Kings quiet on eve of NBA trade deadline, will they make a deal?

What options do Kings have less than 24 hours before deadline?

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Thursday’s noon PST NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching and so far, the Sacramento Kings are on the outside looking in. 

Maybe this is by design. With the team rattling off a 5-2 seven game road trip, there is optimism that the team has pulled out of the erratic play that has plagued the franchise through the first half of the season.

Harrison Barnes has returned to form. Kevin Huerter looks more like the player who filled a valuable role last season in Sacramento. Keegan Murray continues to develop in his second season and the tandem of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis are stars, whether NBA coaches voted them into the All-Star game or not. 

The Kings still have time to play on the peripheral. Maybe they can add a player to help fortify the bench, but even those types of deals are flying under the radar at this point. Things can heat up in a hurry, but as of now, this trade deadline feels like it may come and go without a substantive addition to a Sacramento team that currently sits fifth in the Western Conference standings.

The Big Move

The Kings had a seat at the table for the Pascal Siakam trade talks in January, but whether it was Siakam’s reluctance to stay in Sacramento, the contract extension he was looking for in the offseason or possibly the asking price from the Raptors, McNair and his staff walked away. 

Siakam ended up in Indiana in a swap with the Pacers on January 17. Since that moment, the Kings have felt like an awkward teenager at a high school dance looking for a dance partner. 

According to league sources, the Kings have interest in Portland’s Jerami Grant, but the Blazers keep checking the “No” box on Sacramento’s overtures. The Kings have also been linked to Washington’s Kyle Kuzma, but in all honesty, that might just be the rumor mill attaching a player to a team that has shown interest in the past. 

Both Grant and Kuzma represent an upgrade, at least on paper, for the Kings. They have the length and athleticism that Sacramento covets at the forward position. They are also under contract for the foreseeable future, which is one of the reasons they are expensive to acquire and their respective teams have leverage in a trade. 

Grant is in the first year of a massive five-year, $160 million contract. He turns 30 on March 12 and has another four years at more than $132 million remaining after this season. With Portland sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, you could expect that they would consider moving on from a player who will very likely struggle to live up to his contract, but both the franchise and Grant seem perfectly fine with the status quo.

Kuzma is in the first year of a four-year, $90 million contract extension he signed this summer with the Wizards. Unlike Grant’s rising value contract, Kuzma is on a declining scale contract that pays him $25.5 million this year, $23.5 million next season, $21.5 million in 2025-26 and ends following the 2026-27 season when he’ll make $19.4 million as a 31-year-old.

It makes sense for these two players to be targets, especially when the length of contract is considered. From the Blazers’ and Wizards’ point of view, these are still valuable assets and they have no reason to rush into trading them. Don’t be surprised if these names come up again with regards to the Kings when we move into the summer months.

Add to the rotation?

Grant and Kuzma aren’t home run deals. They are more like solid doubles. Sacramento could use that type of transaction to take the next step in their development, but they could also look for more of a solid base hit to add depth.

During this trade cycle, there are a few of these options that might be available, but the cost is in question. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, and plenty of other reports, the Kings have at least spoken to the Brooklyn Nets regarding the availability of veterans Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale. 

Rumors of the Nets looking for a first round pick for either of these players should make the Kings hang up the phone. If those rumors are more bluster than realistic and the asking price is closer to a second round pick or two, McNair should be on the phone.

Finney-Smith is a defensive-minded combo forward under contract at $13.4 million this season, $14.4 next year and he has a player option at $15.4 during the 2025-26 season. At 30, he still has plenty of life on the tires. He’s averaging 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, .7 steals while shooting 38.3 percent from three this season. 

Like Finney-Smith, O’Neale is 30 and is known more for his defense than his ability to put the ball in the basket. In 49 games this season, O’Neale is posting 7.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 24.5 minutes per game. His shooting numbers are down, for a second straight year, but he’s a reliable 3-and-D wing who can guard multiple positions and he’s on an expiring contract that pays him $9.5 million this season. 

In this same vein of players, the Kings have been attached to Wizards point guard Delon Wright, according to Marc Stein. Wright had a short stop in Sacramento during the 2020-21 season, before getting traded to the Celtics for center Tristan Thompson before the 2021 NBA Draft.

Wright is a solid defender and has career averages of seven points, 3.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals during his nine year NBA career. The 31-year-old is on an expiring $8.2 million contract for this season and shouldn’t cost much to acquire. 

Washington has another point guard who could be moved in Tyus Jones, but the asking price for the 27-year-old is likely going to be higher than the Kings are looking to spend for a three-month rental. 

What do the Kings have to offer?

Most of Sacramento’s roster is tied up in contracts that go beyond this season. Malik Monk, JaVale McGee, Alex Len and Kessler Edwards are all on expiring contracts. The rest of the roster is signed through the 2024-25 season at a minimum. 

Outside of Fox, Sabonis and Murray, the Kings would likely listen. Monk would likely be on this list as well, but his impending free agency might give the Kings at least a small amount of pause. 

Huerter (three-years, $50.5 million) and Barnes (three-years, $54 million) are the two players who have been mentioned the most in connection with trades in Sacramento, but both are currently playing well in the starting lineup. Davion Mitchell (two-years, $11.5 million) and Chris Duarte (two-years, $10 million) have been mentioned as potential outgoing pieces as well, but they might not have a lot of value on the trade market. The Kings have fair market deals on Trey Lyles (two-years, $16 million) and Sasha Vezenkov (three-years, $20 million) as well. All of these contract numbers include the 2023-24 season. 

On the draft pick front, things are complicated for the Kings. If Sacramento makes the playoffs, their 2024 first round pick transfers to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Huerter trade from two years ago. It’s a lottery protected pick that loses some of its protections in both 2025 and 2026 if the Kings don’t make the postseason this year. 

Due to the Stepien Rule, the Kings can’t trade their 2025 pick at this deadline. Their 2026 and 2027 first round selection are also tied up in this transaction, but it’s more complicated than that. They are allowed to trade one of these first round picks at this deadline, but the deal would come with wording that pushes the pick back to later years if the Kings don’t convey their 2024 pick.

McNair also has all of his second round selections from 2024-2029 and an extra second in 2025. The team traded their 2030 second to the Pacers as part of a trade for Chris Duarte. 

What happens next?

The clock is ticking. Sacramento has until noon PST on Thursday to pull off a trade or stand pat for the remainder of the season. They currently have an open roster spot, which could be used to take on a contract or to absorb extra players in a larger deal. They could also use the roster spot on two-way guard Keon Ellis once we get past the deadline.

McNair knows his roster isn’t complete, but he also knows that if he makes it to this summer and the Kings make the postseason, he has access to not only the same basic roster of players, but once the NBA’s calendar resets, all of his first round selections between 2025-2031. 

With the Kings playing solid basketball, this might be the easiest path forward. McNair could make a minor move or two, using second round picks or maybe even taking back assets to help out a luxury team. 

Sacramento needs help at the forward position and maybe even in the backcourt, but they also need to honestly assess the ceiling of the current team and move forward accordingly. The most prudent path forward might be to sit out the deadline or play on the fringes of the rotation and try to be a player during the summer. 

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