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The Royal Roundtable: Grading Vlade Divac’s performance in free agency

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Kimani Okearah

Over the last few days, Vlade Divac and the front office have reworked the supporting cast propping up the youngest super-team in the NBA. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Alec Burks, and Corey Brewer have been replaced with Dewayne Dedmon, Richaun Holmes, Trevor Ariza, and Cory Joseph, while Harrison Barnes was brought back on a long-term contract. Now that the free agency shuffle has mostly finished and the dust has settled, the Sactown Royalty crew shares their opinions of each signing.

Harrison Barnes: 4-years, $85 million, descending in nature

Tim: I argued that the Kings should do everything in their power to reasonably re-sign Barnes this summer and they did exactly that. The dollar amount came in slightly higher than expected, but still lower than his player option and $2 million per year isn’t something I have enough energy to quibble about. Harrison just turned 27, so he’s entering his athletic prime and should be at the peak of his game for the next several years, and the declining nature of his contracts aligns perfectly with the massive rookie extensions coming up for the front office. Assuming it’s a $136 million salary in the 2022-2023 (which is a complete estimate based on current raises), Barnes’ final year salary of about $19.5 million should only account for about 14% of the team’s cap space. This was a necessary deal for the Kings. B+

Sanjesh: Bringing back Barnes to this team was an absolute must make move. He wanted to be in Sacramento, he fit right in with Sacramento and he’s a core piece with Sacramento. I can’t get upset with the Kings bringing back the most realistic SF option for them and the descending contract is also nice. This is a solid A move for me.

Bryant: As someone who had significant doubts about Barnes before the trade, I was impressed with how he handled the transition to Sacramento, and he became a solid two-way force at the end of season. Maybe he doesn’t get quite this much on the open market, but wings with his ability to shoot and play up the lineup are so vital for this era. He fills a real need for this guard/big oriented rebuild, and this is a fine deal given his value to this roster. One of the real keys next seaon will be to see how Barnes adjusts to being the fourth option on offense. B+

Greg: This was the result that was always coming, it was simply a matter of numbers. When the Kings traded for Barnes, it was expected that they’d work out a long term deal with him. I would have preferred if he could have been kept at a number under $20M a year, but always suspected it could come in higher. Barnes’ deal is higher than I wanted, but lower than what I was worried it would be. From a money standpoint, it’s an overpay but not one that is so egregious that I’m going to be upset about it. Barnes is a good player and a good person to have in the locker room. He has some flaws in his game, but that’s why he isn’t commanding a max contract. B

Rich: I feel strongly that Harrison Barnes is undervalued around the league. The Dallas Mavericks miscast him as a primary option and saddled him with a lot of iso work that didn’t play to his strengths. I fully expect the situation in Sacramento to suit him much better, where he can become an elite support player. Three-and-D forwards like Barnes are in extreme demand around the league. Just think, what other free agent would you have chosen to replace him with? Aside from Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kris Middleton, and Tobias Harris — who are all going to get paid at least twice as much — there weren’t many quality options at his position. So while he did not return value on the max contract that Dallas gave him, he is now on an appropriately sized deal. Add the context of the small market and you’ve got yourself a win. A

Tony: I’m not the biggest Harrison Barnes fan here, but I still think this was a solid move. It’s hard to argue this when I’m not at the negotiating table, but I can’t help but feel like the Kings could have kept him at a lower number. How many teams with cap space we’re going to spend it on 4 guaranteed years of Harrison Barnes at $20+ million when nearly any team in the league could have had him as a salary dump at the deadline last year? Again, I don’t know, but it felt to me like the Kings were negotiating against themselves a bit here. Regardless, I wanted the Kings to retain Barnes, they accomplished that, and if it’s a few million more than I thought it would be, oh well. I like that it’s descending, I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns into a bad contract at some point, but I’m still in. B-

Dewayne Dedmon: 3-years, $41 million, final year partial guarantee

Tim: Dewayne Dedmon has been my free agent crush for about six months now, and his skillset melds perfectly with what Luke Walton will attempt to do with this roster. His shooting helps to negate Nemanja Bjelica’s move to the bench, while his contributions in the pick-and-roll and in rim protection will be much better than that of last year’s starter. The partial guarantee on the final year of his deal allows the Kings to escape the contract a little early if he ages poorly or if Harry Giles is ready sooner than expected, and Dedmon’s veteran leadership is an underrated aspect of the addition. A perfect signing and solid value. A+

Sanjesh: Let me be perfectly clear that I would’ve been happy with either Dedmon, Al Horford or a trade that brought Clint Capela over. Dedmon should fit in really well with the identity of this team and his 38% clip from three is a pure bonus for floor spacing. Any upgrade at center would most likely get an A from me and I think Dedmon is an upgrade so he gets an A for me.

Bryant: The Kings spent the last month signalling to the NBA that they were in the market for a center. They had their name attached to every one on the market, and given their recent FA history, it’s easy to imagine a world where the Kings begin next season starting JaVale McGee or DeAndre Jordan next season. But the Kings played this hand excellently; Dedmon isn’t Horford, and I’m not sure he provides the same long-term value as Capela, but he fits this current roster well and he’ll unlock a bunch of space for Marvin Bagley. The Kings walk away from free agency with a coveted starter to fill their self-evaluated biggest need... hard to give that anything less than an A-.

Greg: Dedmon is such a perfect fit for the Kings. He provides the spacing to open up the offense and rim protection to cover up weaknesses on the defensive end. I think he’s a perfect fit for what the team needed at the center position. A

Rich: Dewyane Dedmon is the definition of a well rounded center in the modern NBA. He’s not exactly elite at any one thing, but he’s also not exploitable in any particular area. He slowly gained steam all year as a favorite target among front offices, with that popularity peaking just as free agency began. Any team in the league would have liked to add Dedmon for just south of $10 million. The Kings were smart to go above market and draw his eye away from any looming MLE offers. He’s not going to wow you with numbers and bravado, but he is going to address the most the biggest weaknesses in Sacramento’s frontcourt. This deal will be tradeable if Bagley, Giles, and Holmes reach their potential, and the partial guarantee is the cherry on top. A

Tony: I love what the Kings did here. Some folks may view Dedmon as a disappointment after we spent the last month talking about Al Horford, Clint Capela, Brook Lopez, and Steven Adams, among others, but to me, Dedmon is the perfect solution at center for the Kings at this stage of their rebuild. Everyone is still figuring out what kind of players Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are going to be, and Dedmon is an excellent short term, steady option the Kings can use until they figure that out. I don’t want to oversell his production, but his mix of shooting, defense, rim protection, and rebounding are all big time needs for this frontcourt. A

Trevor Ariza: 2 years, $25 million, final year partial guarantee

Tim: The theory of Trevor Ariza is probably better than the production of Trevor Ariza at this stage in his career, but bringing the veteran wing off of the bench for 15 or 20 minutes will help to negate some of that decline. His defense and shooting both took a hit during the 2018-2019 season, and fans shouldn’t necessarily expect to see the same performer that was such an integral part of Houston’s run at the title a couple of years ago. The good news is that Ariza is still a much better player than Iman Shumpert of Justin Jackson, and the Kings will see a bump in production from the bench with his addition. The terms of his deal are also a big benefit, as the front office can dump him after just one year if he fails to contribute at a level that justifies his salary. B-

Sanjesh: I thought the Kings could’ve gotten a guy like Marcus Morris, DeMarre Carroll (especially at his contract) or even Terrence Ross. Ariza wasn’t high on my radar because of his age and down year this past season. However, there’s still value for Ariza on this roster and with the partial guarantee, he can be moved on from if it doesn’t work out. This move gets a B from me.

Bryant: I’m less high on this move, but I understand why the Kings gambled here. Ariza can still provide bench versatility that this roster sorely missed, and he may have been the only player in his tier range who would have signed the partial guarantee for next season. That said, a lot comes down to which Ariza shows up in Sacramento; will it be the Phoenix Ariza, who shot 37% from the field and gripped his way out of Arizona, or will it be the Washington Ariza who was effective (14 PPG) if not efficent (40% shooting) on a bunch of shots (12 a game)? Will he accept the reduced role more effectively this time? I’m talking myself out of this more and more as I type, so let’s just give this a C+ and be done.

Greg: The Kings have lacked depth at the wing for a long time. I like this move to improve the bench. Ariza has good size, can switch on defense, and still has some offensive versatility. The fit makes sense even if Ariza is a little long in the tooth. But I worry when the Kings give a big overpay to a guy and justify it with the second year being only partially guaranteed. It’s the same way we talked ourselves into Arron Afflalo’s contract, which we all hated within just a few months. I worry this could be a repeat. The Kings may have improved the bench, and that is my expectation, but there’s a chance they simply overpaid a player who isn’t as productive as he once was. C

Rich: Ariza is no spring chicken, but he does have tons of experience — including multiple trips to the NBA Finals. And while he is coming off a down year, it’s hard to know how much of that was the teams he played for (Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards). I can’t really blame him for losing focus or motivation in those situations. Hopefully it will be different in Sacramento. Remember when everyone was stressed out about not having any small forwards entering last season? That’s no longer an issue, and I am much happier for it. The deal could end up being a slight overpay, but it appears that a partial guarantee will serve as a nice insurance policy. Once again, I struggle to find any downside here. A

Tony: The Kings needed to add some wing depth this summer, and while Trevor Ariza wasn’t my first choice, on this contract, I don’t really have anything negative to say about it. Ariza has fantastic size for a wing, and at one point, he used that size and became a tremendous 3+D wing. His defense isn’t what it was, and his outside shot can be streaky, but if he can still bring some of that in small bursts, it’s a huge win for the Kings’ bench. I’m very intrigued by some of the lineup combinations Luke Walton is going to have this season, and Ariza’s size and versatility is a big part of those combinations. That’s exciting to me, and this is essentially a one-year deal, so if he’s good, awesome. If he’s not, the Kings have a big expiring contract to play with at the trade deadline, or a nice chunk of open cap space next summer. B-

Cory Joseph: 3 years, $37 million, final year partial guarantee

Tim: Cory Joseph is a very good defender. He ranked fourth among point guards in overall defensive field goal percentage (-1.6%) and also tied with De’Aaron Fox for fourth place among point guards in three-point defensive field goal percentage (-2.7%). Last season, the Pacers recorded a defensive rating of 102.8 with Joseph on the floor, while that number jumped all the way to 107.5 with the backup guard on the bench. He was arguably their most important defender. Joseph will provide a level of defense from the point guard position that the Kings haven’t seen in years, and once again upgraded a position of need. A

Sanjesh: Pat Bev was my favorite choice, though proven to be harder to get. Joseph was still one of the best defenders available on the market and can play the 1 and 2 spots on the floor. The Pacers had one of the best defensive teams in the league last year and Joseph definitely was a factor in that. This is also an A move for me, as the Kings upgrade their defense and bench with this signing.

Bryant: Sure, I’ll take a smart, effective defensive glue guy behind De’Aaron Fox. The Kings bench needed a point-of-attack bulldog; my biggest question is how Joseph will adjust to the pace that Sacramento wants to play at. Through his time in San Antonio, Toronto, and Indiana, I don’t think Cory has played with a team this fast. I think he’ll be a good fit for this roster, but if he isn’t, it’s another partial-guarantee contract that the Kings can get out of relatively easily. B+

Greg: This is another one where I completely see the roster fit and like the player, but worry about the cost. It’s essentially a two year deal with the third year only partially guaranteed, but it’s another overpay. Joseph is exactly what the Kings lacked in a backup point guard last season, and he’ll certainly improve the team. But I worry that we’re brushing off the overpay. B

Rich: I think it’s clear that defense was the issue between Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason last year. When Fox would leave the floor, opposing guards just had their way with the Kings. Joseph changes that completely. With this signing the Kings can now apply pressure at the point of attack for 48 minutes. Offensively, he can take the ball out of Bogdan Bogdanovic’s hands at times. Bogi often got stuck pounding the ball last year while trying to create with a suboptimal bench unit. I’m excited to watch Bogi spot up and run off screens more frequently next season. Joseph was a legitimate candidate to grab a starting job, so don’t be surprised if another team comes sniffing around for a trade at some point. And I know I’m starting to get repetitive now, but once again I have to shout out the partial guarantee. A

Tony: Cory Joseph is one of the NBA’s best defensive guards. That’s what the Kings paid for. His offensive production isn’t terribly exciting, but this Young Superteam has so many options on offense already, the Kings needed to start spending on defense, and I’m glad they recognized that. I got more messages from fans/writers of teams Cory Joseph played for than all the other free agents the Kings signed this summer combined. Pacers people are sad to see him go. Raptors folks are in my ear telling me how much Sacramento is going to love him. I thought Vlade Divac did an excellent job retooling the bench unit, Cory Joseph is a huge part of that, and I can’t wait to see it on the court. A

Richaun Holmes: 2 years, $10 million

Tim: Once the Kings signed Dewayne Dedmon, I didn’t believe Richaun Holmes was a real possibility, as he felt like too good of a player to come to Sacramento as a potential fifth bit, but either the market was smaller than initially believed or Vlade Divac sold him on the Kings stellar player development. Holmes is an excellent rim protector, can switch onto the perimeter, and is a solid option in the pick-and-roll as well; however, his rebounding is extremely poor. He plays with the ferocity of a Quincy Acy or Montrezl Harrell type player, and he’ll give his all every night. Richaun will create an interesting rotational conundrum for Luke Walton, as the new Head Coach will be forced to choose between the hustle and shot-blocking of Holmes, the shooting of Bjelica, or the development of Giles. The Kings now possess a ton of big man depth and that will likely come in handy with the questionable durability of Dedmon, Giles, and even Bagley. A

Sanjesh: Holmes signing for the MLE was a solid move by the Kings front office. I thought that Holmes would have a bigger market for him so I wasn’t entertaining the idea of him being signed here. However, Holmes is only 25 and has potential in him. His hustle and energy off the bench is going to be something the fans love. The depth in the frontcourt is very versatile and deep after this signing and it’s definitely an A for me.

Bryant: The Kings may have gotten a 3rd-big level player to fill their 4/5th big spot (depending on how you rank Giles and Nemanja Bjelica). That’s depth this roster hasn’t had in a long, long time. The good thing is that he concievably fits with any of the Kings bigs—most lineups could use his rebounding grit and rim protection—and he’s going to make Bagley and Giles practice daily against a type of center who gave them fits last year. A

Greg: I’m really happy with this signing. We all remember Holmes entering games and just destroying Kings big men last season. This season he’ll be doing that for us. A high-energy big man who does a little bit of everything. Holmes’ signing creates real questions and competition in the big man rotation, but that’s a good problem to have. B+

Rich: I hate to say it, but I mostly view this move as a backup plan incase Harry Giles has any lingering heath issues. But as far as backup plans go, Holmes is a very strong one. It’s a little difficult to know how real the numbers are when they’re coming from 16 minutes a night on the worst team in the conference, but his per-minute and per-possession starts are absolutely bonkers. There’s some minor recognition issues at times, but Holmes has all the raw tools you could want in a big man. I personally couldn’t have picked a better candidate for the room-MLE. A

Tony: Before the Kings signed Richaun Holmes, I thought Vlade Divac did a really nice job solidifying the front court rotation with Dewayne Dedmon, Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles, and Nemanja Bjelica. They needed another depth big, but I thought there would be a bigger market for Holmes, and without guaranteed playing time here, he wouldn’t be a realistic option. This signing was a pleasant surprise. It does complicate the frontcourt rotation, though, and this will probably be the biggest storyline heading into training camp. Who will be the odd man out? Time will tell. Holmes is a really solid player though, and this is an excellent contract for him. A

What’s your final grade for the free agency period?

Tim: The Kings did very well in free agency. I already wrote a thousand words on the subject, but they were able to target and sign high-quality veteran defenders who will support the growth of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley. It doesn’t feel hyperbolic to say this is Sacramento’s most well executed free agency in more than a decade. A

Sanjesh: I’m so happy with how the Kings turned out in free agency. They got a mix of veterans and guys who fit the timeline and all will be making an impact for this well-balanced roster. It’s not entirely crazy that this roster could compete for a playoff spot if the core continues to develop and progress. With the amount of flexibility and versatility in these new signings, there’s so many lineups the Kings can put out there. Props to the front office for putting up a complete roster in early July, so the Kings surely gets an A for me. Bring on the regular season already.

Bryant: I’ll let the rest of the guys glow about the positives, but consider this; if any one of these signings fails, it will not be hard for the Kings front office to move on. Ken Catanella has done a great job with these contracts; Dedmon, Ariza, and Joseph all have partial-last-year guarantees, and Barnes’ contract declines as the Kings get closer to Fox/Bagley extension time. Not only were these probably smart basketball moves, but they were probably smart moves considering the Kings long-term capsheet. No franchise-altering moves, but smart, considered signing that will help the Kings further what they’re already building. A-

Greg: Overall I’m happy with what the Kings did. Spoiler alert, I’m going to give them a B. Even though I’m happy with all the players the Kings added, I do think the Kings overspent for what they got. I know the Kings were never going to be players for the A-list free agents. I know the Kings needed to improve the depth around Fox, Buddy and Bagley, and they did that successfully. But I can’t give an A just based on the lack of value in most of those contracts. B

Rich: It’s established now that I’m an easy grader. Perhaps that’s just what a year of unexpected growth has done to me. The scales of pessimism have fallen from my eyes. The Sacramento Kings are straight A students in my book, at least for now.

Tony: I’ve been very critical of Vlade Divac in the past, but I have to give him credit where credit is due. I thought he did a tremendous job in free agency this summer. Every move the Kings made followed a clear plan — get the best role players you can to support the kids. Divac made his moves, he made them quickly, and in most cases, he got an out in the final year so he can easily retool when he needs to. Well done. A


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