The Kings are walking into the 2017-2018 season with a full roster of 15 players. Our Front Office acquired seven new additions this offseason, four through the draft and three through free agency, but our management team may still look to change things up in the coming months, even with the high turnover from last season.
While Sacramento does have the largest number of rookie contracts of any team in the NBA, they also have multiple veterans at each position, which could quickly become redundant. Even though competition for playing time can be an effective catalyst for great competition, the Kings also need to ensure there are plenty of minutes for their developing talent.
With the expected struggle to find wins throughout the season, and a heavy emphasis being placed on handing minutes to inexperienced players, alongside a need to acquire future assets with the 2019 first round pick out of our grasp, Vlade Divac may find himself dealing a few vets to bring in more youth for the future.
Which players could find themselves on the trading block come February?
Kosta Koufos (C)
Current Contract: 2 years/$17,132,500 (Player Option for 2nd year)
Reason: Kosta has provided a fair level of production to contract price throughout his tenure with the Kings, and has also been able to keep his numbers almost eerily similar from year to year, even through several different coaches and playbooks. The issue with his fit on the roster isn’t his ability to play, or the cost of his deal, but rather the fact that the Kings have four young big men in Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, and Harry Giles, as well as recently signed power forward Zach Randolph, to soak up minutes that Kosta may very well deserve. His veteran mentorship may be valuable, but the Front Office also went out and signed several of their own leaders this past summer. His player option this coming summer also creates an unknown salary commitment that management may want to pass on to someone else. In the end, he’s a big among other bigs, a veteran among other veterans, and his role with Sacramento may very well be coming to an end by February.
Strengths: The veteran big man isn’t a flashy, above-the-rim type player, but he brings the same level of intensity and contribution on a nightly basis. He’s not a role player who needs frequent touches, so he can easily assimilate into almost any offensive game plan. His post defense isn’t as valuable as it has been in the past, as the modern NBA is moving away from a down-low game, but he can still cause difficulty for the traditional big men that still exist in the league. He sets tough screens and can gobble up rebounds when facing other seven-footers. He’s not a starter on most contending teams, but he can provide a solid 15-20 minutes of bench production for just about every team hoping to make a playoff run.
Weaknesses: Kosta’s areas of opportunity are obvious, but he does almost everything he can to negate those weaknesses by not playing into them. He’s not a shooter, and never will be. He’s taken only four three-pointers in his entire career (or one every 2,345 minutes), and only 9% of his career shot attempts have come from more than 10 feet away from the hoop. He’s also not a Vlade Divac-type center in any world, universe, or dimension. His assist rate is a paltry 3.9% and another team isn’t going to be able to run their offense through him or have him as a key cog on that side of the floor. He’s going to come onto the floor, clean the glass, play hard defense, and not cause any problems on either end of the floor.
Reading the Market: Today’s game plans rely on ball movement, outside shooting, and ability to play multiple positions while finding success in small-ball lineups. Kosta is an old-school, early ‘00s big man who won’t stay on the court for long stretches of time for most organizations. Traditional centers found themselves incredibly squeezed in the modern free agent market in the past few months, and the same low value will be prevalent in trade discussions. On his own, Koufos probably isn’t worth more than a second rounder or two. Pairing our backup big man with another player, or taking back a bad contract in return, may increase the return to a late first round pick, depending on the situation.
George Hill (PG)
Current Contract: 3 years/$57 million (final year only $1 million guaranteed)
Reason: First things first, our new point guard can’t be traded until December due to the fact that he was signed during the offseason. While media reports labeled his contract as 3 years, $57 million, the last year of his deal is almost entirely non-guaranteed, essentially creating a 2 year, $39 million contract, which would be much more palatable for most teams. The unlikely trade would probably be birthed from De’Aaron Fox being ready to take the reigns early in the season, along with a top-tier team losing a starting guard to injury and being willing to pay a heavy price to keep in contention.
Strengths: The former Spur is one of the better one-on-one point guard defenders in the league. His 6’9” wingspan enables him to disrupt passing lanes and his length also creates problems for weak ball-handlers. Hill’s shooting and scoring have both been on the rise in the past few years, and he knocked down 40% of his three-pointers last year and scored a career-high 16.9 points per game. Earlier in his tenure, he played almost half of his time at shooting guard, so his ability to share the court with our rookie point guards is extremely valuable as well.
Weaknesses: Ability to stay on the court is the biggest concern when it comes to George Hill. He’s missed 30+ games three times in his nine year career, including only being able to suit up for 43 games in 2014-2015 and 49 games last year. Our new starter also isn’t a game-changing passer. He can run the offense competently, and won’t throw the ball all over the court, but his career 3.3 assists per game and 18.8% assist percentage aren’t great numbers for a $20 million player.
Reading the Market: Hill is an above-average starting point guard who can knock down shots, run an offense, play two positions, and is a strong defender. Most organizations already have their lead guard in place for the year, but injuries always occur on contenders. If an up-and-coming organization makes an unlikely post-season run, but suffers a key injury to their point guard, the Kings may strike gold with a trade and get a future first rounder in return.
Malachi Richardson (SG/SF)
Current Contract: 1 year/$1,504,560 (Team Option for following 2 seasons)
Reason: If Malachi is moved, it will probably be a part of a larger deal as an extra piece, rather than as a singular swap due to his lack of experience and low value. Even though Richardson showed some flashes of competence in a few games last year, he’s pretty clearly behind Buddy Hield, and Garrett Temple at shooting guard, and Vince Carter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and possibly Justin Jackson at small forward. If another team wants to take a shot at his potential, and the Kings get a future asset in return, our sophomore could be on the move this season.
Strengths: Richardson is a complete unknown at this point in his career. He’s played 157 fewer minutes than the other Kings mystery man, Georgios Papagiannis. In the contests in which he did see the floor, he seemed to find a knack for drawing fouls, especially of the shooting variety. In games in which he saw eight or more minutes of playing time, Mal was able to get to the line once every 16 minutes. That’s certainly not an earth-shattering metric, but it shows an aggressiveness that we’ve rarely seen from our rookies in Sacramento. Richardson also has a long, rangy frame (and that’s as far as I’ll go with physical descriptions) that could project as a solid defender’s body, though he has yet to show that ability in his young career.
Weaknesses: Shooting is the most valuable commodity in today’s NBA, and Malachi struggles to put the ball in the hoop consistently. He shot a pretty miserable 41% from the floor (league average was 46%) and also struggled from long-distance, making only 29% of his attempts (league average was 36%). While he showed some potential defensively, Richardson was a negative on that end of the floor, as most rookies are. Finally, our second-year guard fell to a hamstring injury late in the season and re-aggravated that same issue in Summer League, which could indicate a proclivity towards missing time.
Reading the Market: Our sophomore slasher has almost no value in the trade market. I’m certain another team would throw a random second rounder our way to give him a shot, but that’s certainly not a good haul for the 22nd overall pick from just a year ago. Sacramento shouldn’t be shopping their young wing, and should be hesitant to include him in any package as his true potential can’t even be measured yet.
Garrett Temple (SG/SF)
Current Contract: 2 years/$16,000,000 (Player Option 2nd year)
Reason: Wait, wait, wait. Let’s put down the pitchforks and not banish the young giraffe yet. Let’s be realistic; the Kings seemed to have no desire to keep their veteran leaders from last season as they let every free agent possible walk and cut Arron Afflalo as well as team-favorite, Anthony Tolliver. The Front Office appears to want to completely reset the locker room with youth and hand-selected vets. Garrett also has an $8 million player-option for his contract next summer, so Sacramento could see him walk away at the end of the season with nothing coming back in return if they don’t move him by the deadline.
Strengths: Temple’s existence on the abomination that was the Kings last year caused him to be one of the most underrated perimeter defenders in the league. He’s not Kawhi Leonard or Andre Roberson, but he can match up with most guards and wings and is almost always the strongest link in a defensive chain. He can knock down three-pointers at a steady rate and with reliable accuracy, and can handle the ball in a pinch. He’s not a point guard, and he’s not a small forward, but he can play both positions if the need calls for it. For a contender like the Cavaliers, Rockets, Spurs, or Celtics he can be a key 3-and-D bench player in the regular season as well as in the playoffs.
Weaknesses: Temple is a pretty complete role player. His ball-control and passing instincts can become suspect if he’s given the reigns as the primary guard, but that’s more on the coach and roster construction rather than his abilities. He’s not a great rebounder, only snagging 2 boards per game in his career, but that’s why he should really be playing at shooting guard rather than anywhere else.
Reading the Market: Temple is a bench upgrade for almost every playoff-bound team in the league. He’s a cost effective veteran leader who also produces when on the floor. Teams hoping to topple the Warriors are going to need every deep-shooting defender they can grab. He’s not a star, and is unknown to most casual fans, but a smart GM will pick up him for a deep postseason run. A non-lottery first round pick isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, especially if he’s paired with another asset.
In the end, I think Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple will be in new locations by February of 2018. George Hill will likely stick on the team, even if De’Aaron Fox is ready, as the Kings will still need a competent backup, and Malachi Richardson still hasn’t gotten a chance to prove his abilities to management yet. Hopefully, our Front Office is able to convert a couple of veteran contracts into valuable future assets.
Who do you think is on the trading block walking into the season?