Rumors swirling, Kings winning, JTA waived in a wild couple of days in Kingsland

Pascal Siakam or Kyle Kuzma, who's a better fit in Sacramento?

Welcome to The Kings Beat! With the regular season in full swing, it’s a great time to jump on board with a premium subscription so you get all the latest delivered directly to your inbox. Also, for more Kings content, join Kyle Madson and myself Monday-Friday from 10-noon for The Insiders on ESPN 1320!

Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a wild couple of weeks.

The reporting started early on Friday with the Kings’ name being brought up once again in connection with Toronto Raptors’ power forward Pascal Siakam, by Yahoo! Sports’ Jake Fischer

“Atlanta was once considered the most aggressive suitor for Siakam’s services, holding serious conversations with Toronto last offseason, sources said. But the chatter among NBA executives surrounding Siakam’s potential landing spots has now centered on Indiana, Sacramento and Detroit,” wrote Fischer.

After going through the assets the Kings might offer, including Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes and Davion Mitchell, Fischer went on to add, “There’s a chance Sacramento makes the best real offer for Siakam in the end.” 

Fischer’s reporting started a snowball effect. By mid-afternoon, Shams Charania of The Athletic stoked the flames with a short video posted on social media.

“The Raptors are ramping up trade talks around Pascal Siakam and I’m told, the Sacramento Kings are emerging as a serious suitor in Siakam,” Charania said. “They are among the offers and options that Toronto has and this is gaining interest in Sacramento to pair and combine a big three of Pascal Siakam, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, if they're able to pull a deal off.”

Before Siakam could walk over to the home locker room or Kings fans could pop the cork of a champagne bottle, Charania had already thrown a wet blanket on the possibility of the All-Star forward joining Sacramento.

“The Sacramento Kings are deciding to pull out of the Pascal Siakam talks, sources say. Things can be fluid, but Kings-Raptors talks are now over.”

There are a lot of outs in Charania’s reporting. “Things can be fluid” sounds like someone is negotiating through the press, although “talks are now over” isn’t the same as “talks are over for now.”

Adding intrigue to the situation, Siakam, along with the entire Raptors team and front office, including club president Masai Ujiri, were in Sacramento to play the Kings on Friday night. Siakam scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but it was the home team that came away with a 135-130 victory.

Independent of Fischer’s reporting, league sources have confirmed to The Kings Beat that the Kings have checked on the value of both Huerter and Mitchell on the trade market over the last few weeks. There is a chance that one or both will be on the move in the coming weeks.

Over the last three games, Huerter has moved into the second unit behind Chris Duarte and he is mired in a prolonged shooting slump. Mitchell has been in and out of the Kings’ rotation all season long.

Huerter is in year two of a four-year, $65 million contract and has value as a perimeter sharpshooter, even if his numbers are down this season. Mitchell was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he hasn’t found his niche in Mike Brown’s rotation, despite his defensive acumen. 

Both players are just 25 years old and are on reasonable contracts moving forward. 

Siakam is in the final year of a contract that pays him $37.9 million this year. It would take an additional asset beyond Huerter and Mitchell to make the money work, with Barnes’ contract being the easiest match. 

Why Siakam makes sense and why he doesn’t

There is a lot to like about Siakam and his potential fit on the Kings’ front line. He is currently averaging 22.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes per game for the Raptors. He’s a two-time All-Star, as well as a two-time All-NBA player and he has a ring from Toronto’s 2019 NBA title run.

This is the type of player who instantly walks in the door and improves the overall talent of the roster. He is a threat from all over the court and represents a tremendous upgrade for the Kings.

At 29, Siakam has plenty left in the tank, but there are a couple of concerns. 

The Raptors chose not to sign Siakam to an extension during the 2023 offseason, which puts them in a precocious situation. His value is limited as a trade chip, because he is on an expiring contract.

Any team that is acquiring the two-time All-Star runs the risk of making a big splash, but then losing him in the summer as a free agent. It’s more complicated than that, but there is always a possibility that he bolts.

If the Kings acquired Siakam now, they would walk into this summer with his “Larry Bird Rights.” That means that the Kings can exceed the salary cap to sign him to an extension. He would also be eligible for a five-year contract with eight percent raises. 

Siakam’s durability hasn’t been an issue throughout his career, but there should be a small amount of hesitation about handing a player who will turn 30 before next season a contract north of $200 million, especially with Fox and Sabonis both owed major money and Murray only two years away from a major contract extension.

Adding to this, the Kings’ salary structure is complicated heading into this summer. If they trade players like Huerter, Barnes and Mitchell, they don’t have the cap space to easily replace them. 

Without Siakam, or the trio of Huerter, Barnes and Mitchell, the Kings’ salary cap figure for next summer drops to $115 million. The NBA’s salary cap figure is projected at somewhere around $142-147 million, which would initially give the Kings around $30 million in cap space, but it’s more complex than that.

Sacramento has a $12.9 million cap hold for Malik Monk’s “Early Bird Rights,” as well as a $13 million hold for the mid-level exception. When you add another handful of smaller cap holds for minimum roster spots, the Kings really don’t have a lot of cap room to work with. 

In short, it will be expensive to acquire Siakam and there are no assurances that the Kings can retain him. The risk is bigger than just missing out on a talented player. If they take a swing and he walks, the team could struggle to assemble the type of roster they currently have today. 

The bad penny?

As the old saying goes, “a bad penny always turns up.” This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with Kyle Kuzma, but the Kings, under this management team, have chased him on multiple occasions.

The Kings almost acquired the 6-foot-9 forward, along with Montrez Harrell, on Draft Night 2021, in exchange for Buddy Hield, before the Lakers shifted gears and made the same trade for Russell Westbrook.

League sources also confirmed interest from the Kings in Kuzma’s services during the days leading up to free agency this past summer, before Sacramento ultimately re-signed Harrison Barnes. 

Kuzma eventually signed a new four-year, $92 million contract to return to the Wizards. The contract has another $3 million per year in unlikely bonuses, which is why you may read that his contract is four-years and $104 million.

A deeper look into Kuzma’s deal ups his value considerably. He is owed $25.5 million this year, which makes him much easier to obtain compared to Siakam when matching salaries. He’s on a declining scale deal, that pays him $23.5 million next season, $21.5 million in 2025-26 and $19.4 million in 2026-27.

With Fox and Sabonis’ salary on the rise and Murray due an extension in two seasons, this contract would fit perfectly with the Kings’ long term roster construction.

According to multiple reports, Kuzma is back on the market, with Washington seeking a pair of first round selections for his services. Despite Kuzma averaging 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, that price seems steep.

Would Sacramento offer a package that includes Huerter and Mitchell to match salary and a protected first for the 28-year-old? Would they have to sweeten the deal with a second round pick or two? 

This seems like a logical move for McNair and his crew, especially with their past interest. Kuzma would fit perfectly on the Kings’ frontline alongside Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis. He would provide a scoring punch, a solid rebounding option and the type of length and athleticism the Kings need to compete in the Western Conference. 

Kuzma would have to be willing to accept a different role in Sacramento, but if he wants to escape a 6-28 Wizards squad, this would be a small price to pay. A trade like this, that retained Harrison Barnes, would give the Kings’ rotational depth a huge boost.

Siakam or Kuzma

Evaluating the talent or fit difference between Kuzma and Siakam would be an interesting journey. Both players have rings. Siakam has a better track record of success and two All-Star appearances. He’s also a year and a half older than Kuzma.

The ceiling of Siakam is likely higher, but the risk is much greater. He can walk for nothing. He can also stick around and ask for more than twice what Kuzma will make over the next three seasons. 

As crazy as it sounds, Kuzma is the safer bet. He may or may not make the Kings a championship contender, but the same can be said for Siakam. 

Both players currently play for sub-.500 teams, although the Raptors are considerably better than the Wizards. Here is a look at their stats on the season, just to make matters even more confusing.

Kuzma plays for one of the league’s worst teams, so his offensive and defensive ratings are a mess this season. He’s also posting a 31.5 percent usage rating, well above Siakam’s 25.5 percent. Neither will match that number playing alongside Fox and Sabonis. 

JTA Waived

According to a league source, the Sacramento Kings plan to waive Juan Toscano-Anderson on Sunday, clearing a roster spot in the weeks leading up to the NBA’s Feb. 8 trade deadline.

Toscano-Anderson played sparingly since joining the Kings on Dec. 15, seeing a total of 19 minutes over eight games. The team has until Jan. 10 to either waive or guarantee Toscano-Anderson’s for the remainder of the season.

Beginning Jan. 5, teams are allowed to sign players to 10-day contracts, so this might not be the last we see of Toscano-Anderson in a Kings uniform. The team values roster flexibility, especially over the next few weeks. 

Head coach Mike Brown also values JTA as a veteran leader and versatile defender. If there is an open roster spot after the trade deadline dust settles, don’t be shocked to see Toscano-Anderson back in Sacramento for the stretch run.

Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to The Kings Beat with James Ham to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now

Join the conversation

or to participate.