With the draft behind us, the next thing Kings fans can look forward to is Free Agency. Last year the Kings were frugal and smart, acquiring veterans on short deals that retained flexibility. The Kings exercised that flexibility by cutting Matt Barnes after the DeMarcus Cousins trade and stretching his contract and also waiving Anthony Tolliver and Arron Afflalo by their guarantee dates.
Because of these moves, the Kings are set to have the most cap space in the league by quite a margin. Current estimates peg the Kings potential space (should they renounce cap holds and such) at around $52 million depending on where the new cap projection comes in. As reported last week, the cap is actually expected to lower this season, in major part thanks to the low revenue from a short playoffs that didn’t see too many extended series.
With the Kings drafting four rookies and likely to sign all of them, the team will have nine of their 15 roster spots occupied by players on rookie contracts. Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple are the only two who don’t. That leaves the Kings with four open roster spots and some very specific needs as you can see by this roster breakdown:
C: Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis
PF: Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles
SF: Justin Jackson
SG: Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple, Malachi Richardson
PG: De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason
This breakdown doesn’t account for the likely signing of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who the Kings acquired the rights to from Phoenix in last year’s draft day trade. Assuming Bogdanovic signs, that puts the Kings with just three roster spots and a lot of money to burn.
Of Sacramento’s own free agents, it seems likely that the only one the Kings might consider bringing back is Darren Collison. The Kings need a veteran PG to show the new guys the ropes, and Collison knows the system and the city and might be willing to hang around for a couple more years. If Collison decides to leave, Lawson might be a cheaper option for similar reasons but if Sacramento wants to start completely fresh here, they could always sign someone like an Aaron Brooks, Shelvin Mack, Jose Calderon, Raymond Felton, Sergio Rodriguez. Maybe splurge on a guy like Shaun Livingston on a big one or two year deal.
Along with a vet Point Guard, the Kings could also use some help on the wing. Justin Jackson is the only one the Kings currently have on the payroll. Rudy Gay held down the position last year but has opted out and made clear his intention to move on. I expect the Kings to play around with some small lineups next year including trying guys like Malachi, Garrett and maybe even Bogdan at Small Forward but Sacramento could use a true wing. Guys like C.J. Miles, Andre Roberson, P.J. Tucker and Brandon Rush come to mind. I’d suggest Omri Casspi but well, it didn’t seem like he and Dave Joerger had the best relationship given that the coach opted to play Matt Barnes over him at almost every opportunity. Kevin Durant probably won’t be taking our calls.
I’d also like to see another Power Forward added to the mix, someone that can bring a dimension the other young Kings bigs can’t. If Z-Bo wanted to reunite with Dave Joerger in a bench role here I think that’d be fun but I doubt he wants to go to a rebuilding team so late in his career. Ersan Ilyasova could be a good option here, as he’s physical, can stretch out and shoot a three, and won’t mind coming off the bench. Of course, that’s the prudent option and instead the Kings will probably try to throw a max contract a Paul Millsap or Serge Ibaka (if they’re gonna do one of those, at least go for Ibaka).
Of course, this all could change if the Kings start participating in trades for big contracts. While they didn’t do so at the draft, once July 1st hits, the Kings will have way more flexibility to acquire those big contracts for future assets. We know other teams will be jockeying for space to try to get the big name free agents, and the Kings will be in the perfect situation to try to facilitate. Say Houston wants to unload Ryan Anderson to try to get Chris Paul? Sure, give us Patrick Beverley as well, or a future first rounder or two.
With the Kings having so much space, you’re sure to hear about the so-called “salary floor”, which requires NBA teams to give up to 90% of the salary cap to their players. Don’t worry too much about this, as there’s really not a huge penalty for missing it. The only thing that happens if they do is that the remaining balance gets distributed among the players on the roster. In the past few seasons, the Magic have had to do this twice, and the Blazers and Nuggets once. Teams also can kind of cheat around this requirement by acquiring big expiring contracts at the deadline, as the full season’s salary is counted on the cap while the team itself only pays whatever is left on the player’s pay schedule.
There’s also the addition of new, two-way roster spots that the new CBA has introduced. These add two additional roster spots to each NBA team that allow teams to hold young players for development in the G-League and spend up to 45 days on an NBA roster. They’ll make a pro-rata NBA salary while with the NBA team but a G-League salary while down there. With the Kings using the Reno Bighorns so well last season, I’m sure we’ll see them also take advantage of these new two-way contracts, perhaps after summer league.
The Kings have a ton of options. My hope is that they will be patient and prudent and don’t go on a spending spree. While the addition of vets are necessary, I don’t think the Kings need to be throwing out max contract offers to anyone right now. This is not a team that needs to win now, but rather a team that needs to grow. The Kings should keep their flexibility open as they develop this young core, so that when the time is right they still have room to maneuver.