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I’m still baffled by the decision to decline Harry Giles’ option

A week later, it still doesn’t make any more sense.

Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Last week the Sacramento Kings announced that, among other moves, they had declined the fourth year option on Harry Giles. We’ve already detailed the impacts of that decision, how it almost guarantees that Giles doesn’t have a future with the Kings despite the team’s words to the contrary. What I’m still struggling with is why the Kings did this.

Future cap flexibility around the luxury tax is the most likely explanation. Jeff Siegel wrote for Early Bird Rights about the possible cap impacts of keeping or not keeping Harry. It’s worth reading the whole piece, Siegel’s work at Early Bird Rights is excellent, but the overall gist is that the Kings will be near the luxury tax in coming years and every dollar matters, especially with contracts looming for De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. But while this is true, I’d argue that makes the Kings’ decision even more baffling.

I’m not the only one that’s confused by this, either. On this week’s episode of The Sactown Royalty Show, Brad and Kevin talked about their confusion. Sean Cunningham of News 10 asked similar questions on this week’s episode of the Kings Pulse podcast too. Everyone seems to be asking the same thing: Why would the Kings cut bait after 58 games?

The Kings drafted Harry Giles knowing full well he’d be an injury reclamation project. It’s the reason a player with Harry’s talent fell to the 20th pick in the first place. The logic at the time was the Kings traded down from the 10th pick to get 2 picks, so they could take a big swing with one of those picks. Justin Jackson was the “safe” pick, eventually traded to the Mavericks as part of the package for Harrison Barnes. But Harry was the boom or bust pick. He was the one who could potentially be a huge steal.

The Kings redshirted Harry for his rookie season, preaching patience and taking the long-term outlook. The Kings talked about building his strength and making sure Harry was structurally sound, to prevent future injuries.

Before his debut last year, the hype around Harry was unavoidable. We heard rave reviews from behind closed doors, about how Harry was reminiscent of a young Chris Webber. His debut was rocky, with foul trouble hindering his playing time. But as the season went on, we got to see glimpses of why everyone raved about Giles. He was a tenacious defender, he was tough, and his passing was a thing of beauty. Harry’s abilities and personality quickly earned him a status as a fan favorite.

But Harry only appeared in 58 games before being shut down with a thigh bruise. We told it was mostly precautionary because the Kings wanted Giles fully recovered for this season. But the start of this season has seen Harry sidelines with a sore knee. The Kings say that there’s no new damage, and reports indicate that Harry is practicing with the team and will be playing again soon. There’s been nothing from the Kings to indicate a major medical red flag.

So what changed? Harry was the second coming of Chris Webber. Harry is definitely healthy. So why in the world is he not worth $4 million and the opportunity to retain him? If the Kings are going to be a luxury tax team in the future, maintaining control of young assets is critical, as is the ability to trade players and acquire future assets.

Declining this option sends a loud (if confusing) signal that the Kings don’t believe in Harry, despite what they may say via press release. Actions speak louder than words. That torpedoes any trade value Harry may have had. Harry was rumored to be a player the Oklahoma City Thunder were interested in if there was going to be a Steven Adams trade. We don’t know if those rumors were true, but any value Harry had in such a trade package is now out the window, for Adams or anyone else.

And this isn’t a matter of the Kings failing to understand the ramifications of their decision. We’ve lauded the Kings for their structuring of contracts, Ken Catanella, the Kings cap wizard, surely knew the impact of this choice.

So why did they make this decision despite all the negative impacts ranging from fan reactions, trade value, and asset control? Why would they spend 2 years hyping up Harry a key member of the team’s young core and suddenly pivot? We have no idea. We just know that if Harry returns and picks up where he left off last season, it’s going to be bittersweet knowing that Harry is playing his way into a contract that the Kings can’t give him.