NBA source: Kings' Keegan Murray not part of any trade discussions

Kings rumor mill is churning, will McNair land an upgrade?

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Hold onto your hats, rumor season has come early this year.

With December 15 coming and going, a large portion of the NBA population is now eligible for trade. There are still some contracts that can’t be moved, like Harrison Barnes, who can’t be traded until Dec. 29, or Trey Lyles, who becomes trade eligible on Jan. 15, but the majority of the league can now be added into a trade. 

This is a false deadline if you will. Dec.15 usually comes and goes without any fanfare other than some reporting on who can be traded. It is also a day where the rumor mill begins to churn out mystical ideas that rarely come to fruition.

Dec. 15, 2023 was no different. Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer kicked off the festivities with some sizzle that has folks in Sacramento up in arms due to the inclusion of second-year forward Keegan Murray in at least two of his rumors.

According to a league source, despite reports, the Kings are not putting Keegan Murray in any trade discussion. He is considered part of the franchise’s foundation moving forward.

In his piece released on Friday, Fischer mentions the Kings in connection with all four of the biggest trade targets currently on the board - Zach LaVine, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Lauri Markkanen. 

Three of the four make perfect sense in Sacramento. One does not. 

LaVine is a talented scorer and there was a time when the Kings signed the shooting guard to an offer sheet that was quickly matched by the Bulls. But that was long ago under a completely different regime. 

Now 28 years old (29 in March), LaVine is having a marginal season by his own standards. He’s in the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract and the Bulls are currently on the hook for another $178 million including this year’s contract.

Not only would the Kings have to dig deep into their rotation to match LaVine’s $40 million salary this season, but there are serious concerns about his fit in Sacramento, especially as his contract bloats to $43 million, $46 million and $49 million over the next three seasons.

It’s hard to imagine the Kings pulling the trigger on a deal like this when all things are considered. LaVine is a high-level scorer and creator, but he’s a huge liability on the defensive end and has played in just one playoff series in his first nine seasons in the NBA. 

For different reasons, the trio of Siakam, Anunoby and Markkanen would all fit in the Kings’ rotation. Both Siakam and Anunoby are playing out the final year of their contracts in Toronto and the Kings would need assurances that one or the other would be willing to sign an extension to stay in Sacramento.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri values his own players, almost to a fault. The Kings have been interested in both Siakam and Anunoby over the last few seasons, but finalizing a trade has been elusive.

Siakam is the better all around player of the tandem, averaging 20.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and five assists per game. These numbers are down a bit over his previous four seasons, but at 29 (30 in April), Siakam is a two-time All-Star who could add floor spacing alongside Domantas Sabonis in the starting lineup and take on some of the passing duties when the Kings’ All-NBA center steps off the court.

Solid, but not as good on the defensive end as Anunoby, Siakam would be a tremendous upgrade for the Kings. In the final year of his contract with the Raptors, the Cameroon-born big makes $37.9 million this season, which complicates matters. Like LaVine, the Kings would have to give up multiple rotational pieces to land Siakam.

Anunoby doesn’t have the high-end offensive potential of Siakam or LaVine, but he brings a defensive intensity that the Kings desperately need. At 26, Anunoby is nearly four years younger than Siakam and his $18.6 million salary is easier to match. He has a $19.9 million player option for next season, but he is very likely opting out of that contract with the hopes of landing a massive pay raise and long term stability.

In his seventh NBA season, Anunoby is averaging 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for Toronto. He’s shooting 39 percent from 3-point range and has a similar game to Harrison Barnes on the offensive side of the ball. 

Where Anunoby separates himself from this field is on the defensive end, where he can defend all five spots on the floor. He made the NBA’s All-Defensive second team last season and led the league in steals at 1.9 per game. 

Where things get dicey with regard to the Raptors is their asking price. Despite both Siakam and Anunoby playing out the final year of their contracts, according to Fischer, they are big game hunting in a potential negotiation with the Kings:

“For Sacramento to do business with Toronto, the Raptors are expected to seek sweet-shooting Keegan Murray in exchange for either of their talented forwards. That would seem too rich a price for Sacramento, as Kings officials have spoken of Murray as a critical swing piece in their lineup between bookends Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox — particularly as 31-year-old veteran Harrison Barnes has faded in terms of production this season. Davion Mitchell is considered a strong trade candidate with the Kings, league sources told Yahoo Sports, as the third-year guard continues seeing limited minutes in Sacramento’s rotation.”

This phone conversation is likely a short one between the Kings and Raptors. The Kings’ front office believes Murray will be a star in the NBA. Despite his slow start to the season, the 23-year-old forward is starting to round into form. He’s currently averaging 13.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 32 minutes per game.

After setting the NBA’s rookie record for most made 3-pointers last season with 206, Murray is off to a rough shooting start, but his shooting stroke is too pure to continue and the laws of averages will eventually even out. Murray has also taken incredible strides on the defensive end this season and is likely the team’s best perimeter defender.

The chance of Murray being included in any trade is unlikely. The chance of him being included in a trade for a potential rental player like Siakam or Anunoby just isn’t realistic. Maybe that puts the Kings out of the sweepstakes for these two players or maybe this is just a negotiation through the media. 

Last on the list is Markkanen. The smooth-shooting 7-footer out of Finland will be in Sacramento on Saturday night when the Kings face the Utah Jazz. He isn’t a great defender, but he checks off every other box the Kings could possibly ask for.

Markkanen is under contract at $17.2 million this season and another $18 million for next season. He is set to make a ton in free agency during the summer of 2025, but he is extension eligible this summer. 

After an up and down first five seasons in the league, Markkanen became a breakout player last year with the Jazz, averaging 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He made his first All-Star team and is a potential candidate this season, despite his team’s sub-par record.

At 26, Markkanen fits the Kings’ age arc and his ability to space the floor would open up driving lanes for De’Aaron Fox and passing lanes for Sabonis. A frontline of Sabonis, Markkanen and Murray has the potential to be one of the best in the NBA for the next handful of seasons.

There are questions as to whether Markkanen is available and the cost would likely gut the Kings or any other team’s future draft picks, but matching salary would be simple for Sacramento. 

Here is Fischer on the potential for a Markkanen move:

“And yet the Jazz are mired in an 8-16 start, prompting several teams to phone Utah’s front office in order to gauge its willingness to move Markkanen, sources said. The Jazz are by no means expected to trade the 7-foot sharpshooter at this juncture. He has been a true favorite of Jazz officials, sources said. But Utah has indeed left opposing executives with the sense that Markkanen is no longer untouchable in trade conversations, league sources told Yahoo Sports, a tangible change from previous transaction windows.”

This is just the start of the NBA rumor mill, but it should be noted that the Kings were mentioned by Fischer with regards to all four of these players. Kings general manager Monte McNair likes to be in the mix for any and all talented players, even if the team hasn’t closed a lot of deals.

As of now, the Kings’ record of 14-9 is fifth best in the Western Conference and that is in spite of a series of early season injuries. McNair likely considers his squad a strong playoff caliber team, but if the Kings are to reach head coach Mike Brown’s lofty goals of winning an NBA championship, they need to add another substantial piece or two. 

Expect Sacramento to come up in plenty of written reports over the next two months leading up to the NBA’s Feb. 8 trade deadline. They have plenty of movable contracts and they can potentially trade up to three future first round picks, starting in 2026.

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