Previewing The Sacramento Kings Offseason
There is a lot of work to be done this winter for Monte McNair and company
Ah, the offseason. We meet again.
For nearly two decades, the Sacramento Kings have entered the offseason with question mark after question mark. This year is no different.
Coming off of their 2018-19 campaign, there was optimism that the Kings would make their long-awaited leap into respectability during the 2019-20 season.
The young and exciting team had just had its best season since 2007-08, winning 39 games and remaining in playoff contention until the final weeks of the season. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield looked like the backcourt of the future, with complimentary pieces Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica rounding out a talented roster.
Fast-forward to today.
- Hield, who was sent to the bench during the 2019-20 season, is clearly unhappy with his situation.
- Bogdanovic is a restricted-free agent.
- Bagley III only played in 13 games.
- Barnes, who signed a four-year, $85 million contract last summer, has had his name floated in trade rumors.
- Bjelica and Jabari Parker have options for next season that must be decided on.
- Fox is due for a max extension this offseason
That’s not all.
Jabari Parker, who the Kings acquired in a mid-season trade, has a player option for the 2020-21 season that is worth $6.5 million. Both Parker and Bjelica ($7 million team option for 2020-21) will need to have their options exercised or declined by the end of the October 16-18 weekend.
It is unknown what newly signed general manager Monte McNair’s vision is for next year’s team.
McNair and his newly assembled front office will have plenty of work to do this offseason. The Kings roster really only has one untouchable piece: De’Aaron Fox.
Aside from their franchise centerpiece, the Kings rotation could look very different next season.
Nemanja Bjelica was one of the best shooters in the league, hitting 42-percent of his three-point attempts while averaging career-highs in points (11.5), rebounds (6.5) and assists (2.8) per game.
The 32 year-old has started in 137 of his 149 games in Sacramento. Could McNair look to save that $7 million and allocate it elsewhere?
Parker could very well exercise his player-option, as the former number-two overall pick isn’t likely to top the $6.5 million that he would obtain if he were to opt in with Sacramento.
While head coach Luke Walton opted to play Bjelica and Harry Giles III over Parker, it’s possible that McNair’s vision for the roster could include an expanded role for Parker—especially if the franchise is on the hook for his salary.
Of course, McNair has been part of several big trades during his tenure with the Houston Rockets. It’s very likely that the roster that we see next year will look almost nothing like last year.
Will the Kings keep Buddy Hield?
The Buddy Hield saga is one that Sacramento really doesn’t need right now.
Drama seems to find the Kings in every season. Somehow, someway.
After being acquired in a blockbuster deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, Buddy Hield has exceeded expectations and then some. Many personalities around the league predicted that Hield’s incredible college career couldn’t carry over to the NBA, something that has since been proven incorrect.
Hield has shown that he can be one of the greatest shooters in the game, while also providing the service of being able to score 20-plus points on any given night.
As of today, Hield will be the 45th highest paid player in the NBA next season. He will be making more money than players such as Jaylen Brown, Zach Lavine, Domatas Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Victor Oladipo to name a few.
Hield was sent to the bench by Walton last season after the 27-year-old struggled from the field in the starting lineup.
After his move to the bench, Hield shot 45-percent from the three-point line while averaging 17.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Hield hit 271 three-pointers—the 11th most in league history—in a shortened season in which he only played 72 games.
So far this offseason, Hield has been linked to several trade rumors, with the disgruntled guard also being seen ‘liking’ posts of the rumors.
During McNair’s press conference, the executive mentioned that the team would be able to utilize Hield’s talents. When it comes down to it, Sacramento should not turn their noses up at one of the best shooters in the league.
What sets Hield apart from some of the best shooters of all-time, it comes down to catching and shooting.
The Kyle Korver’s, Klay Thompson’s, J.J. Reddick’s all have something in common—they don’t force their shots.
For years now, we have seen Hield struggle to create his own shot, usually ending his drives to the basket with a missed opportunity or a turnover. McNair helped build a talented Rockets team, one that has surrounded MVP award winners James Harden and Russell Westbrook with talented shooters.
Sacramento has their franchise talent in De’Aaron Fox. They have Marvin Bagley III, who they hope to watch take steps forward in 2020-21 as a formidable number-two option to pair with Fox.
Keeping Buddy Hield as an ultimate floor-spacer seems like an imperative move, one that the franchise needs to do in order to continue on the right path. There is no player that the Kings can realistically acquire that will be a better shooter than Buddy Hield. It’s just the truth.
Being able to make the relationship work should be on McNair’s to-do list for this offseason.
Speaking of shooters, Bogdan Bogdanovic’s free-agency has loomed over the franchise for most of the 2019-20 season.
Bogdanovic is sure to garner a lot of interest on the open market, with Shams Charania of The Athletic citing on Thursday that the Milwaukee Bucks are expected to make a push for the 28 year-old playmaker.
Bogi had a breakout season for the Kings in 2019-20, finishing with career-high average of 15.1 points per game on 37-percent shooting from three-point land.
Sacramento could largely benefit by keeping Bogdanovic, another playmaking guard to pair with De’Aaron Fox, on the roster. But of course, it all comes down to money.
If Sacramento were to hang on to both Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield, being able to retain Bogdanovic would be a challenge. The Kings have the right to match any offer given to Bogdanovic, but the Serbian guard is almost guaranteed to get an offer that will be difficult to match without some financial flexibility.
The possibility of a sign-and-trade exists, as Sacramento could net a respectable return for Bogdanovic.
Show Fox The Money
Earlier in this article, I mentioned De’Aaron Fox as the Kings’ franchise centerpiece.
Well, McNair and company will need to ensure that Fox remains in a Kings jersey for the foreseeable future, as the speedster guard is eligible for a contract-extension this offseason.
Fox, 22, put forth the best season of his career in 2019-20, averaging 21.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists while shooting 48-percent from the field. In the NBA season restart in Orlando, Fox went on a tear, scoring 26.2 points and dishing 7.3 assists per game in his six appearances.
It’s largely expected that Sacramento gives Fox the max-extension, ensuring that the Kentucky product remains with the franchise for the next five-plus seasons.
The Biggest Question Mark
If the Kings want to take steps forward next season, they will need their former number-two pick to make an impact.
Marvin Bagley III has only played 75 games over his first two seasons in the NBA. The Duke standout has played well in his limited action, averaging 14.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
When Bagley is on the floor for extended periods, he produces at a higher level, holding per-36 minutes averages of 21.0 points and 10.8 rebounds.
Sacramento needs Bagley to deliver next season. If the 21 year-old continues to struggle to remain on the floor, its possible that the franchise moves on from the forward prior to the 2021-22 season.
There is an immense amount of potential in Bagley. The 20-10 aspect of his game is one that the Kings could desperately use, as pairing Bagley with energizing center Richaun Holmes could become a terror for opposing teams.
Bagley has shown that he wants to be a big that can stretch the floor, taking long-range jumpers as well as some three-pointers every now and then.
In today’s NBA, shooting the basketball is the way games are won. If Bagley can stay healthy and develop a mid-range, Sacramento could have finally cash in on their number-two selection from the 2018 draft.
Unfortunately, Sacramento can’t really dive into the free-agent market until they make decisions on Parker, Bjelica, Bogdanovic and Hield.
Once those financial implications become clear, the salary cap space that the team has will become clear as well.
Retaining players like Kent Bazemore and Alex Len would be positives for the Kings, but it’s unlikely that Sacramento would be able to afford one or both of those players if Bogdanovic and Hield are both retained.
Former GM Vlade Divac infamously declined forward Harry Giles III’s option for 2020-21 last season, likely signaling the end of the fan-favorite’s tenure in Sacramento.
If the Kings want to keep Giles, the most that the team can offer him is $3.9 million. On the open market, Giles is almost surely going to be able to top that number.
Is it possible that Giles would accept the $3.9 million and return? Of course. But Harry Giles didn’t deserve to have his option declined.
All things considered, if Giles decides to leave Sacramento it would be hard to blame him for it.