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We haven’t even reached Christmas and it appears the NBA trade season is already starting to heat up. The Ben Simmons situation in Philadelphia has been hanging over the league for months, but now we have at least one team that is reportedly setting up for a yard sale and opposing general managers are already lining up to make offers.
According to The Athletic’s Sham Charania and Bob Kravitz, the Indiana Pacers are ready to pull the plug and trigger a franchise reboot and GM Kevin Pritchard, with the blessing of ownership, is making Caris LeVert, as well as either Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner available.
This is a talented trio that is now potentially on the market. Do the Kings have the assets to get involved in a trade with the Pacers? Do any of these players make sense for Sacramento? Should GM Monte McNair jump in with both feet?
At 27 years old, LeVert is a pure scorer who can play either the shooting guard or small forward position. He combined to post 20.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 47 games between the Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets last season, although his numbers have dipped slightly this year.
More of a volume scorer than a pure shooter, LeVert could potentially fit in a smaller lineup with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. He’s a big time athlete and shot creator, which the Kings could use more of.
On the downside, LeVert has suffered a major knee injury, struggled with a stress fracture in his back and recovered from kidney cancer. There aren’t any immediate issues, but there should be at least some long term concerns.
Contract: Two-year, $36.3 million
The Kings have been linked to Turner, as recent as this summer. The 6-foot-11 center currently leads the NBA in blocked shots at 2.8 per game and he’s led the league in blocks in two of the last three seasons.
More of a defender than a scorer or rebounder, Turner does have the ability to space the floor. He’s shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range on 4.2 attempts per game. He’s not a player you can run your offense through as a passer, but his ability to hit from the outside as a trailer could work in Sacramento, especially with Richaun Holmes’ ability to switch out and defend the perimeter.
In his seventh NBA season, the 25-year-old is averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. His value to the Kings would be as a 3-and-D center. There is a chance his style doesn’t work with Holmes and the rest of the team, but he might be worth the gamble.
Contract: Two-year, $36 million
This is the gem of the group. The son of NBA legend Arvidas Sabonis, Domantas has carved out his own niche in the NBA as a bruising, versatile big man with a tremendous basketball IQ.
Like Turner, Sabonis is only 25 years old, but he’s a two-time All-Star and would fit the Kings’ player arc perfectly. Sabonis is averaging 17.8 points, 12 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals. He isn’t the shot blocker that Turner is, but he’s a very solid position defender and his passing ability could open up the entire playbook in Sacramento.
On the downside, Sabonis is shooting just 27.9 percent from 3-point range this season, although he’s a career 31.4 percent shooter from deep. Would a front court pairing of Holmes and Sabonis work? It’s possible, but it would take plenty of tinkering.
Contract: Three-year, $59.8 million
It takes two to tango. It’s very possible the Kings don’t have the assets to land any of these three players, especially once the bidding war begins.
Of the three players, LeVert, due to his injury and health history, might be the most obtainable, although he probably isn’t the best fit in Sacramento. He would instantly settle into a starting role at the three, with Harrison Barnes moving to the four on a more permanent basis, but there is only one ball to share amongst the five starters, which could be an issue.
Turner can stretch the floor and he would instantly improve the Kings’ defense. He isn’t a major upgrade as a rebounder and the pairing with Holmes might take some time to get used to, but finding a 3-point shooting big would definitely add a new element for Alvin Gentry to play with.
Sabonis isn’t a sprinter and he’s not great at spacing the floor, but the Kings desperately need a big that can facilitate the offense and there aren’t many better. There would be an adjustment period and the roster might need a lot more tweaking, but Sabonis is worth the gamble.
The real question might be, how much does McNair want to risk.
Sacramento has plenty of contracts that could help balance out the financials of a trade. All three of the Pacers players make roughly the same amount.
Marvin Bagley’s $11.3 million expiring contract could be a centerpiece to any trade. Tristan Thompson’s $9.7 million expiring deal could work as well. These two combined works, but there are other combinations that make sense as well, depending on whether the Pacers are looking to clear the slate for next season or if they are looking for a young player with upside.
If Indiana is truly resetting the roster, then they are likely going to want expiring contracts and a future first for either LeVert or Turner. That’s a little dicey for the Kings, because their picks are typically in the lottery and it’s hard to risk losing a top tier selection for either of these players.
The Kings would want to protect the picks, likely through the top 10 in year one and maybe top 8 through the next draft or two.
If Sabonis is the target, then McNair is going to have to dig much deeper. The Sixers are asking for a gold mine for Simmons, including multiple first rounders and pick swaps. They haven’t found a taker yet, but Sabonis’ value should at least be on par with whatever Simmons is worth and maybe slightly more because he’s affordable by NBA standards.
To obtain a 25-year-old two-time All-Star under contract for all of this season and the next two, McNair needs to go all in. That would begin with a top 5 protected 2022 lottery pick as the appetizer and at least one more future first to sweeten the pot.
It could take more than that, including one of the Kings’ prize young guards. A competitive start would be the expiring contracts of Bagley and Thompson, along with a 2022 top 5 protected pick, a 2024 unprotected pick and one of the Kings’ additional second rounders in the coming years.
This might not be enough, but the Kings’ picks typically have tremendous value, especially after missing the playoffs for the last 15 seasons. If Indiana is looking to start over through the draft, Sacramento’s picks are about as safe a bet as possible.
McNair has been waiting for a moment to completely change the landscape of the Kings. LeVert and Turner are solid rotational players, but the prize in Indiana is Sabonis.
Being realistic, there will be a tremendous amount of competition to land the All-Star big man. Whether McNair has the assets to make a deal is in question, although if the Pacer are truly looking for a reset, the Kings can be a viable option, if McNair opens up his warchest of picks.
This is a moment to be aggressive, even if you have to overbid. Players like Sabonis don’t often come on the market. If the Kings were ever going to take a swing, this might be the perfect opportunity.
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