Welcome back to the Royal Mailbag! We had some great questions offered to us in the comments, so let’s dive right in!
From Rob Hessing via the comments: How would you go about addressing the Kings’ interior defensive woes? And looking to next year, would free agents Ed Davis, Javale McGee (or someone else) fill the void for a front line that promised to include Bagley, Giles, and Bjelica?
Tim: I truly believe Marvin Bagley has both the skill set and the desire to eventually become a rim protector for the Kings. He won’t turn into the unicorn, switchable defender that Willie was projected to be, but he’ll be a top-20 shot-blocker in the league, and quite possibly much better than that. Outside of paint protection, a significant part of Sacramento’s interior defensive woes stem from their lack of size on the perimeter. De’Aaron Fox is incredibly inconsistent, Buddy tries hard but isn’t particularly adept, and Iman Shumpert is out-sized and overpowered on a nightly basis. If De’Aaron can fully commit to both ends of the floor and Vlade Divac can actually acquire a quality small forward, many of the interior issues will begin to disappear, although not completely.
Ed Davis is probably my favorite free agent target to come off of the bench behind Nemanja Bjelica and Marvin Bagley, while Kosta Koufos could always be brought back to fill his same role as backup defender and rebounder. Another under-the-radar signing who would fit the timeline a little better than the veterans above? Jordan Bell. He’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Golden State Warriors could theoretically match any deal sent his way, but an early contract offer may scoop up a potential piece in free agency.
From king4life via the comments: With seemingly every team having cap space this year, would you be okay with the Kings sitting out free agency and not giving out a big contract to someone? This summer feels a lot like 2016 when everyone had cap space a a ton of players got overpaid.
Tim: While I agree that there are going to be some hefty contracts handed out this coming summer, there is one huge difference between 2016 and 2019: the number of available players. The ridiculous spending three seasons ago was prompted by an unnatural spike in cap space due to the new television deal, while this market is being set mostly by the number of players becoming free agents. Approximately 50% of the NBA will have the option to enter the field, meaning there’s a ton of money to be spent, but there are also a ton of spots to be filled. Thinking from the Kings’ perspective, they’re losing Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph, and Ben McLemore and could choose to let Frank Mason, Yogi Ferrell, and Willie Cauley-Stein walk away. If that were to occur, Vlade Divac’s $59 million in cap space looks quite a bit smaller when he has seven roster spots to fill. In all likelihood, the Kings will retain Mason and Ferrell with their small salaries, but other teams are facing similar decisions. We’ll probably see several large deals handed out very quickly, as always happens in July, and then the trickle-down effect of mediocre players receiving mediocre deals.
The Kings look pretty good right now, especially for a group that’s sporting one of the youngest cores in the NBA, so they shouldn’t be afraid to spend where it makes sense. A permanent solution at the small forward slot should be the first priority, followed closely by a rim-running paint protector. Sacramento always has to overpay for free agents, but filling a positional gap is well worth a few extra dollars. One side note: the front office should also try to extend Buddy Hield for a below-max contract if at all possible. Preventing him from entering restricted free agency is certainly within their best interest.
From betweentheeyes via the comments: The backcourt duo of Fox and Hield has carried us this season and had us see stars before our yes. Where do they rank this year compared to their peers?
Tim: I tweeted out that they were a top-10 combo the other day without really thinking the matter through. They’re easily within the top-10. It’s not really a debate. Personally, I would place them as the fourth-best back court, behind Curry-Thompson, Harden-Paul, and Lillard-McCollum. An argument could be made for Wall-Beal as well, but the Kings have been much more successful than the Wizards, and Buddy and Fox seem to have a much more positive impact in the locker room than their Washington counterparts.
From gregsactly via the comments: What do we need more: size at the three or rebounding at the five?
Tim: I’m hoping to put something together with more in-depth analysis soon, but I think more size at the three would actually help to solve some of our rebounding issues at the five. Iman Shumpert is a shooting guard filling in at the small forward position, and his never being a great rebounder for a two-guard makes his weakness as a wing stand out even more. For example, Shump has recorded a rebounding percentage of just 6.4% this season, ranking the third-worst among qualified forwards in the NBA. On the other hand, a frequent trade machine target of Kings fans, Otto Porter, boasts a rebounding percentage of 10.5%, a much more palatable percentage for a true wing. If management can find a full-time solution at small forward, many of the team’s rebounding issues will decrease significantly.
From scottymus.prime via the comments: The Ringer listed a trade for Otto Porter Jr. as a good idea for the Kings (I agree) while ESPN listed a trade for Wiggins to us as a good idea (I disagree). Is there any smoke to that fire outside of SacTown?
Tim: I can pretty confidently say that the Kings will be very interested in Otto Porter if he is made available. I get the feeling that the Wizards aren’t quite ready to move on from their core yet, so Sacramento will have to wait until Washington continues to implode. Currently, they’re eight games under .500, but the weaker Eastern Conference also means they’re only three games out of the 8th seed. Until that gap widens, we may not see Ernie Grunfield (quite possibly the worst GM in the league) willing to move a significant part of his core, even though the Wizards are paying Porter $26 million to come off of the bench behind Trevor Ariza, who’s making $15 million of his own.
As far as Andrew Wiggins is concerned, I haven’t heard a peep about the Kings’ interest in acquiring him, nor the Timberwolves desire to trade the young forward. Minnesota is still well within the playoff race, and Jimmy Butler’s potential max deal coming off of the their books really alleviated some salary cap pressure for the near-future. I would not support a Wiggins acquisition (contrary to my beliefs over the summer) nor would I expect a trade to go down this year.
From DTG13 via the comments: What haul can we get for WCS?
Tim: On his own? Not much. Cauley-Stein is one of the most consistently inconsistent players in the league, desperately wants to get paid this summer (as do we all), and doesn’t really do anything well besides running the floor and offering a target in the pick-and-roll. I don’t believe any teams out there would surrender even a highly-protected first rounder for Trill.
The key to any Willie deal will be to combine him with other assets, likely the $11 million in cap space, expiring contracts, other non-core youth, and any of our nine second rounders in the next three years. That package begins to look quite a bit more attractive, especially when looking at some of the cap-strapped teams around the league. Centering a package around Cauley-Stein and expiring contracts for someone like Otto Porter make a whole lot of sense for both teams.