Even with the stress of the draft finally over, Kings fans don’t get much of an opportunity to catch their breath as an entirely new form of anxiety begins at 9:00pm PST tonight: free agency. A tight market will allow a few teams to make savvy moves, while others will be left with onerous contracts to haunt them for years to come. Many questions are swirling throughout the fanbase. Will Vlade Divac make another George Hill-sized mistake? How often will Sacramento be used as leverage by agents seeking a bigger deal? Is the Dollar Store Prince that Was Promised, Mario Hezonja, finally going to wear the purple and black? We gathered the brightest minds of STR (plus Bryant), to answer a few questions surrounding what we hope for, as well as what to expect.
What do you see as the Kings greatest need?
Richard: Combo forward, specifically one who is strong defensively. It may be the most highly coveted position in the NBA right now, and the Kings have no one that matches the description. After that I would like to add another defensive minded player that can guard opposing ball handlers, perhaps a vet who can pass on a few tips to Fox and Mason.
Tim: I agree with Richard. The Kings don’t have a quality small forward on the team (Justin Jackson doesn’t fit that description), so bringing in a player who can play small-ball 4 and the regular wing spot is key for sensible roster composition. Sacramento also doesn’t have any defensively-minded young players, so grabbing someone with that mindset should be a priority.
Name a couple of your favorite free agent targets for this team. How likely are we to sign them?
Richard: Kyle Anderson would be my choice right now, though he is restricted and likely to re-sign for the Spurs. A cheaper and more attainable version of him could be found in Nemanja Bjelica, though he is much more offensively minded. I would also love to see Tyreke Evans make his (second) return to Sacramento.
Tim: I’m going to add a word to the question: realistic. As well as Evans’ skill set matches the holes in the roster, I don’t think there’s any world in which he considers a return to Sacramento. I’m in the minority among STR writers for my current favorite, but I think Jabari Parker should be the number one target for the Kings. The risks are vast as he has missed 47% of his career games, but he’s a 20 point scorer who can play either forward spot and will be moderately cheap due to his injury history. I would offer him a 4 year, $72 million deal with a fourth-year team option. That annual salary would also force the Bucks into the luxury tax if they matched, something they’re unlikely to do.
Who are we most likely to sign?
Richard: Mario Hezonja on an overpay. But I’m kind of alright with that.
Tim: Mario Hezonja has been linked to the Kings for longer than Brad has been linked to the Scranton Strangler. Vlade was interested in taking him during the 2015 draft before Orlando snagged him, while Peja had great things to say about him before the 2015 draft (he wasn’t employed by the Kings at the time), and is a family friend who previously mentored him. Sacramento also considered trading Malachi Richardson and a second rounder for Super Mario last summer, and the Kings have already been linked to him before free agency has even begun. There’s a very high chance he’s starting on opening night. A word of caution: he’s averaged double-digit points in just 4 out of 21 of his career months.
Would you like to predict any trades during the free agency period?
Richard: I think they shop Skal hard, but don’t find much in a buyers market.
Tim: One of Willie Cauley-Stein or Skal Labissiere, plus a veteran, are dealt before the start of the season. Washington would be my favorite landing spot for Willie, while I could see Skal somewhere like Denver or Portland in a salary dump.