The Kings could be sitting on a franchise-altering summer.
After snapping a 17-year playoff drought this past season, Sacramento has the rare combination of having an exciting, young core in place as well as financial flexibility to make a big splash in NBA free agency -- especially after general manager Monte McNair’s crafty trade on draft night.
As the June 30 negotiation window quickly approaches, here are six players the Kings could pursue on the open market:
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Kuzma, the 6-foot-9 forward, is an unrestricted free agent after declining his $13 million player option with the Washington Wizards.
Kuzma would be another dependable scoring option in the Kings’ starting lineup, likely taking the power forward spot while Keegan Murray shifts to small forward.
The 27-year-old is coming off one of his best seasons, as he averaged a career-high 21.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in 35 minutes per contest. He would fit into coach Mike Brown’s offensive plan as a reliable outside threat, as he shot 33.3 percent on over seven attempts per game last season.
Kuzma does have a bit of playoff experience, playing a significant role off the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench en route to their 2020 NBA championship in the bubble. He’s looking for a long-term home in free agency and could be a starter alongside De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Murray for years to come.
Oversized pink sweaters could be back in style next season in Sacramento.
It’d be an all-time #ThisLeague moment if Green signed in free agency with Sacramento after he served a one-game suspension for using Sabonis as a trampoline during the heated Kings-Warriors playoff series.
It does make a bit of basketball sense, though.
Green would provide the Kings with the level of defensive tenacity they lacked at times throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, something often mentioned by Brown, who coordinated the Warriors’ defense for six seasons.
It would be hard to pair Green with Sabonis on offense, considering both players' shortcomings shooting the basketball.
Green is expected to re-sign with the Warriors, but the Kings have more financial flexibility than their rivals in San Francisco. Would they be willing to commit to Green for the long term?
Middleton declined his $40.4 million player option for the upcoming season after a decade with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks still have championship aspirations with Giannis Antetokounmpo under contract for at least two more seasons and are motivated to bring Middleton back.
Middleton hits the open market after one of the worst seasons of his career. Typically an efficient shooter, he registered the worst field-goal percentage (43.6) and 3-point percentage (31.5) in his career while being sidelined for much of the year with knee issues.
Middleton isn’t quite the same two-way player he once was, but he’s also just one year removed from an All-Star season and two summers removed from an NBA championship. He’d be an upgrade from Harrison Barnes at small forward -- it just would come with some injury risk.
Hart, who was traded to the New York Knicks in February, is expected to decline his $13 million player option for the upcoming season. If he doesn't agree on an extension with New York, he'll become a free agent.
Hart, 28, is one of the best two-way options that could be signed this offseason. A prototypical 3-and-D option who can play shooting guard and small forward, Hart averaged 9.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from 3-point range in 76 games last year.
The Knicks are hoping to lock in Hart for the long term, but if they don't, there's a team in California's capital city that would love to add him to the mix.
One of the NBA's most unique players hits the open market this summer.
Lopez, 35, is coming off the best shooting season of his career, as he averaged 15.9 points while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and a career-high 37.4 percent from deep.
The 7-footer lived on the perimeter in the Bucks' offense, allowing Antetokounmpo space to work inside, but he's an elite rim protector on the other side of the floor. Lopez was named to the 2022-23 NBA All-Defensive First Team last season and was a finalist to win Defensive Player of the Year.
If Lopez signs with Sacramento, the Kings' starting five likely would include the 7-foot Lopez, 6-foot-11 Sabonis and 6-foot-8 Murray in the frontcourt. That's a lot of size and shooting to run the floor with Fox, Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk.
Barnes was loyal to the Kings through some tough years. Now an impending free agent, he'd welcome a return to Sacramento.
“It would be special,” Barnes said of a possible reunion in May. “I have equity in Sacramento, just being through a lot of the long seasons. To finally be on the other side of that and to have a collective experience and feel like we were knocking at the door.
"Obviously, we’ve all been around. We know it’s a business; a lot of things happen. But to continue on with this group, I think that would be a special thing."
The question remains if Sacramento would want Barnes back. The Kings recently proved their new core can win in the postseason, as they took the defending-champion Warriors to seven games, but the starting small forward position is an area the team could upgrade for the team's future. Barnes had an off year shooting the basketball last season (37.4 percent from deep) and isn't known for his defense on the wing.
The first few days of free agency will determine if the Kings consider Barnes a part of their future.