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The Royal Mailbag: Responses to Session 11

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NBA: Sacramento Kings at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Royal Mailbag. Let’s dive right in!

From gregsactly via the comments: Looking ahead, what do you consider a fair value contract for these players: Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Harrison Barnes.

Tim: I believe Buddy Hield will be offered a max contract (4 years, $127 million) if he’s allowed to enter restricted free agency, so it would be wise for the Kings to lock him into a sub-max extension if at all possible. Nice round numbers are pleasing to the ears, so 4 years, $100 million at a flat $25 million per season would be a nice pickup for the front office. Buddy would gain long-term security and the Kings would save approximately $7 million in cap space each year.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is a bit more of a mystery. He’s struggled with his decision-making and shooting this season, and while he’s very good at many things, he’s not elite at any one skill. If I were in charge, I probably wouldn’t look to extend him before he hits free agency, letting the market decide his actual value. My top-dollar number at this point would probably be in the $12 -$15 million annual range, depending on his play over the next year-plus.

Harrison Barnes is an interesting case. He obviously has a $25 million player option for next season, an annual salary far above his worth on the open market, and there’s also a ton of money to be spent in July, a level of liquidity unlikely to be available the following summer. I think the Kings will try to lock him up long-term, likely in the range of 4 years, $80 million, although they should avoid investing that amount in a non-star if possible. The question management and the fan base must answer is: can they find a better solution at small forward for a reasonable price in the next six months? If not, overpaying Barnes may be the best option moving forward.

From dspott via the comments: How does one become a Sactown Royalty writer?

Tim: This is a pretty common question we receive from interested folks, and there are two main paths to obtain the glory of writing for this site. The first, less common road is by writing for another site first. We’ve stolen invited other authors from other basketball sites, both Kings-related and not, over the years. Tony, Bryant, Blake, and Sanjesh all got their starts that way.

If you don’t have any formal writing experience, fear not! The vast majority of the staff writers entered the community organically. We began as commenters, building our reputations (some good, some bad) through intelligent debate and fact finding, and at some point we advanced to composing fan posts. Fan posts are your way to show off your writing and research skills to the community, and if the editors like your stuff enough, they’ll throw it on the front page. I started off writing basic pieces, had no idea about advanced stats, and generally just wanted to share my opinion on things. Over time, through the comments and criticisms of other commenters, I honed my style to become more similar to what it is today. If you would like to take a gander at pre-staff Tim, you can read through The Timing of Talent, my last fan post before I was brought onto the crew.

A piece of encouragement: you don’t necessarily have to write for years in the fan posts before you’re recruited. Richard Ivanowski, the newest member of the staff, wrote just a few pieces before his abilities were recognized. Just start writing!

From king4life via the comments: While Fox is the most important player on the roster, is Buddy the best player on the team this season?

Tim: I would agree with that statement. When Fox is on, he’s far and away the best and most important player on the depth chart, but De’Aaron is pretty inconsistent, especially on the defensive end, whereas Buddy rarely struggles with his shooting. I would expect Fox to surpass his back court teammate next season as he settles into his third season in the pros, but for now, Buddy is slightly ahead.

From Randy Breuer’s Neck: Will Bagley ever start?

Tim: This season? Probably not with regularity. Dave Joerger will ride the lineups that have gotten him this far, and that includes the firepower of Bagley’s scoring off of the bench. I could foresee the rookie big man starting in the playoffs if Coach wants to change things up midway through a series, but I don’t expect Cauley-Stein or Bjelica to be sent to the bench anytime soon.

From Patrick from Davis via the comments: How do you guys think Joerger will incorporate the new players into the scheme? What options are now more of a reality than before playbook-wise?

Tim: Harrison Harrison Barnes enables the Kings to roll with a traditional lineup, that with two guards, one wing, and to bigs, or to go small with Fox-Buddy-Bogi-Barnes, and a big man. That versatility is key to Sacramento’s transition attack, as the three guards and Harry B. can get out and run while the center trails. Barnes’ three-point marksmanship, which has yet to show in a Kings uniform, also adds another shooter to space the floor for De’Aaron Fox. If you’re a defending team, you now must pick between stopping Fox’s drive in the lane, Cauley-Stein’s roll to the hoop, Buddy’s elite shooting, Bjelica’s elite shooting, and Barne’s above-average shooting.

Alec Burks can put the ball in the hoop with ease and provides an additional scoring option off of the bench. He probably won’t play a ton of minutes, certainly not more than 12 per game, but he can play two or three positions and won’t actively hurt the team when he’s on the floor.

From Carl via the comments: What are your top three free agent targets for the Kings this offseason?

Tim: I’m going to mold this question a little bit to bring a little complexity into the concept. First and foremost, I’ll only target realistic free agents, eliminating Kevin Durant, Khris Middleton, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Tobias Harris and Kyrie Irving. I’m also going to assume that Harrison Barnes returns to the Kings, as I don’t believe he’ll opt out of his $25 million contract unless Sacramento offers him a long-term deal. Either way, he’ll be wearing the purple and black next season.

That option eliminates the need for a starting small forward, meaning the Kings can utilize their dollars to upgrade starting positions or bolster the bench. That being said, my number one target would be Nikola Mirotic. Threekola offers the best combination of three-point shooting (37% on 7.2 attempts per game), rebounding (8.3 per game), and scoring (16.7 points per game) of any of the non-max big men. Some may argue that Nemanja Bjelica provides similar services as that of Mirotic, but Niko is three years younger, does everything at a much higher volume, and aside from the accuracy from deep, much more effectively:

Mirotic vs Bjelica

Nikola Mirotic 27 28.9 0.447 2.7 7.2 0.368 0.552 2.7 3.2 0.842 8.3 1.1 0.7 0.8 1.2 16.7
Nemanja Bjelica 30 23.3 0.483 1.4 3.4 0.422 0.576 0.9 1.2 0.765 5.8 1.9 0.7 0.8 1.2 9.9

My second recruit plays a similar game to that of Nikola Mirotic. Dewayne Dedmon will be 30-years old, but provides excellent shooting from deep (39% on 3.4 attempts), solid scoring (10.6 points per game), and slightly above-average rebounding (24.2% DREB). Dedmon is more of a center than a power forward, but the versatility of Marvin Bagley’s game should allow the two to start together, moving Nemanja Bjelica to the bench to provide instant offense. This signing would likely only be pursued if Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos were both released to new teams next season.

My third-favorite target is the best player of the bench, and likely the best player available within the Kings scope: Nikola Vucevic. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, while shooting 38% from three-point range on 2.9 attempts per game. There’s almost no doubt that adding the Magic center would propel Sacramento to a playoff spot next year, but offering a max contract to a high profile player who occupies the same position as your second overall pick is rife with danger.

The first concern is Vucevic’s usage. He’s at 27.9 for the season, higher than any member of the Kings, and while that percentage would no doubt lower if he came to Sac, he will demand touches. For comparision’s sake, Willie Cauley-Stein is at 18.8, Nemanja Bjelica is at 17, and Marvin Bagley is at 22.8. It would be very difficult to increase the opportunities for Marvin Bagley while also keeping Niko satisfied with his participation.

There’s also the matter of Vooch’s age. He’ll turn 29 at the start of next season, meaning he’ll be making $37 million as a 32-year old center. Will Vucevic be able to perform at the necessary level at that age while taking up that much of the cap? Committing a long-term max contract to a somewhat redundant player may very well hurt the Kings’ flexibility down the road, especially when their young core is ready to sign their rookie extensions.