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Monte McNair is up against it. He has an incomplete roster and an edict from his owner to make the playoffs in the coming season.
The Kings aren’t one piece away from being a playoff contender. They might not even be three pieces away.
Sacramento’s build or rebuild or revamp begins with the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23, but that is only the start. We’ve talked about the options on the table with the No. 4 overall pick, but no stone should be left unturned as the Kings attempt to snap a 16-year streak of futility.
Outside of potentially moving down or out of the draft to acquire more NBA ready talent, the Kings have additional options that can be used to reshape their current roster.
The question is pretty simple. After De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, who is considered part of the core of the Kings? Davion Mitchell? Harrison Barnes? Donte DiVincenzo? Richaun Holmes? Maybe all four of these players. Maybe none of them.
Here is a look at the assets the Kings have walking into what could be a wild few weeks in Sacramento.
After spending three and a half seasons in a Kings uniform, the 30-year-old forward still has plenty of game left in him. Whether that comes in Sacramento or elsewhere will likely be decided in the coming two or three weeks.
The key to Barnes is his versatility, not only as a player where he can play both forward positions, but also as a player on a short term deal. He is a seasoned veteran who can help a team win now, but he’s also on an expiring contract that can relieve the right team of a ton of future cap space.
Barnes is entering the final year of a four-year, $85 million contract that will pay him $18.4 million this season. If traded, he comes with full Larry Bird rights and there is even the possibility for an extend and trade scenario.
This is an easy target for a team. If he works out, there is potential for him to stick around. If he doesn’t or the team struggles, he’ll still have value at the trade deadline as a win-now piece for a contending team.
Chance of returning to Kings: 50/50 and that might be generous. Barnes is a huge part of the Kings’ culture and his versatility makes him a solid fit. But he’s been through a lot in his time with the Kings and it is very possible that he has already had conversations with the franchise about whether he would be willing to come back for another tour of duty. If he isn't going to sign an extension, then this is the best time to get value for him on the open market.
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Never say never. When the Kings struck it rich with Tyrese Haliburton in the 2020 draft, the thought around Sacramento was that the team would build around the backcourt of Fox and Haliburton. The team even confirmed that plan leading up to the 2022 trade deadline, but in the NBA, plans change quickly.
For now, Mitchell seems like he’s a big part of what the Kings are trying to build. He has a defensive mindset that is desperately needed in Sacramento and he showed plenty of potential on the offensive end down the stretch last year. He is also one of the hardest workers in the league and the Kings have sent assistant coach Doug Christie out to spend time with the 23-year-old guard.
Chance of returning to Kings: 90 percent. The only reason we mention Mitchell as a potential trade chip is due to the fact that the Kings only have Fox, Sabonis, Holmes and Mitchell under contract past this season. Taken with the ninth overall pick last summer, Mitchell has value. If a franchise altering move is on the table, like the one that happened in February with Haliburton, then there are very few things that should be off the table.
It’s not often you see a team trade for a player twice. When the Kings finally landed DiVincenzo at the trade deadline, the instant thought around Sacramento was that he would be paired with Fox in the backcourt. That happened only once and it was out of necessity.
DiVincenzo enters the summer as a likely restricted free agent. If the Kings extend a $6.6 million qualifying offer to the 25-year-old, they can match any offer for the guard. Extending that offer comes with a massive cap hold, but it’s likely the Kings’ best option at this point.
There are teams that have interest in DiVincenzo. He is likely to land an offer sheet somewhere around the mid level exception range. Before he does that, there is a small window where the Kings could potentially sign and trade him to another team, if he agrees.
The Kings’ front office and DiVincenzo’s camp haven’t been on the same page since his arrival. It’s not too late to mend fences, but there could come a point in the near future when DiVincenzo shifts from a potential rotational or foundation piece to a trade chip.
Chance of returning to Kings: 60 percent. The Kings like DiVincenzo, but they also know that they need to add major talent improvements all over the roster. They can match any offer and figure out moves down the road, but you don’t want a disgruntled player on a new long term deal. Break bread and move forward together or find a way to get something in return in a sign-and-trade.
Life comes at you fast. Holmes went from a free agent steal to a man on the outside looking in very quickly in Sacramento.
Multiple eye injuries and a bout with covid slowed Holmes down dramatically this season, but he’s primed for a bounceback year. Unfortunately, that likely won’t be in Sacramento after the Kings traded for Sabonis at the trade deadline and gave away his starting job.
At 28 years old and with three years and $36 million remaining on his contract, Holmes is a starting caliber center who could work for plenty of teams around the league. He’s a versatile defender that can stay with smaller players on the perimeter and his offensive efficiency is near the top in the league.
There is always the possibility that new head coach Mike Brown is given an opportunity to see if a frontcourt pairing of Holmes and Sabonis is feasible, but that seems unlikely at this point.
Chance of returning to Kings: 10 percent. While he no longer fits with the Kings, there are more than a few teams that could use Holmes. He’s cleared up a lot of his off court issues that were clearly a distraction this season and there is a chance the Kings can swap him for a rotational player or possibly a draft pick.
Expiring contracts have a tremendous amount of value at the NBA level and the Kings have a stack of them to work with this offseason. Barnes’ $18.4 million is huge, especially with his value as a player still being high. But Barnes is just the beginning for McNair and his team.
Justin Holiday ($6.3 million), Moe Harkless ($4.6 million), Terence Davis ($4 million) and Alex Len ($3.9 million) are all entering the final year of their deals and the Kings also have a player option for $2.6 million on Trey Lyles.
If we add all of these expiring contracts up, including Barnes and Lyles, the Kings have just shy of $40 million coming off the books after this season. In the right deal, McNair could save another team a tremendous amount of long term salary while adding valuable assets.
The No. 4 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is worth gold, especially when you consider the talent at the top end of this year’s draft. If the Kings decide to move back or out of the draft completely, it should yield them a very high-level player.
In addition to their first round selection, the Kings also have the 37th and 49th pick in this year’s draft, as well as all of their own future first and second round selections and extra second rounders in both 2023 and 2025.
This might be the year that we see the Kings mortgage at least a portion of their future draft capital to land a top tier player.
This is a huge offseason for McNair and he knows it. He's already landed his new head coach and a stroke of lottery luck handed him the No. 4 overall pick. Now it's time to be aggressive, but smart.
As far as assets go, the Kings have plenty. Acquiring Sabonis without giving up a future first round pick was genius. Now the team has two cornerstones in Sabonis and Fox to build around, massive draft capital and enough expiring contracts to chase a number of different veterans via trade.
This team isn't a one or two pieces away, so it's hard to predict how all of this will work out, but Kings fans should be ready for a massive overall that is long overdue.
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