After Years Of Uncertainty, The Kings Have Their Small Forward
After inking a long-term deal, Harrison Barnes brings stability to a position that the Kings have struggled with for years
Since Peja Stojakovic played his last game for the Sacramento Kings, the small forward position has never been the same in Sactown.
Ron Artest was acquired for Stojakovic in a mid-season trade during the 2005-06 season, bringing an era to an end in Sacramento. Artest was incredible once he arrived, leading the Kings to an unlikely playoff berth after an amazing 40 game sample size that saw him average 16.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and two steals per game. After two more seasons with the Kings, he was traded to the Houston Rockets, placing another question mark on the small forward depth chart for Sacramento.
For over five years, the Kings struggled to solidify their small forward position. John Salmons was brought in–twice–to no avail. James Johnson. Travis Outlaw. Francisco Garcia. Desmond Mason. Omri Casspi. Donte Greene. The revolving door of candidates spun like a top, spitting out failed experiment after failed experiment.
Year after year, the Kings couldn’t find stability to man the three-spot.
After a rough start to the 2013-14 season, forward Rudy Gay was acquired from the Toronto Raptors. Being the biggest trade the Kings had completed in years, the hope around Sacramento was that Gay was the solution to the small forward problem. The talented scorer averaged 20.1 points per game while grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game over 55 contests, earning a three-year contract extension in the process. Paired with franchise center DeMarcus Cousins, the two ranked among the top-scoring duos in the league during Gay’s time with the Kings.
Cousins and Gay put up big numbers for three years as teammates on the Kings. Although the duo combined for over 40 points per game from 2013 through 2016, Sacramento struggled, never winning more than 33 games during Gay’s time as a King.
While playing in a game against the Indiana Pacers in January of 2017, Gay tore his Achilles, ultimately ending his time in Sacramento. He inked a multi-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs in the summer, leaving the Kings with recently-drafted rookie Justin Jackson to fill the void. Jackson struggled during his rookie season, scoring 6.7 points per game while shooting 30-percent from the three-point line during the 2017-18 season.
Veteran guard Iman Shumpert was placed in the small forward spot to start the 2018-19 season, but was traded in a three-team deal for Utah guard Alec Burks during the trade deadline.
On the eve of the trade deadline on February 7, 2019 Jackson was traded along with Zach Randolph to the Dallas Mavericks for forward Harrison Barnes.
A former NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, Barnes was coming to Sacramento after a rough start to his third season in Dallas. After signing a four-year, $94 million dollar deal with the Mavericks, the 27 year-old had bumped his scoring up from 11.7 in 2015-16 with the Warriors to 19.2 in 2016-17. While Barnes’ scoring numbers improved, his shot struggled. Over four seasons in Golden State, Barnes shot 44-percent from the field and 37-percent from the three-point line. Before being traded to Sacramento, Barnes was shooting 40-percent from the field and 38-percent from three-point land during his time in Dallas.
Once he arrived in Sacramento, things changed.
Over 28 games with the Kings, Barnes averaged 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Shooting 45-percent from the field and 40-percent from three, Sacramento was thrilled with the production from Barnes. After multiple reports surfaced about a contract extension, Barnes opted out of the final year of his four-year deal and inked a new pact with the Kings.
For the next four years, the Kings have their small forward.
The Sacramento Kings have had a long history of being unable to acquire top talent in free agency.
While Barnes isn’t considered “top talent” around the league, he is a well respected player and teammate that can fit into the style that Sacramento plays. Many fans and journalists balked at the $85 million figure that emerged for Barnes, calling it an overpay.
Unfortunately, the Kings have to overpay to gain better talent. But that does not mean that Sacramento made a mistake. Outside of Barnes, there wasn’t many other realistic options on the small forward free-agent market.
Barnes is not LeBron James or Kevin Durant. He is an above average defender, three-point threat and on top of it all, a great teammate. For those reasons alone, Barnes will pay dividends for this young Kings squad. With De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III likely joining Barnes in the starting lineup, Sacramento will have a legitimate inside-outside scoring lineup. There are no holes in the Kings lineup anymore.
Especially not at the small-forward spot.