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The Salary Situation

Here are the salaries committed for next season:

Kevin Martin           $9.0 m
Brad Miller           $11.4 m
Kenny Thomas           $7.9 m
Shareef Abdur-Rahim    $6.4 m
Mikki Moore            $5.8 m
John Salmons           $5.1 m
Shelden Williams       $3.4 m
Spencer Hawes          $2.2 m
Quincy Douby           $1.4 m
Francisco Garcia       $2.0 m
#12-14 pick            $1.7 m*
Two second round picks $0.0 m*
Guaranteed salary:    $56.3 m
Projected salary cap: $57.0 m

*   denotes 'best guess available'
**  no set salary scale for second-round picks

Available avenues for signing and re-signing significant players:
Midlevel exception: The team can sign any free agent(s) for all or part of the midlevel exception, which should be around $5.2 million. The deal must be at least three years in length, though only the first season must be guaranteed. This is the only way the Kings could sign Beno Udrih this summer, unless they drop more than $5 million in a trade between the end of their season and the day Beno is signed. The max contract which could be offered to Beno (or any other free agent not currently with the team and barring sign-and-trades) would be a five-year, $30 million deal (estimated). The rules allow 8% raises from year-to-year, so in the 5th year he'd make $7 million. Of course, the deal could start lower, and thus finish lower.

Bird rights: The Kings have Ron Artest's Bird rights, and as such they can pay him a starting salary of up to $16 million for a deal as long as six years. The total deal of a max contract is something around $120 million for six years.

There are no technical rules preventing signing both Beno Udrih and Ron Artest this summer. The only thing stopping them, beyond their own reservations: the luxury tax.

The Maloofs won't be paying for a luxury tax for a team which wins less than 50 games. My estimate would place the luxury tax level around $69 million.

Let's suppose Beno signs a deal for a portion of the midlevel -- $4 million is the starting salary. That'd put 2008-09 salaries at $61 million (assuming at least one second-round pick is signed for the typical second-rounder contract). The Kings could start Artest's contract at about $7 million per year with breathing room for necessary roster fillers (of the Justin Williams, Dahntay Jones mold).

Let's suppose Beno signs a deal for the full midlevel, which seems fairly probable if he keeps up his performance from the last two nights. Take another million off that flexibility in signing Artest -- you can start him around $6 million and feel comfortable with the tax line.

Do you think Artest is going to take $6 million a year to stay with Sacramento?

If the Kings decide they will make Artest an offer he'll sign this summer, they will either have to:

  1. Trade current players to one of the four teams under the cap to clear space.
  2. Not sign Beno and replace him with someone cheaper.
  3. Pay the luxury tax.
Option #1 is difficult -- you can't trade for expiring contracts once all the expiring contracts have expired, and I'm not sure Philadelphia and Memphis are going to be beating down the doors for anything Sacramento has. Option #2 is untenable on two fronts: He'll be cheaper than any decent free agent option, and plugging rookies into the starting lineup is a frightful ordeal. Option #3 isn't likely to be on the table.

It's going to be really, really hard to keep Ron Artest past this year, if that's the plan.