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The Kings should be shopping for bad contracts

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With oodles of cap space, the Kings should be selling out for assets.

NBA: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few short months into his tenure as Sacramento Kings GM, Vlade Divac swung for the fences to free up cap space so the Kings could try to make a major splash in Free Agency. That cap space eventually ended up turning into Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli and Rajon Rondo. The Kings hoped the addition of these veterans would elevate them into playoff contention, but alas, it did not.

More relevant to today’s discussion than the result of the trade was the cost of executing it. In order to entice the Philadelphia 76ers to take on the salaries of Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, the Kings ended up sending out Nik Stauskas (Sacramento’s 2014 lottery pick), the right to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 (in which the Kings had to give up the 3rd pick this year in exchange for the 5th pick) and an unprotected 2019 1st round pick. Sacramento was lambasted for the trade at the time (and rightly so) because of the expense they paid.

Now the Kings have the opportunity to do the same thing to another team. The Kings are back in full rebuild mode after the DeMarcus Cousins trade, and with the opt-out of Rudy Gay are staring at a possible $50 million + in cap space once Free Agency hits. The Kings are never contenders for big names in Free Agency, and given their youth movement they aren’t necessarily going to be competing anytime soon. So why not use that space to acquire future assets?

The great NBA salary cap jump of the last few years has resulted in some very bloated contracts and weird salary situations (like the fact that All-Star Kemba Walker is making less money than his teammate Miles Plumlee for the next two years). Players are making more money than ever. Even NBA roleplayers are getting contracts that just a few years ago would have been max deals.

Some of these teams are going to want out, and the Kings can help ... for a price. Got a bloated contract on the books that needs clearing? We’ll take it! But you also have to give us a future pick or a young player or both. That’s the sales pitch Vlade Divac and co. need to be giving fellow GMs this summer.

I’ve gone ahead and combed the NBA salary books for bloated contracts and found 31 examples where teams might be willing to seek salary relief. There are other contracts out there that might fit this list, but I left them off because they were either short term, or in the case of Nikola Pekovic, could see that salary removed in another way (like medical retirement).

(salary information taken from HoopsHype.com)

Expensive NBA Contracts

Team Player 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Team Player 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Atlanta Hawks Dwight Howard $23,500,000 $23,500,000 $0 $0
Memphis Grizzlies Chandler Parsons $23,112,004 $24,107,258 $25,102,512 $0
Charlotte Hornets Nicolas Batum $22,434,783 $24,000,000 $25,565,217 $27,130,434
Houston Rockets Ryan Anderson $19,578,455 $20,421,546 $21,264,637 $0
Portland Trail Blazers Allen Crabbe $18,500,000 $19,332,500 $18,500,000 $0
Dallas Mavericks Wesley Matthews $17,884,175 $18,622,513 $0 $0
NY Knicks Joakim Noah $17,765,000 $18,530,000 $19,295,000 $0
LA Lakers Luol Deng $17,190,000 $18,000,000 $18,810,000 $0
Portland Trail Blazers Evan Turner $17,131,148 $17,868,853 $18,606,556 $0
Orlando Magic Evan Fournier $17,000,000 $17,000,000 $17,000,000 $17,000,000
Orlando Magic Bismack Biyombo $17,000,000 $17,000,000 $17,000,000 $0
Atlanta Hawks Kent Bazemore $16,910,112 $18,089,888 $19,269,663 $0
Detroit Pistons Reggie Jackson $16,000,000 $17,043,478 $18,086,956 $0
Washington Wizards Ian Mahinmi $16,000,000 $16,000,000 $16,000,000 $0
LA Lakers Timofey Mozgov $15,280,000 $16,000,000 $16,720,000 $0
Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll $14,800,000 $15,400,000 $0 $0
LA Clippers Jamal Crawford $14,246,988 $14,500,000* $0 $0
Phoenix Suns Brandon Knight $13,618,750 $14,631,250 $15,643,750 $0
Charlotte Hornets Marvin Williams $13,168,750 $14,087,500 $15,006,250 $0
Charlotte Hornets Miles Plumlee $12,400,000 $12,400,000 $12,400,000 $0
New Orleans Pelicans Solomon Hill $12,236,535 $12,763,467 $13,290,395 $0
Denver Nuggets Wilson Chandler $12,016,854 $12,800,562 $0 $0
NY Knicks Courtney Lee $11,747,890 $12,253,780 $12,759,670 $0
Indiana Pacers Monta Ellis $11,227,000 $11,690,500 $0 $0
Utah Jazz Alec Burks $10,595,506 $11,286,515 $0 $0
New Orleans Pelicans Omer Asik $10,595,505 $11,286,516 $11,977,527* $0
Milwaukee Bucks Mirza Teletovic $10,500,000 $10,500,000 $0 $0
Orlando Magic Terrence Ross $10,500,000 $10,500,000 $0 $0
Detroit Pistons Jon Leuer $10,497,319 $10,002,681 $9,508,043 $0
Portland Trail Blazers Meyers Leonard $9,904,495 $10,595,506 $11,286,515 $0
Portland Trail Blazers Moe Harkless $9,662,921 $10,377,079 $11,011,236 $0

(Jamal Crawford and Omer Asik’s final years contain mostly unguaranteed money. Bold salaries indicate Player Options)

As a rebuilding team, the Kings need to acquire as many assets as possible. That gives the Kings flexibility going forward in both the draft and trades, the two surest ways a small market team like Sacramento can get ahead.

The Kings shouldn’t expect to get as much value back as they gave in the Philadelphia trade however. That trade set off so many alarms because frankly it just doesn’t happen anymore. With the new CBA, contracts are more team friendly than ever and teams don’t have to live with bad contracts for more than a few years at a time.

The most recent example of a big salary dump for assets before Sacramento’s deal came in 2013 when the Warriors, Nuggets and Jazz completed a mega deal so the Warriors could sign Andre Iguodala.

7/10/2013 - Golden State sends Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, a 2014 1st round pick (unprotected), a 2017 1st round pick (unprotected) and two future second rounders to Utah for Kevin Murphy. The Nuggets got Randy Foye from Utah and a second rounder from Golden State. The Jazz also got a second rounder from Denver.

This trade offloaded about $24 million in salary for the Warriors and gave the rebuilding Jazz some extra assets. That 2014 pick turned into Rodney Hood and they will have another first rounder to use this year.

The Kings could put themselves in a similar situation for another team looking to make a splash. For instance, the Spurs are rumored to have some interest in Free Agent-to-be Chris Paul, but don’t have the cap room to sign him. Sacramento can easily act as a facilitator in exchange for some future picks.

Sacramento’s cap space is an asset that needs to be utilized. The Kings are in a prime position to take advantage of another team’s misfortunes and short-sighted decisions. It’s time to turn the tables on the rest of the league and replenish our coffers.