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The Kings don’t need to trade Bogdan Bogdanovic

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Busting the myths of the Bogdanovic contract situation. 

Kimani Okearah

As the NBA trade deadline looms closer and closer, the Sacramento Kings have emerged as one of the most interesting teams to watch over the next 24 hours. Built like a wannabe contender with multiple veterans on board, Sacramento’s collapse in the standings has left them with a handful of semi-valuable players in a market bereft of teams wanting to sell quality contributors. Nemanja Bjelica’s sharpshooting would benefit any team, Cory Joseph is still one of the premiere guard defenders in the league, Yogi Ferrell can fill some spot minutes at backup point guard, and Dewayne Dedmon is…okay…sometimes. If the Kings want to cash out for draft assets and young players, options are available.

However, beyond that platter of role players is the asset that every General Manager of any contender would love to get his hands on: Bogdan Bogdanovic. Read almost any trade deadline piece over the last month and Bogdanovic’s name will be somewhere near the top, with a similar question posed each time. Can the Kings afford to pay Bogdan Bogdanovic this summer? A generic argument is typically made in favor of Sacramento moving on from one of their best players, with mentions of Buddy Hield’s and Harrison Barnes’ contracts, Sacramento’s place in the standings, and the upcoming extensions of De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III making a regular appearance, with no actual thought given to Sacramento’s future cap situation.

Even the question itself is erroneous. To answer the query from a technical standpoint, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox, and Marvin Bagley are all under their rookie contracts and the rules of restricted free agency. The Kings can match a maximum contract offer to Bogdanovic this summer (which probably isn’t going to be handed out), and still turn around and ink Fox and Bagley to five-year maximum contracts if they so desire. Sacramento can go as far above the salary cap as they would like to retain those players. The Kings can afford to pay Bogdanovic this summer.

Of course, depending on the deal that Bogdan is offered come July, Sacramento’s cap sheet may creep awfully close to the luxury tax in the coming years, but several factors will come into play with that possibility, none of which should prevent the Kings from retaining Bogdanovic in the immediate. First, it’s important to note that the tax should never be the concern of the fan base, as the only thing that is really penalized is the owner’s checkbook. And even if the Kings do enter that territory, it likely won’t be for two to three years, a timeframe in which this core will either find success or be blown up and rebuilt. Either way, it’s highly unlikely that Vivek Ranadive would be forced to pay the tax for a non-competitive team, and if the Kings are considered a deep playoff contender at that point, ownership will be forced to make some tough decisions, but that’s once again not something the fans should be concerned with at this point in the rebuild.

Perhaps most encouraging of all, with Ken Catanella’s brilliant contract structures in place, the Kings may never have to worry about the luxury tax, even if they keep this core together for the next several years. There are far too many variables at play to confidently speak to every dollar and cent that can be spent over the next few seasons, but there is enough general information on hand to speak to Sacramento’s future cap sheet, although some relatively large assumptions have to be made.

The first unknown at hand is the actual contract that Bogdanovic will receive this offseason. He’s a talented, multi-positional scorer who fits extremely well in the modern NBA, but he has also struggled with some minor ailments, will turn 28 at the start of his next deal, and only a few teams project to have significant spending money this summer. Bogdan could get squeezed by a tight market and make far less than the experts project, or one team could get desperate with their cash and throw it all his way. For the example’s sake, I’ve projected Bogdanovic’s deal to equal four years, $72 million. Even that amount carries a bit of mystery, as no one knows how the contract will be structured. It could decrease from year to year, a la Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield, which would be the most beneficial to the Kings, or it could increase from year to year which would be extremely detrimental to future tax concerns. To keep everything as balanced as possible, I’ve split the difference and kept the deal at a cool $18 million per year.

Cap Projection

Player 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Player 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Buddy Hield $24,431,818 $22,477,273 $20,522,727
Harrison Barnes $22,215,909 $20,284,091 $18,352,273
Bogdan Bogdanovic $18,000,000 $18,000,000 $18,000,000
Dewayne Dedmon $13,333,333 $1,000,000
Cory Joseph $12,600,000 $2,400,000
Marvin Bagley $8,963,640 $11,312,114 $32,812,500
De'Aaron Fox $8,099,627 $31,250,000 $33,750,000
Nemanja Bjelica $7,150,000
Richaun Holmes $5,005,350
Justin James $1,517,981 $1,782,621
2020 First Round Pick $4,551,360 $4,779,000 $5,006,400
2020 Second Round Pick $1,737,274 $1,889,751
2020 Second Round Pick $1,737,274 $1,889,751
2021 First Round Pick $3,135,400 $3,292,200
2021 Second Round Pick $1,782,621 $1,871,752
2022 First Round Pick $3,292,200
2020 Non-taxpayer MLE $9,924,000 $10,420,200
2021 non-taxpayer MLE (1) $5,264,250 $5,527,462
2021 non-taxpayer MLE (2) $5,264,250 $5,527,462
2022 non-taxpayer MLE (1) $5,566,500
2022 non-taxpayer MLE (2) $5,000,000
Total Salary $139,267,566 $142,931,322 $158,521,476
Salary Cap $115,000,000 $125,000,000 $131,000,000
Over/Under Cap ($24,267,556) ($17,931,332) ($27,521,476)
Luxury Tax $140,000,000 $151,000,000 $158,550,000
Over/Under Tax $732,434 $8,068,678 $28,524
Rostered Players 14 14 13

There is a lot of information in the chart above, along with quite a few assumptions, and they’re certainly not all going to be perfect in 36 months. Not every player listed will be on the team for the remainder of their contract, but there’s only so much that can be predicted in an exercise like this. The first obvious choice for the Kings is to decline the final years for Dewayne Dedmon and Cory Joseph, a move that will save them $22,533,333 in space. Future salaries for first round selections are going to remain unknown until after each season’s draft lottery, but I made the prediction for the Kings to receive the 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft, and the 16th overall pick in 2021 and 2022. Those could vary wildly depending on Sacramento’s success over the next few years, but the differences in salary will be negligible enough to make little difference in the long-term projection.

After those relatively simple decisions are made, further complications come into place with future second round picks and Justin James’ third-year option, but again, those minor amounts of cash won’t make a huge impact from year to year. There are numerous ways to squeeze in an extra minimum salary or two in each season. From a future spending standpoint, the Kings will likely only utilize the non-taxpayer mid-level exception in the near future. The MLE can be used on one higher-impact player as I have Sacramento choosing to do this summer, or it can be split between multiple contributors as I’ve projected them to do in 2021 and 2022. That would allow the Kings to fill multiple roster spots without spending any additional cash. In each season, they can roster at least 13 players and still remain under the tax line, and that’s without shedding any salary like Harrison Barnes, who will be expiring in the same season in which Marvin Bagley will theoretically receive his max deal.

If the Kings are smart with their spending and their contractual obligations, it’s entirely possible for them to keep this core together, pay Bogdanovic in July, and extend Fox and Bagley in the future, and that’s even assuming that Bagley receives a full maximum deal, which doesn’t look likely in the moment. If the Kings do end up dealing Bogdanovic before Thursday afternoon’s deadline, it will be due to the fact that they received an offer they couldn’t refuse, not because they couldn’t afford to retain him in free agency. The Kings can absolutely afford to pay Bogdan Bogdanovic this summer.