As we lustily await July 1, 2010, it's worth finding out just how much the Kings (or any team, really) will need to have free under the salary cap in order to sign a seventh-year player to a maximum contract. (I find four such worthy players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire will be an eight-year veteran, but that doesn't change the numbers.)
Players with 7-9 years of NBA experience are entitled a max contract of up to 30% of the salary cap. The salary cap this season is $58.3 million. It was $55.6 million last year, and $53 million in 2006-07. Those are successive increases of 4.7% and 5.4%. Let us assume the cap raises an average of 6% each of the next two season. That would place the 2010-11 salary cap at roughly $65.5 million. Thirty percent of $65.5 million is $19.6 million.
LBJ, Wade, Bosh and Stoudemire should be able to demand contracts with a starting salary of $19.6 million. I see the incumbent team acceding to the request in each case, with Stoudemire as the weakest. (It's hard to gauge Phoenix. Amare will be a 27-year-old microfracture survivor at that point.) Assuming everyone stays home does no good for us, so let's see if Sacramento is on track to have $19.6 million or more in cap space in 2010.
Sacramento has two players locked up for 2010-2011: Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih. John Salmons has a $5.8 million player option, which I assume he'll take. That's $23.4 million.
Spencer Hawes will be in the final year of his rookie contract, making about $3 million. Jason Thompson will also be on his rookie deal, making $2.2 million. Donté Greene is due $1.2 million. We're up to $29.8 million, with six players.
Francisco Garcia will get his contract within the next couple weeks, or next summer. Let's assume his deal sets him up with a $6 million salary in 2010-11 (a bit high). We're up to $35.8 million with seven players.
We have two 2009 first-round picks, and one 2010 pick (as of now). Let's assume, for realism's sake, the 2009 picks fall in the same general area as Thompson and Greene did this year. That's about $3.4 million total. For the 2010 pick, let's assume it lands around the Thompson zone (a bit high, hopefully): another $2 million. We're up to $41.2 million for 10 players, a plausible roster assuming Geoff Petrie doesn't add a weird veteran next summer. Let's also assume Quincy Douby and Shelden Williams -- both restricted free agents in 2010 -- don't get early extensions next summer.
With an estimated cap of $65.5 million and an estimated payroll of $41.2 million, the Kings are left with ... $24.3 million to pursue free agents. That's plenty of space to allow for a bit larger deal for Garcia, an extra pick, a cheap veteran on a multi-year deal, a small contract for someone like Bobby Brown, a trade of one of the 2010 expiring contracts (Brad Miller, Kenny Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim) which brings back a nominal salaried youngster.
Again, it's unlikely any of the four superstars will change hands in 2010. But if any do, the Kings will be in position to pay them as much as anyone else could. The team will also have one of the best two-guards in the league in his prime, a young frontcourt, maybe a new arena, and the best fans in the nation. Excuse me while I dream.