NBA

Sacramento Kings Mailbag: Draft Predictions, Free-Agent Decisions & The Futures of DiVincenzo, Barnes

Jun 8, 2022, 9:55 AM | Updated: 10:02 am
PISCATAWAY, NJ - JANUARY 19: Keegan Murray #15 of the Iowa Hawkeyes in action against the Rutgers S...
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Welcome to the first-ever edition of the Sacramento Kings mailbag!

As we all prepare to sit back and watch the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics duke it out in the NBA Finals, an offseason of significant importance for the Kings will begin in two weeks.

Following an NBA-record 16th-straight season without postseason basketball, there is no shortage of important decisions on the plate of Kings general manager Monte McNair.

The debates surrounding Sacramento’s fourth-overall pick in June 23rd’s NBA Draft are beginning to heat up. What will McNair do with Harrison Barnes’ expiring contract this summer? How much will Donte DiVincenzo sign for in restricted free agency?

Let’s dive into your questions.

(Note: Some questions have been lightly edited for clarity)

What will the Sacramento Kings do with the 4th pick?

(Submitted by multiple participants)

This is the burning question on all of our minds, isn’t it?

When it comes to what I think the Sacramento Kings will do with its fourth-overall pick in the NBA Draft, it’s complicated. What I want the Kings to do and what the Kings will do are likely going to be two different scenarios.

What do I want the Kings to do with the pick? Draft Jaden Ivey.

Monte McNair has long said that he will select the best player available regardless of position, and he has proved that in his first two drafts with the Kings by drafting point guards (Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell) in 2020 and 2021.

Countless NBA Draft analysts and college basketball scouts have projected the Purdue guard as a top-four (if not higher) talent in this draft.

Ivey’s fit alongside De’Aaron Fox is the most-glaring question surrounding the potential backcourt pairing, but to me, Ivey is a talent that you simply cannot pass up.

Shades of Ja Morant and Donovan Mitchell poke through while watching Ivey’s highlight mix from his impressive 2021-22 season. His athleticism is off of the charts. Ivey’s shot will need some work, but it has solid bones.

Now, as I said, what I want the Sacramento Kings to do and what they will do are likely two separate things.

Mum has been the word when it comes to leaks and the thought process of McNair and the Kings’ front office on this draft, but there have been whispers that the team is very high on Iowa forward Keegan Murray.

The 6’8 forward was arguably the best scorer in college basketball last season, scoring 23.5 points per game on 55-percent shooting from the field and nearly 40-percent shooting from beyond the arc. Murray’s impressive defense (1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game) makes him the ideal pick for a Kings team with little to no depth at the power forward position–ideal on paper, at least.

Murray’s 6’8, 215-pound frame has him slightly undersized at the NBA power forward position.

For reference, Harrison Barnes is 6’8, 225 pounds and plays small forward. Trey Lyles is 6’9 and outweighs Murray by 10 pounds. Murray, who will turn 22 years old in August, is one of the older prospects in this draft. The “he’s young and will fill out” conversation doesn’t apply, here.

Positional fit is my only concern with Murray, who was a great power forward at the college level. Can he replicate his production at the NBA level at the power forward position? Will he need to slide back into a small forward role?

Murray’s ability to knock down perimeter jumpers and his defensive prowess are enough to make this potential selection worth it, I just have some reservations about the forward’s true NBA position–small forward or power forward.

In conclusion:

What do I want to happen? Kings select Jaden Ivey.

What do I think will happen? Kings trade back to fifth or sixth and select Keegan Murray; grab asset(s) from Detroit or Indiana during deal

Will the Kings re-sign Donte DiVincenzo? If so, for how much?

(Submitted by Johnny)

Monte McNair really wanted Donte DiVincenzo. He literally traded for the guard two times, finally bringing the 2021 NBA champion over during February’s trade deadline.

Sacramento would like to bring DiVincenzo back this summer, that isn’t a secret. The 25-year-old guard has a similar timeline to De’Aaron Fox (24 years old) and Domantas Sabonis (25 years old). Although DiVincenzo struggled to shoot the basketball, his defensive intensity was fun to watch during the final months of the season.

DiVincenzo’s 35-percent mark from the field and a 33-percent clip from three-point land during the 2021-22 season are an outlier in the Villanova product’s career.

Prior to a severe ankle injury that required surgery in 2021, DiVincenzo held career averages of 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 43-percent shooting from the field and 35-percent from beyond the arc.

I said it before the trade and I will say it again after watching DiVincenzo play in a Kings uniform: He’s one of the better rebounding guards in the NBA.

DiVincenzo’s ability to rebound, play intense defense, and act as a threat on the perimeter makes the answer a quick “yes” when asked if Sacramento should retain the guard this summer. DiVincenzo will be a restricted free agent, meaning that the Kings have the right to match any offer sheet that the 25-year-old signs with another team.

Unfortunately, the Kings might have shot themselves in the foot before negotiations even started.

During the final days of the regular season in April, The Kings Beat‘s James Ham reported that DiVincenzo and his camp weren’t thrilled with Sacramento’s decision to bring him off of the bench:

“DiVincenzo and his group are not at all happy with the Sacramento Kings. They believe that the Kings, very specifically, did not start him down the stretch of the season to limit his value in free agency…His team believes he’ll be able to get the MLE from somebody.”

The Kings Beat‘s James Ham – April 10, 2022

It was a puzzling decision by the Kings to bring DiVincenzo, a player that they are very high on and a player that had already been a starter for a championship-caliber team in Milwaukee, off of the bench behind Justin Holiday.

For that, I don’t blame DiVincenzo for being upset.

Sacramento is sure to have some competition for DiVincenzo’s services this summer, and I expect the guard to get a decent payday.

Ham’s report that DiVincenzo and his camp are looking for the mid-level exception means that he’s looking for a deal worth around $10 million per season. I’m not entirely sure that DiVincenzo will get that much on the market, but I think that a three-year, $27 million deal gets him back in the purple and black next season.

If push comes to shove and DiVincenzo gets a larger deal, I would expect the Kings to match any deal in the $10-11 million per year range.

De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, and DiVincenzo are a strong core of guards to have on the roster. After trading for his guy twice, I doubt that Monte McNair lets DiVincenzo walk this summer.

What are your thoughts on Monte McNair’s decision-making so far?

(Submitted by Marcos)

Speaking of Monte McNair…

We’re nearing the two-year mark with McNair as Sacramento’s general manager. During that time, we have seen the 37-year-old appear very calculated when conducting business with this team.

McNair is two-for-two on drafts, having selected Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell in 2020 and 20201. Trades haven’t come often, but the jury is still out on the Haliburton-Sabonis deal. A grade of that deal probably won’t come for a year or two, but both players looked very good in their new situations.

There have been a few head-scratching moves during McNair’s tenure, most notably the Tristan Thompson-Delon Wright trade last summer. I still have no idea what the thought process behind that deal was besides that the Kings needed some tenacity in the paint, but Thompson’s Kings tenure was certainly forgettable.

Having Delon Wright on the roster last season wouldn’t have hurt, either.

Letting Bogdan Bogdanovic walk for nothing was another head-scratcher. I can understand not wanting to pay Bogi $17 million per season for four years, but letting him walk for nothing instead of working out a sign-and-trade was and still is unacceptable.

As McNair enters the final year of his contract, he’s set up to prove himself and earn another deal with owner Vivek Ranadive. Striking gold with the fourth pick in the draft, handling Donte DiVincenzo’s free agency, and finding a starting-caliber power forward will be crucial to McNair’s track record.

Thus far, I have trust in McNair to press the right buttons. Let’s see if he can solidify that trust this offseason and build a respectable roster. If he fails, his job will be in jeopardy.

More likely for Harrison Barnes: a trade or an extension?

(submitted by Taylor)

Harrison Barnes’ future in Sacramento is very much unclear.

The 30-year-old veteran is entering the final year of his four-year contract with the Kings and will be on the books for $18 million in 2022-23, down from $20 million in 2021-22.

Stability at the small forward position has been an issue for Sacramento for what feels like an eternity. Peja Stojakovic, Ron Artest, Rudy Gay, and Harrison Barnes. Those have been the franchise’s solid small forward options since the 1998-99 season (sorry, John Salmons stans, he isn’t making this list).

Barnes has been a good King, both on and off of the floor. Over four seasons in Sacramento, the forward has averaged 15.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game on career-highs in field goal (47%) and three-point (39%) percentages.

Following the trade that sent Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to Indiana, Barnes became Sacramento’s number-one three-point option. In 2021-22, the North Carolina product led the current Kings roster in three-point percentage (39%) and made three-point field goals (142).

Barnes’ ability to play both forward positions, his reliable durability (77 games played in 2021-22), and leadership in the locker room put me in the “extension” camp.

Harrison Barnes is the exact type of player that you want on your team, somebody who is easy to root for and produces night-in and night-out.

An extension is a possibility, but nothing is going to be discussed or signed until McNair handles his business on Draft night. Barnes is Sacramento’s most-attractive trade asset by a long shot, meaning that some difficult decisions could lie ahead regarding Barnes’ future.

McNair could come across a deal that is too good to turn down, one that could set the Kings up for the future by moving Barnes and upgrading the roster in other ways.

No matter what happens, McNair must have a small forward on the roster that possesses or exceeds Barnes’ talent. Far too many years went by with Sacramento rostering below-average talent at arguably the most-important position in basketball.

The Kings need a player that can put a body on the LeBron James’, Kawhi Leonard’s, Kevin Durant’s, Jimmy Butler’s, and Khris Middleton’s of the league. Barnes’ strong frame and veteran experience have been more valuable to this team than what meets the eye.

I wouldn’t be against a Barnes extension. To me, a three-year deal worth $47 million seems respectable, but Barnes would surely command more on an open market.

All of that being said: Today, June 8, 2022, I would say that it’s more likely Barnes is included in a trade than signed to an extension. McNair’s trading flexibility largely revolves around the fourth pick, Barnes, and center Richaun Holmes. It’s tough to imagine a scenario where McNair upgrades the roster without moving some talent on the current roster, and Barnes is the best talent that is available.

That doesn’t mean that Barnes won’t be here next season even without an extension, as we have seen players choose to bet on themselves instead. But I think that McNair will look for a ‘swing for the fences’ move that could involve the veteran forward before he looks to discuss an extension.

What does a ‘swing for the fences move’ look like?

It has been long rumored that the Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins can become available in the right deal. The Utah Jazz are reportedly still planning on building around Donovan Mitchell, but if they look to make a move, Sacramento should come knocking.

Any deal for a big name or All-Star talent will likely need to involve Barnes for salary cap implications.

At the age of 30, this summer will likely be Barnes’ final chance to secure another big payday. We’ll see if it’s in Sacramento or elsewhere following a trade.

Who is the best free-agent fit this summer & what is the team’s biggest positional need?

(Submitted by multiple participants)

Free agency predictions and the Sacramento Kings go together like gasoline and water, but I’ll take a crack at it.

When it comes to the team’s biggest position of need, two come to mind: shooting guard and power forward.

Following the Pacers-Kings trade in February, Sacramento saw its two-best shooters Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield depart. At the power forward position, Sacramento has had a revolving door in the post since the failed Marvin Bagley III project (I can’t believe that I made it this far into this piece without an MB3 reference).

Sacramento needs to address its shooting this summer. That is at the top of my list. After that, shoring up the defense down low in the paint and finding a parter for Domantas Sabonis is a necessity as well.

We’re looking at two positions with no clear resolutions. First things first, and that is we have to wait and see what Monte McNair does with the fourth-overall pick in the draft. If Keegan Murray is the pick, there is the answer for the power forward slot. All eyes will then shift to the shooting guard position in free agency or the trade market. If Jaden Ivey is the pick, eyes shift to the power forward spot.

You get the picture. One thing must happen to clear the path for the other. Once Adam Silver announces the fourth pick on June 23rd, the real fun will begin.

Here are a few free agents that I have had my eyes on and wouldn’t be upset to see the Kings bring in for 2022-23. More importantly, I believe that these free agents are realistic possibilities that Sacramento will be able to afford and attract:

(2021-22 stats)

  • Bryn Forbes – SG – 8.8 PTS, 43% FG, 41% 3PT
  • Malik Monk – SG – 13.8 PTS, 47% FG, 39% 3PT
  • Gary Payton II – G/F – 7.1 PTS, 61% FG, 36% 3PT, 1.4 STL
  • Kevon Looney – PF/C – 7.3 REB, 57% FG
  • Damian Jones – C – 8.1 PTS, 4.4 REB, 65% FG, 35% 3PT
  • Jalen Smith – PF – 9.2 PTS, 6.0 REB, 50% FG, 33% 3PT

These aren’t the sexiest options, I understand. Monte McNair will have to make those moves via trade, but I think that bringing any of these players in makes Sacramento a deeper team.

What Kings player from the past five years would you want on this team?

(Submitted by Cooper)

This one might sting, everybody.

Well, for starters, if could just wave a magic wand and bring a player back to this current roster without giving anything up, I would be very intrigued to see how an offense with both Tyrese Haliburton and Domantas Sabonis would work.

The ball movement would be beautiful.

Another player that I would love on this team is Bogdan Bogdanovic. Having Bogi in a lineup with De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, Harrison Barnes, and Domantas Sabonis would be insanely fun to watch.

Lastly, I’ll go with Iman Shumpert. ‘The Scores’ year of 2018-19 was the most fun that I have had watching Sacramento Kings basketball during the postseason drought. The Kings won 39 games and finished 9th in the Western Conference standings that season.

That sounds pretty nice in a world where the top 10 teams qualify for postseason play.

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