasn’t shut the door on a return of the incumbent starter, Willie Cauley-Stein. He is long and athletic, but his inconsistent play continues to concern the Kings.

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Sacramento is likely to extend the 25-year-old a qualifying offer before the beginning of free agency, locking him into restricted free agent status. They will wait to see how the market materializes for the former No. 6 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft before making a final decision on his future with the team.

Is Willie Cauley-Stein still an option at center for Sacramento Kings?

Is Willie Cauley-Stein still an option at center for Sacramento Kings?

SACRAMENTO -- Nearly two months into the offseason and the Sacramento Kings have a looming decision regarding one of their starters.

Willie Cauley-Stein is set to become a free agent for the first time and Vlade Divac has a few options when it comes to the 7-footer out of the University of Kentucky.

During a sit down with the Sacramento Bee earlier this week, Divac went on the record regarding the future of Cauley-Stein with the Kings.

“It’s a tough question,” Divac said. “We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.”

An NBA source has confirmed to NBC Sports California that improving the center position is a priority this summer for the Kings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Cauley-Stein is gone.

The Kings have until June 30 to extend Cauley-Stein a $6.3 million qualifying offer. If they choose to do so, he becomes a restricted agent, which allows the Kings to match any offer for the 25-year-old big.

If Divac extends the qualifying offer, which it appears he will do at this point, it comes with a cap hold of a little over $14 million. The team has until July 13 to rescind that offer, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

The cap hold is an issue for Sacramento. They walk into the summer with an estimated $35 million in cap space, but that number can move substantially. Harrison Barnes has a $25 million player option for next season and the team has a $3.2 million option on guard Yogi Ferrell.

While Barnes has yet to express his intent to the team, there is a very good chance he is back in Sacramento next season. The team would love to sign him long term as either an opt-out and sign or with a possible extension later this summer.

Ferrell is a toss-up. The Kings could use more size and more of a true point guard off the bench behind De’Aaron Fox, but Ferrell is inexpensive and the team has until July 4 to make a decision on his future.

If Barnes opts in and the team takes a pass on Ferrell, the Kings have $38 million to spend in free agency. If Barnes opts out, that number jumps as high as $63 million, depending on the team’s decision on Ferrell.

Here is where the Cauley-Stein cap hold comes into play. If the Kings walk into free agency with the $38 million figure, they really only have $24 million to offer potential free agents, which might limit what the team can do on the open market.

Here is a look at the Kings’ options when it comes to former No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Option 1: Offer Cauley-Stein an extension they feel matches his production

This is an unlikely scenario. The two sides have talked and the Kings likely have a good idea on where Cauley-Stein and his team believe his value lies. He wasn’t offered an extension last summer and despite improvements on the court, it’s likely there is a gap between the perceived and real value at this point.

Option 2: Decline to extend the qualifying offer

This isn’t a realistic plan for the Kings either. They’ve invested four years in Cauley-Stein’s development. He’s started 199 games for the team over the past four seasons, including 81 last year. While he can frustrate the team with his inconsistency, he posted solid numbers across the board and still has room to improve.

The Kings can pull back the qualifying offer if they find a stronger option at the five. Declining to extend the offer would be crazy unless the team is completely done with the athletic big.

Option 3: Sign and trade

Like the previous two options, this isn’t ideal. The sign and trade has lost a lot of its value over the past few seasons. If a team has a real interest in Cauley-Stein, they can make an offer to Sacramento before extending him an offer sheet. But with so much available cap money this offseason and the league’s mid-level exception rising to $9.2 million this summer, there will be other options for teams to acquire Cauley-Stein without giving up an asset.

Option 4: Extend qualifying offer and Cauley-Stein accepts

If the Kings extend the $6.3 million qualifying offer and Cauley-Stein doesn’t see a better option, he can accept the contract, play out the season in Sacramento and re-enter the pool of players next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

This is likely the last resort option for Cauley-Stein’s team. They believe he will get substantially more than this, but free agency is an unpredictable business.

Sacramento would likely have no issue with this plan. They would get a serviceable player on a lower end contract. They would need his permission for a trade during the season, but it’s a low-risk situation for the team.

Option 5: Extend the qualifying offer and wait

According to a league source, this is the most likely option for the Kings, even if they find an upgrade at the center position on the open market. If Cauley-Stein receives a big-time offer, they let him walk. If he receives a reasonable offer that doesn’t hamstring the Kings’ bottom line, the team will likely match and let the rest of the offseason play out.

Once the dust settles, Luke Walton can figure out how to use Cauley-Stein, either as a starter or reserve. If they have a glut at the position, they can rework the roster down the road. They could move Cauley-Stein after Dec. 15 if things aren’t working out and retain at least some value after spending time developing the center.

Conclusion

It’s hard to know how all of this will work out, but it only takes one team to give an offer the Kings won’t match.

[RELATED: Harrison Barnes receives free agency advice]

Cauley-Stein posted 11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 27.3 minutes per game last season in Sacramento. While his inconsistency is frustrating, he was still a major contributor and fits the scheme.

The Kings would like to add a big-time player at the five, but that might not happen in free agency. Cauley-Stein wants to get paid, but that might not work out either. It’s possible the marriage between these two continues out of pure convenience.