Kings offseason preview: What Sacramento faces in the NBA Draft, free agency, trades and more
Kings general manager Monte McNair and his staff know they have important work to do this summer to build on the impressive turnaround they orchestrated this season in Sacramento.
McNair was named NBA Basketball Executive of the Year and Mike Brown became the first unanimous selection as Coach of the Year after leading the Kings to their first playoff appearance since 2006. Sacramento won 48 games to secure the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and pushed the defending champion Golden State Warriors to seven games in a first-round series for the ages, but now there are other matters to address.
“We’ve talked since I came here about a short-term goal of making the playoffs,” McNair said. “I’m happy to finally have that box checked, but it also means now on to the next goal of building this thing into a long-term playoff team, win some rounds in the playoffs and ultimately contend for a title, so the job is never done.”
The Kings want to improve their roster for a deeper playoff run next season. Doing so will require some combination of moves through the NBA draft, trades and free agency while navigating salary cap constraints and complexities of the collective bargaining agreement.
The draft is less than seven weeks away with free agency set to begin July 1. The Kings have three picks in this year’s draft and key personnel decisions to make, most notably whether to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Harrison Barnes and/or sign Olympiacos star Sasha Vezenkov.
Change is inevitable, but the Kings have more organizational stability than they’ve had in years. Brown and McNair are aligned with three years remaining on their respective deals. Most of the team’s top rotation players are under contract next season, including starters De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis and top reserves Malik Monk and Davion Mitchell.
Still, there will be roster changes. The Kings are currently projected to have about $23 million in practical salary cap space, but they could create additional space if they are able to trade Richaun Holmes, who has two years and $24.9 million remaining on his contract.
Here’s a look at some of the key dates and details for the Kings as they enter another big offseason.
Extending Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis is eligible to renegotiate and extend his contract, but that’s probably not likely this summer. New parameters in the collective bargaining agreement would allow the Kings to offer a four-year extension worth nearly $122 million. However, that would eliminate any salary cap flexibility the Kings can create this summer, hindering their ability to build the roster.
Besides, Sabonis can earn far more if he waits to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. At that point, the Kings will be able to give him a five-year max contract that could be worth somewhere around $245 million. Either way, McNair has signaled his intention to sign Sabonis to a long-term deal.
“Domas is obviously an All-Star this year,” McNair said. “I think he should be All-NBA along with De’Aaron, so we’ll find that out soon, buy, yeah, Domas is a huge part of what we do and we’re going to do all we can to keep him here and build around him.”
What about Harrison Barnes?
McNair was not as direct in response to a question about Barnes, who is headed into unrestricted free agency after concluding the final year of a four-year, $85 million contract. Brown has called Barnes “irreplaceable” and Barnes has expressed a desire to stay, telling The Sacramento Bee he has “sweat equity” in Sacramento’s turnaround, but his position is one of the few spots the Kings can target in an effort to improve their size, length, athleticism, defense and rebounding.
“We’re going to sit down and have all those conversations,” McNair said when asked about Barnes. “Obviously, Harrison has been a fantastic part of our team, a vet leader, and one of two guys with championship experience for us, which was a big part of getting our young guys ready to go, so we’ll have all those conversations in the coming weeks.”
The NBA draft will be held June 22 in Brooklyn, New York. The Kings will have picks No. 24, 38 and 54.
McNair and his staff, which includes vice president of player personnel Phil Jabour, have drafted well. They selected Tyrese Hailburton at No. 12 in 2020, Mitchell at No. 9 in 2021 and Murray at No. 4 in 2022.
The Kings have held lottery picks in 15 of the last 16 drafts. They are moving back 20 spots this year following their remarkable run to the playoffs, but they will be looking for value and trade possibilities with their first- and second-round picks.
Clutch Points currently projects the Kings will select Jaime Jaquez Jr., a 6-foot-7, 225-pound guard/forward from UCLA, at No. 24. Tankathon has them taking Xavier guard Colby Jones. NBA Draft Room is projecting Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin.
The Kings must decide which of their own free agents they want to retain before they hit the open market. Barnes, Trey Lyles, Terence Davis and Alex Len are all unrestricted free agents. Lyles, who established a role for himself as a stretch four and small-ball five, will likely return on a value contract. The others could be moving on.
The Kings are expected to renew discussions with Vezenkov, a 27-year-old forward whose draft rights were acquired last summer in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Vezenkov is the reigning Greek League MVP and a leading candidate for Euroleague MVP this season.