The Sacramento Kings are the last remaining NBA team with an abundance of cap space, but they shouldn’t be in a hurry to use it.
The Sacramento Kings are in the middle of a game of reverse musical chairs. The music is free agency, and the chairs are available cap space. The melody has softened, and the Kings’ front office possesses a surplus of open seats.
The 2018 NBA offseason involved marquee stars changing locations, but it also featured several teams and players dealing with the harsh reality of limited cap space. Teams were forced above the luxury tax threshold, and free agents were forced into accepting one-year deals. Armed with over $20 million in available cap space, the Kings are positioned to be a key cog in player movement around the league.
The Kings hold the leverage, but they shouldn’t be in any hurry to exercise their power. Finding the right salary dump can change the fortunes of a struggling franchise overnight. If you find the right one, you re-stock your organization’s cupboard of assets. Choose unwisely, and you add an albatross contract with little to show for it.
Along with waiting for the right offer, it will be crucial for the Kings to wait for the right time to exercise their cap flexibility. Midseason trades are used to fine tune rosters and reshape expectations. In order to complete trades involving large salaries, third parties are often needed. The Kings have the resources to facilitate trades between parties facing financial hurdles.
Finding the Right Partner
Sacramento’s roster features nine players that are 25 years of age or younger. Each one of those nine players deserves a shot at developmental minutes. Sacrificing minutes for this group in order to make room for a veteran is counterproductive for the Kings’ future outlook. The Rockets’ rumored desire to move Ryan Anderson presents the Kings with a possible trade partner. Due to Anderson’s contract that pays him over $40 million over the next two seasons, an out-right buyout would be expensive. Keeping Anderson could prove to be just as costly, as he could procure valuable minutes from the youngsters. Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere will be competing for roles in coach Dave Joerger’s rotations. Adding Anderson would only add to the scarcity of minutes.
On top of Anderson himself, a potential deal with the Rockets would lack a true package of young assets. Houston owns their 2019 first round pick, but they have a dearth of young players on favorable contracts. Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein are interesting frontcourt options, but they wouldn’t relieve Sacramento’s current logjam in the post. The Kings can afford to wait for a package that includes a first round pick and a player on a favorable contract.
The Hawks and Nets have reduced the list of available suitors by exercising their cap space. Sacramento could wait for more teams to jump into the fray at the NBA Trade Deadline. Underachieving teams with bloated payrolls will be looking to avoid the luxury tax. Surprise contenders will be searching for additional pieces to bolster their rosters. If the Kings wait, they could facilitate a deal that meets all their needs.
Avoiding the Current Market
The Kings already attempted to compromise their available space by signing Zach LaVine to an offer sheet. Chicago’s willingness to match the four-year, $78 million offer salvaged Sacramento’s trade leverage.
Rodney Hood and Clint Capela remain has available high-profile options (relative to the market). Adding a first round pick, and nurturing the young talent already on the roster should be the Kings’ first priority. Signing Hood or Capela to an offer sheet doesn’t move the needle on either of those fronts. Outside of a modest deal for Nemanja Bjelica, the Kings should avoid committing resources to the current crop of veterans on the market.
Dictate, Don’t React
The Kings have a chance to distance themselves from the reactionary moves that plagued them over the past decade. Sacramento is building on a timeline that would see De’Aaron Fox and Bagley reach their primes as the current Western Conference powers reach the end of their title-contending windows. The Kings should be weary of any move that stunts that timeline.
Roster moves that change the fortunes of a franchise occur year round. The Kings have the potential to fill all their needs by remaining patient.
*Updated 13:41 PST
According to Yahoo Sports‘ Shams Charania, the Kings have signed point guard Yogi Ferrell to a two-year deal worth $6.2 million. According Early Bird Rights‘ Jeff Siegel, Sacramento now has roughly $17.5 million in cap space.