With the NBA trade deadline fast-approaching, the Sacramento Kings have their work cut out for them. Specifically, Kings general manager Monte McNair has his work cut out for him, as this is his first opportunity since doubling down on the current roster at the start of the season to shake things up for the better.
The deadline can go one of two ways for Sactown, and at the moment it’s still unclear which path they will decide to venture down in the new year: swing for the fences to land an All-Star caliber talent or acquire role players to grow around its young core.
Either way, the Kings are expected to be active and aggressive at the deadline, something we’ve yet to see from McNair after taking complete handle of the reigns. There is still a significant amount of impact leftover from Vlade Divac’s time as general manager, so what McNair does now, with his team, will be the largest task of his short tenure in Sacramento.
Having laid the groundwork for moves to be made, here is a breakdown of where the roster stands in terms of who’s staying, who’s leaving and who is going to bring winning basketball back to Sacramento.
A Tandem Worth Keeping: Tyrese Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox
Fox has been a focal point in many trade rumors throughout the league dating back to the early weeks of preseason, when Sixers guard Ben Simmons refused to show up to training camp. Since the initial waiting game began in Philadelphia, Sacramento has been linked to a trade to acquire Simmons for a package that could include Fox.
It hasn’t been Swipa’s most productive season, but he would still be an incredibly valuable asset to a contending team in either conference. However, the budding backcourt of Fox and Haliburton has been together for less than two seasons. Blowing up what has shown flashes of promise feels incredibly premature, despite the Kingdom’s mixed reviews of the duo. Allowing Fox to play with the most skilled teammate of his professional career makes the most sense rather than giving up because of a streaky start.
Moving Fox and/or Haliburton at the deadline feels like a foolish move for Sacramento to make, but these words could easily be eaten come summertime should they decide to move off Fox in a less-than-ideal scenario.
The Penultimate Package: Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley
The Kings that almost weren’t, both Hield and Bagley have been on the trade market preceding free agency this last summer. It was no secret the Bagley’s agent and family were not keen on the idea of sticking around Sactown any longer under Luke Walton’s watch, but since his re-entry into the rotation has managed to stay healthy and carve out meaningful minutes in a Kings’ uniform.
The former No. 2 pick may forever haunt Sacramento, but moving off of MBIII seems inevitable at this point in his career. The fourth-year man out of Duke has kept himself on the court and earned his place in the rotation, giving an extended audition to what will hopefully entice another team to see his value in this stage of his young tenure.
Hield has similarly swirled the likes of trade rumors, was a Los Angeles Laker for five minutes, and given the Kingdom mixed reviews for what has felt like forever. After signing with a new agency in December, he too feels like an inevitable trade asset to Sacramento as several title contenders have looked to pick up his sharp-shooting and hefty contract.
An Opposition’s X-Factor: Harrison Barnes
A hot commodity since last year’s trade deadline, the Black Falcon has proven to be seasoned and effective across the league. Barnes started this year hotter than fish grease for Sacramento but since his early season foot injury hasn’t been the same productive player that the Kings need on a nightly basis.
Barnes has one year remaining on his 4-year, $85 million contract - an enticing snag across the association looking for a third-man option to contribute in an aggressive postseason run or even championship contention. What Sacramento is able to get in return for a player like Barnes will be an interesting negotiation for McNair and company.
Bunch of Bigs : Richaun Holmes, Damian Jones, Alex Len and Tristan Thompson
Similarly to the Fox-Hali tandem, Sacramento brass would be unwise to trade Richaun Holmes, a diamond in the rough who was their biggest splash in free agency last season. It’s hard to imagine Holmes being moved in any scenario, as he has been one of the most consistent players on the roster when healthy in the last two seasons.
The rest of Sactown’s centers, however, seem to be up for grabs in any scenario. The Lakers have been hot on the tail of Jones, who played well for them at the end of last season. While Jones and Len have made the most of their minutes for Sacramento, making room for an All-Star caliber player in a blockbuster trade could be in the cards for the respective big men.
Tristan Thompson has been a dud for the Kings this season, and despite ties to Luke Walton see no reason for him to warm a seat on the bench for a glutted position on the roster, especially with the development of two-way player Neemias Queta.
Who Does That Leave? : Chimezie Metu, Moe Harkless, Davion Mitchell and Terence Davis
A cast of role players who could be tagged onto a big trade (like a Hield-Bagley deal), the four remaining men on the roster have been hot and cold in their outings with Sacramento on the season thus far. We haven’t seen McNair’s sense of pride in picks thus far, so whether he feels Mitchell is tradable after just half of an NBA season is yet to be seen. It would be ideal to keep Mitchell and see how the three-guard brand of basketball could develop, but there would be no surprise if he was another enticing snag for another team.
As for Metu, Harkless and Davis, what McNair decides to do remains to be seen. Harkless is another player Walton adored, and since his departure has gone from a starting staple to a DNP most contests. His outward disdain has been seen from the bench time and time again, as his frustrations have boiled over on social media often in the last five weeks. The defensive chops the Kingdom were promised by Harkless have been streaky, and moving off of him might be a benefit to the chemistry as this team continues to work out their kinks.
The Kingdom is long overdue for fresh legs on a stale roster. What McNair decides to do with Sacramento at the halfway point on the season will make a profound impact on how the Kings finish the season. Making the play-in tournament is still an incredibly attainable goal for this team, and with the right moves made a chance to save a season before it’s too late.