The Kings often find themselves in a tricky position in free agency. It’s hard to get max players to come to Sacramento, so the Kings have to target veterans who aren’t quite stars, and that’s where overpays tend to happen.
Think George Hill, Zach Randolph, Aaron Afflalo, or other recent players of that ilk.
Fortunately, the Kings have done pretty well bargain-hunting in recent years. The Athletic ranked the best-value free-agent contracts in the league, excluding rookie deals and maximum contracts since players on those deals generally outperform their salaries, and the Kings are generating significant surplus value from their free-agent signings.
Per John Hollinger’s methodology — which combines PER, RAPTOR, and PIPM — the contract that provides the ninth-most surplus value in the league belongs to Richaun Holmes.
The Kings signed Holmes for 2 years, $10 million in the 2019 offseason to help fill out their big rotation, and he ended up seizing the role of starting center. He’s been incredibly efficient as a finisher around the basket, and the Kings are winning team when Holmes is on the floor (+1.1 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass).
Hollinger anticipates that Holmes will be worth $11.9 million next season, which is more than double the $5 million Sacramento will owe him. The Kings may have a crowded frontcourt next season, with Marvin Bagley III, Nemanja Bjelica, and potentially Harry Giles and Alex Len battling for minutes alongside Holmes, but at least they can count on Holmes to provide consistent production at a discount rate. The Sactown Royalty crew was fond of the Holmes signing when the deal was inked last summer, and it’s fair to say that the 26-year-old center has actually exceeded expectations in his first season in Sacramento.
The Kings also had one contract slot just outside of the top-10 list, as Hollinger projects that Bjelica will provide the 11th-most surplus value on his current deal. Bjelica is entering the final season of a 3-year, $20.5 million contract, so even though he is expected to outperform the final year of that deal, the fact that he is only generating additional value for one season leaves him behind 10th-place Shake Milton, who is under contract with Philadelphia for three more years.
The Sacramento front office has made some high-profile mistakes in recent years, namely drafting Bagley over Luka Doncic. The decision to not exercise Giles’ fourth-year option may also prove costly, though the jury is still out on that one. Nevertheless, what the Kings have done well is secure starter talent on value contracts. They just need a star to make all the pieces fall into place.