Vlade Divac has had an interesting summer. Armed with the 2nd and 37th overall picks, as well as a boatload of cap space in a cash-strapped market, our General Manager took a different route than many expected, selecting Marvin Bagley in the lottery, trading away the 37th selection for future draft compensation, and staying mostly stagnant in free agency, adding Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell on smart, team-friendly deals. Those decisions, as well as previous moves made by the current and former regimes, have led the Kings to a curious jumble of treasures: a plethora of minor to mediocre resources that could lead to real value if spent wisely.
The loveliest gemstone in the Kings’ cache is the cap space currently burning a hole in Vlade Divac’s pocket. Not only is Sacramento the only team with available funds to spend, they have a decent chunk of it, sitting with $11,024,575 free on their cap sheet. That space will continue to increase in value as the season progresses, climaxing right at the trade deadline, and then collapsing once next summer rolls around.
If they play the field correctly, the Kings will be in a prime position to demand maximum return by absorbing a bad contract in exchange for a young asset or future pick, or using the space in a similar fashion to facilitate a three-team deal. Unfortunately, the Kings already missed out on the Denver-Brooklyn transaction which landed the Nets a future first rounder; although the Front Office’s shenanigans at last February’s deadline may have precluded them from ever entering the conversation.
If a deal doesn’t materialize in the next few months, the significance of that $11 million will dissipate dramatically. Similar to the summer of 2016, although without the massive cap spike, almost every teams’ wallet will be flush, with half of the league projecting to have $17 million or more in available cash, including the Kings’ own $58 million. The contracts handed out in that kind of market are almost always bloated, the worst situation for a small market, non-playoff team. Leveraging their position as the only organization with the ability to absorb contracts is the smartest use of the funds that Vlade chose not to spend in July and August.
Expiring contracts are always more prized by fans playing with the trade machine and justifying nonsensical deals that heavily favor their squad (not that I would ever be caught doing such a nefarious deed), than they are to operating teams within the NBA, and this year will be no exception.
Eighteen teams will combine for $622,230,168 in cap space in July, with 116 unrestricted and 125 restricted free agents coming off of the books. Every franchise will see their total expenditures greatly decrease at the end of the 2018-2019 campaign, devaluing the multiple expiring contracts that the Kings possess.
But, unlike every other General Manager, Vlade Divac will walk into negotiations with not just almost-worthless expirings, but also as the only General Manager with the cap space to absorb the foolish spending that took place a few years ago. Combining that room with one or more expiring deals could provide immense relief for a few teams stuck in mediocrity.
Expiring Contracts + Cap Space
|Player||Salary||Combined with Cap Space||Status|
|Player||Salary||Combined with Cap Space||Status|
A few teams come to mind in that exact scenario, Portland and Washington specifically. Sacramento could take on Evan Turner’s 2 year, $36 million contract and a future first rounder in exchange for Kosta Koufos and Skal Labissiere, clearing out their big man jam while gaining something for the future. They could also absorb Ian Mahinmi’s monstrosity of an overpay, 2 years, $31 million, and a future pick (or Kelly Oubre), in exchange for Ben McLemore, reducing the Wizards luxury tax bill to almost nothing and opening up space for them to spend next summer. Any larger amounts of salary could include Iman Shumpert or Zach Randolph: the possibilities are almost endless.
The Front Office parting with any member of the young nucleus of potential stars, De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, or Bogdan Bogdanovic, is quite implausible unless an impossible to resist offer comes along. Conversely, the veterans, aside from the mildly overpaid Kosta Koufos and newly signed Nemanja Bjelica, don’t really hold any value on their own.
Between those two groups reside a few players who may struggle to find their way into the rotation or who may not be a part of the future. The Kings didn’t draft Marvin Bagley or ink Nemanja Bjelica to a deal to have Skal Labissiere play in front of them, nor did they sign Yogi Ferrell to sit behind Frank Mason, or promote Harry Giles’ future to have him supplanted by Willie Cauley-Stein. Justin Jackson is more of a mystery man, failing to prove himself last season, but also likely finding more of an opportunity next year due to positional need.
These four players represent varying levels of potential for possible suitors, with Cauley-Stein likely holding the most value, and Frank Mason the least, but any one of these up-and-coming talents could project as a diamond in the rough for another team. It only takes one organization to seem some potential or to blame Kings’ mismanagement to take a gamble on one of these young players. If that interest does come to pass, the Front Office can’t afford to grow attached to their former draft selections, and needs to move on from non-foundational youth.
It’s well documented that the Kings don’t possess their 2019 first rounder, and that lack of lottery pick will almost assuredly prevent them from trading any future top-30 selections as well. But, while he did waste a first round pick early in his tenure, Vlade Divac has displayed an odd penchant for finding second round picks like a Maloof accrues debt.
Currently, the Kings own nine second rounders over the course of the next three years, and like a toddler given three heaping scoops of ice cream, they’re unlikely to tackle that pile of goodies all on their own. It’s simply not feasible to select almost an entire roster’s worth of second round picks over such a short period of time, even with drafting and stashing.
Future Second Rounders
|2019||ORL/CLE/HOU||2nd Most Favorable|
These picks don’t hold an abundance of value as a singular entity, and lumped together they provide the same sort of difficulty to any other team – they’re not practically spent in that manner. Sadly, there’s also no collect 10 second rounders, get a free first rounder punch card in the CBA. Instead, selections in the latter half of the draft are most often used to facilitate deals: a throw-in to lubricate a more difficult transaction. And that’s exactly the way Vlade Divac should deploy his assets.
It’s quite probable that a situation will arise in which the Kings will be tempted to spend one of these assets in the coming year, while combining two or three of them may compound the value of each individual resource. An offer of Willie Cauley-Stein, both an expiring contract and a mildly exciting player, Skal Labissiere, a cheap prospect, and the absorption of $10 or $15 million in bad contracts could very well result in an advantageous situation for Vlade Divac, certainly more so than any one of those players could attract on their own. The Kings may not own their first round pick, and they shouldn’t easily part ways with key members of the young core, but any other reasonable offers should be contemplated and executed before the value of these minor assets fades to nothing.