Welcome back to the Royal Mailbag! We had a ton of great questions, so let’s dive right in!
From Rob Hessing via the comments: Do you see any scenarios where the Kings might be able to trade into the 1st round, either via taking on a little contract or by flipping a couple of 2nd rounders?
Tim: I think it’s possible, but highly unlikely. If Harrison Barnes opts into his $25 million option, or the Kings sign him to a similar long-term deal, the front office will have about $37 million in cap space to play with, assuming they let all of their pending free agents walk. That’s just enough to snag a max-level player, something Vlade Divac would love to do after either a postseason run or just missing out on the playoffs. I don’t believe management will want to risk the opportunity (as unlikely as it will be) to sign someone to a maximum contract for a late first round pick.
From GhostRideVolvo via the comments: What are we going to do on draft lottery night now that the Kings are good?
Tim: Sooooooooooooooooooooooo if the Kings do miss the playoffs by a game or two and finish in 10th, they’ll have a 1% chance of sending
Zion Williamson the #1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers and a 4.8% chance of handing a top-4 pick to the Boston Celtics. I’ll be a nervous wreck if we don’t land the 8th seed.
From Michael Mack via the comments: What do you think the offseason priority will be, assuming Barnes opts in or re-signs?
Tim: The beautiful thing about Vlade Divac’s maneuvers at the trade deadline is that the Kings no longer have any gaping holes in the roster, rather they have a few upgrades to tweak. First and foremost, the front office should seek to enhance the starting big man spot next to Marvin Bagley. He’s not quite a stretch-4 or a rim-protector at this point in his career, and finding someone who can somewhat fill both of those roles would be fantastic. Dewayne Dedmon may very well be my favorite target. The 29-year old boasts a block percentage of 3.4%, which is about equal to that of Bagley and far better than Cauley-Stein’s 2.1%, and is knocking down 39% of his 3.3 three-point attempts per game. A rotation of Dedmon, Bagley, Giles, and Bjelica would provide plenty of outside spacing for De’Aaron Fox, while not compromising the integrity of Sacramento’s interior defense.
Whatever amount is used to grab a quality big man will likely use up a significant portion of Vlade Divac’s remaining cap space. From there, a backup wing would serve the Kings nicely, and there will be quite a few semi-cheap options available: Garrett Temple, Mario Hezonja, Jared Dudley, Thabo Sefolosha, and several other non-starters. After that, it’s all about cheap signings for emergency depth, likely another big man and ball-handler.
From JerryandGrantstearswillcuremankind via the comments: How would your ideal minutes allocation look for our bigs now that we have Barnes that can slide in at the 4?
Tim: Let’s assume we’re getting 10 minutes per night of Harrison Barnes small-ball, so that leaves us 86 minutes to distribute to the rest of the rotation. Since Marvin Bagley returned from injury, he and Willie Cauley-Stein have been dead-even in minutes: 27 apiece. Now we’re down to 32. Those can be split between Nemanja Bjelica and Harry Giles, based purely on in-game performance and match-ups. Both players are inconsistent, so if Bjelly is knocking down shots, he can hang in the game; whereas Harry gets the minutes if he’s locked in and not fouling. I imagine we’ll see Dave Joerger continue to start Bjelica at the four, but his minutes will hover in the 10 – 18 range.
From Gravymonkey via the comments: In a similar fashion to Fox last year, will Bagley start coming off of the All-Star break?
Tim: I would’ve said yes to that question for the majority of the year, but I’m going to switch to no. The Kings are looking to push for the playoffs, and Dave Joerger tends to ride the lineups that are making him successful. He’s won 30 games with Cauley-Stein as the starting center, so I wouldn’t expect him to make a change anytime soon.
From Henry C via the comments: Assuming current quality of play, what$/yr would it take for Barnes to opt out of his final $25 million this summer and sign long-term?
Tim: The number I’ve been throwing out since the acquisition has been 4 years/$80 million. Barnes would be sacrificing $5 million of a single year’s annual salary to lock up a multi-year guarantee. That contract, depending on final year options, would take Harrison through age 31, with the hopes of grabbing one last lucrative deal. Anything above $80 million begins to make me squirm, especially with so many young Kings heading for a payday relatively soon. I do expect the Kings and Barnes to come to an agreement during the summer, although that number may be a bit higher than we like.
From Malrock via the comments: How much better does Harrison Barnes make the team?
Tim: He’s taken us from a playoff hopeful to a playoff contender. It’s that simple.
From Carl via the comments: Do you chase Nikola Vucevic in the offseason as an upgrade to WCS? If yes, whats your limit vs the max you would pay WCS.
Tim: I’ll address the second part of the question first. I have absolutely zero desire to bring Willie Cauley-Stein back next season, and it really doesn’t have anything to do with cost. Even if Cauley-Stein gets an offer that feels like a fair deal, let’s say 4 years, $40 million, I would let him walk. He’s not going to want to back up Marvin Bagley, and their strengths and weaknesses don’t complement one another enough to start both at the same time. Willie won’t want to be a backup to a second-year player, and he can gain the starting center position elsewhere. Good luck, Trill.
Nikola Vucevic may very well be the biggest point of contention in my conversations with other StR staff members. I would guess about half would support a max contract being sent his way (and you’re only getting him with a max contract), while the sane half (that’s my half), don’t understand investing $145 million in a contributor who plays the same position as your #2 overall pick. There’s no doubt that Niko is extremely skilled, he’s averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds on 52% shooting from the floor and 38% shooting from deep, but the big man just doesn’t fill a large enough need for that large of a payday. Personally, I would rather continue growing the big man combination of Giles and Bagley, and prop them up with low-usage, quality big men like Ed Davis, Jordan Bell, and Dewayne Dedmon.
From dspott via the comments: What does it take for Sactown to become an above average free agent destination?
Tim: It’s going to take multiple years of sustained success to attract top-tier free agents. We should all be celebrating the unexpected nature of this season, but players, and more importantly agents, are not going to suddenly forget the ineptitude of the past 12 years. Not to be a negative Nancy, but take a look at the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns. They won 25 games in 2013 and unexpectedly jumped to 48 wins the following year. Most thought they were a franchise on the rise, but they haven’t enjoyed a winning season since, and they’ve since averaged just 27 wins. Reputations are tough to build and easy to break in the NBA, and the Kings need to reflect stability and talent for quite a while before the stain of the last dozen years will be wiped away. I wouldn’t expect any of the top 20 or 30 free agents to give Sacramento the time of day in July.
From Klam via the comments: Out of Alec Burks, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein, Yogi Ferrell, and Frank Mason, which of the expiring/non-guaranteed contracts would you like to bring back for next season and why?
Tim: I haven’t seen enough of Burks to speak confidently toward his future employment on the team, so I’m going to assign him as an unknown at this point. Willie Cauley-Stein can hit the road, and Kosta Koufos is probably better served on a different roster. I would absolutely bring Yogi Ferrell back even if the Kings sign another point guard. He’s a quality backup option on one of the best non-rookie contracts in the NBA. At worst, he could always be traded to a guard-needy team if the front office found a different ball-handler. Frank Mason should also be kept through at least the summer. He’s a fine third-string point guard, and his contract isn’t guaranteed until October 15th, meaning the Kings can go through free agency with him on the back burner. If the need arises, they can always cut the former Jayhawk if they need a roster spot, but I don’t foresee that becoming necessary with so many players on the team entering free agency.