2023 NBA Draft

What could be next for Kings after reported cap-clearing trade?

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SACRAMENTO -- The Kings had a much different draft night experience Thursday night at Golden 1 Center compared to years past.

Instead of hoping for lottery luck in May and taking a chance on a highly touted youngster in June, the Kings -- coming off their first playoff appearance in 17 years -- patiently waited as owners of the No. 24 overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft.

When the Kings finally were on the clock, they didn’t select a player. Instead, the Kings reportedly traded center Richaun Holmes and the No. 24 pick to the Dallas Mavericks in a move that cleared up significant cap space.

Holmes, who slipped out of the Kings’ rotation last season, was due $12 million in 2023-24 and had a $12.8 million player option for 2024-25. Per Spotrac’s Keith Smith, the Kings now have the fourth-most cap space in the NBA, estimated to be over $35 million.

“For us, we always value the optionality and flexibility when we acquire it,” general manager Monte McNair said Thursday night. “This was a great season for a lot of reasons. We want to have a long, long playoff run here and continue to compete. To do that in today’s NBA, you have to be able to build your team out, not just in the very near term but over the course of many years. We’re always having that balance. What can we do to help the team now, but how does that affect what we can do going forward?

“We think what we were able to do tonight, and what we’ve done at the deadline and in past years will give us a lot of options.”

So, what now? The Kings have plenty of flexibility to make a splashy trade or free-agent signing this summer.

They have their core locked in for next season, as four of their five starters from the drought-ending roster will return. The one starter from last season not under contract is veteran forward Harrison Barnes, who will become an unrestricted free agent when the negotiation window opens June 30.

As far as splashy trades go, Sacramento has been linked to Toronto Raptors forwards OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. The Atlanta Hawks have been trying to trade power forward John Collins for a few years now. Both players would be intriguing fits alongside Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt, and Keegan Murray could slide to the starting small forward position.

In free agency, forward Kyle Kuzma could top the Kings’ wish list. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, key pieces of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2021 NBA championship, both are on the open market. The Minnesota Timberwolves are motivated to re-sign free-agent center Naz Reid, but it’s easy to see him be a natural fit in Sacramento’s offense next season and beyond.

Aside from potential outside fits, the Kings’ trade Thursday also opened the opportunity to lock in their internal future with Sabonis, who enters the 2022-23 NBA season in the final year of his contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer unless the two sides work out a long-term deal.

Per the league's new CBA rules, players now can sign contract extensions with a 140 percent increase on their current deal, compared to a 120 percent increase in years past. Sabonis is slated to make $19.4 million next season.

“Domas is obviously an incredible player, and we want him here long term,” McNair said Thursday night. “When the appropriate time comes, we’ll talk to him about those ways to keep him here.”

Although the Kings exited the 2023 draft without a first-round pick, they selected Colby Jones and Jalen Slawson in the second round and opened up a world of possibilities, now that they have $35 million in cap space heading into the summer.

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