Column: Sacramento Kings should consider trading Keegan Murray for Pascal Siakam
Jun 30, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 9:11 am
Well, I messed up.
Recently, I went on Cattles & Ramie to do my usual San Francisco 49ers spot on how the NFL offseason is going. But as we all know, I also have a soft spot for the Sacramento Kings. So naturally, the conversation carried there.
When asked about the Kings’ recent moves and what they should do next in free agency, I suggested the team should make a play for Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton. The notion was meant with swift disdain from the hosts, convinced that the long-time Buck isn’t going anywhere.
And you know what, they were right.
It was a lazy take, one that was so obvious it served a need in a pinch.
So I reflected after the fact about what the Kings should do with their cap space this offseason. And a few hours later, it came to me, what I really think Monte McNair should do.
The Kings should consider putting Keegan Murray in a deal to acquire Toronto Raptors All-Star big man Pascal Siakam.
Why the Kings should do it
Hear me out.
Our Sacramento Kings had their best season in 20 years, winning the Pacific Division for the first time since 2003. Not only that, but playoff basketball was back in the City of Trees, a first since the 2006-07 season. And while our team took the defending champion, Golden State Warriors, to a Game 7 in Round 1, ultimately, we lost as the No. 3 seed in the West.
And while last season’s magical run shouldn’t be dismissed, especially with so many pieces still in the fold, the Kings need to continue building if the rest of the league is to take us seriously. Sacramento outperformed expectations in 2022-23. A team that most “experts” liked on paper, but did they actually think we’d make the postseason? No.
That’s why this free-agency period is so critical for the Kings. They can’t afford to be left behind in the pack, especially with bigger market teams already set to spend this weekend. This is why other NBA insiders also feel the same way about the Kings’ approach.
“I have to believe, I do believe, that there’s more to what’s going on there than just bringing back Harrison Barnes,” GQ Sports contributor Howard Beck said on Chris & Co. Wednesday. “And it’s not a bad thing to bring back Harrison Barnes, it’s not a knock on him. But like, you’re not moving the ball forward if it’s just the same group.
“…All these teams that are below them, could leapfrog them if they just stand still, and they know that. I don’t think they’re gonna stand still. I think that whether they bring Barnes back and find a way to keep enough cap room to add another player, whether it’s letting Barnes walk and using, I think up to $36 million in cap room to go out and get a couple of guys, I think we’re going to see at least some substantial addition [for the Kings].”
After trading away the 24th pick and Richaun Holmes last week, the Kings have over $30 million in cap space heading into free agency. And after watching long-time target John Collins get traded for the corpse of Rudy Gay and a bag of Fritos, clearly, McNair has something up his sleeve this summer.
Re-signing one of the squad’s leaders, Harrison Barnes, to a three-year, $54 million deal should be seen as the second move of Sacramento’s two-part plan. The primary goal should be trying to add an All-Star caliber player that meshes with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. But with such an underwhelming free-agent class, the Kings may need to dip into the trade market for a big piece.
That’s where Toronto comes into play.
Why Toronto should do it
Let’s face it: The Toronto Raptors are a stagnant franchise currently constructed.
Since Kawhi Leonard led them to a world title in the 2018-2019 season, Toronto has made the playoffs twice, not gotten past the second round, and struggled against the true contenders in both conferences. The Raptors have good players, all-stars even, but it isn’t enough.
Toronto has tried letting a collection of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and O.G. Anunoby lead the team for the last two years, to no avail. They’ve been slightly above .500 for their efforts, even with the emergence of Scottie Barnes at power forward.
Clearly, Siakam can’t be the best guy on a championship team. And while FVV & Anunoby are good starters, they aren’t taking over a game in crunch time. Now stuck with a $121 million payroll entering free agency, AND VanVleet on the way out, it’s time for Masai Ujiri to make a move.
And Monte McNair sees an opportunity.
“Well, you know the [Portland Trail] Blazers have been rumored with Pascal [Siakam], OG [Anunoby] over there in Toronto as well,” NBA Insider Chris Haynes reported last week. “…Sacramento is on the chase for those two guys in Toronto as well.”
Teams that have made calls for Pascal Siakam:
New Orleans Pelicans
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) June 28, 2023
Pascal Siakam is a prime trade candidate this off-season. Turning 30 by the start of the 2024 playoffs, the New Mexico State alum has one year, $37.8 million left on his contract. Coming off his best statistical season (24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists), “Spicy P” has real value on the market this offseason. He’s a former All-NBA player, still in his prime, at a position that is heavily needed across the league.
But does he want to be moved is the question.
There’s growing sentiment Toronto star Pascal Siakam — who’s on an expiring deal — would not re-sign with a team who attempts to trade for him as his preference is to remain with the Raptors, sources tell @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 22, 2023
And there lies the problem: Desire to improve, mixed with angst over starting over.
Multiple teams have inquired about the possibility of Siakam being available — Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Sacramento have made calls — and while few conversations have even qualified as preliminary, it’s not as if the Raptors have been opposed to listening. As has been typical, their true intentions are hard to read: “Not the easiest team to figure out,” said one league source.
But while the reports seem pointed to running it back, what if Masai pivoted and tore it down? If the big man was truly unavailable, wouldn’t teams stop calling about him? Just a thought.
We know the GM loves to make big moves toward sustained success, maybe it’s time to move on to a different chapter of Raptors basketball. Building around Barnes and 13th overall pick, Gradey Dick, is a solid place to start. Plus all the assets from trading Siakam (and possibly Anunoby); Toronto would have a bright future ahead.
Here’s how the Kings help them restart their rebuild.
How it Happens
I tweeted this out after hearing the initial report the Kings had inquired about both players, and I still stand by it to this day.
If the Kings are pursuing Pascal Siakam AND O.G. Anunoby, then Keegan Murray will have to be in the trade.
And I’m totally fine with that.
— Amiliano “Amil” Fragoso (@AmilianoFragoso) June 22, 2023
Look, I love Keegan Murray. Do I want to trade the former No.4 overall pick entering Year 2? No. But taking big swings comes with a price sometimes, and if that price is getting Pascal Siakam, I want in.
While Murray had a stellar rookie season, hitting the most three-pointers ever for a first-year player, what is his actual ceiling? Is it an All-Star team or two? All-NBA? Or just a good starter on a contender?
Only time will tell, but entering age 23 in August, my money is on the first option being the peak of his powers.
The Kings drafted the Iowa alum because he was a plug & play guy from Day 1. But because of his age, his potential isn’t the same as other draft-mates like Jaden Ivey, for example.
That’s why his inclusion in this deal shouldn’t be as scary as it seems. And, Pascal Siakam has one year left on his deal, giving him less value on the open market.
Despite that, the Raptors will be looking for a combo of assets & picks for the future. Maybe a few players that are a bit younger to help with the timeline of the franchise.
Sacramento has a few of those guys.
While Barnes would have been my preferred choice, he’ll be in town for a few more years. Because of that, another big contract has to fill the money void, i.e. Kevin Huerter.
Huerter is entering Year 2 of a four-year, $65 million deal, valued at $15.669 million next season. That cap hit is perfect for bridging Siakam’s max contract, allowing Sacramento to only take on a little extra money. And while I’ll miss his flamethrower abilities, if he’s not hitting shots, he’s a defensive liability.
Last season, “KVon” had the second-worst defensive rating in the NBA at 116.3, per StatMuse. The only player worse? Trae Young. Yikes.
As for the young guys: Keegan Murray and Davion Mitchell should suffice.
Mitchell’s ceiling is similar to Murray’s, especially considering he’ll be 25 in September. But he fits Toronto’s philosophy to a tee, giving them tough-nosed point guard play for a while.
Throw in two future first-round picks as well and that should be enough to make a deal with Ujiri.
With Barnes re-signing, the Kings have around $114 million in active cap space currently. The new collective bargaining agreement was just released this week, with the salary cap number for the new league year set at $136 million. That means that Sacramento has about $17 to $18 million in room to operate with in free agency.
Now let’s factor in the likely summer arrival of Sasha Vezenkov and his deal, probably a four to eight-million-dollar deal annually. So let’s split it at $6 million, okay?
That puts the Kings at $120 million on the payroll, still enough to secure the Pascal Siakam deal. But this is why Huerter is so important.
Including the Maryland product into the trade means the Kings will be at $128 million, potentially enough to re-sign Trey Lyles and Terence Davis. But if Huerter isn’t included, Sacramento moves above the salary cap threshold by about 8 million dollars.
That might be a good thing though.
Based on the new CBA, teams above the $136 million threshold are able to use the full mid-level exception, up to $12.4 million annually. If the Kings stay below the salary limit, they’ll only have the room exception, capped at $7.7 million.
It all depends on what direction Vivek Ranadivé & Monte McNair want to take this franchise. Just a good team that makes a few postseasons, or a real contender that challenges for a title.
Does Huerter even have to be included in the trade? Could a third future first entice Toronto to look the other way? It’s possible, that’s for sure.
What to Expect if it Happens
First off, Pascal Siakam isn’t stepping foot in Sacramento without a long-term deal already in discussion. The Kings won’t be making this trade for a one-year rental, the Cameroonian big man is here for the long haul. And thanks to the new luxury tax threshold, the Kings can extend both Siakam & Sabonis next season.
With the second apron capped at $164 million, Sacramento should be able to operate above the salary cap in order to get a new deal with Sabonis done. The All-NBA center will likely be looking for max money, with a four-year extension up to $121 million on the table.
He’ll probably get that, putting the Kings up against the luxury tax threshold significantly. But it’s worth it to form this trio.
Fox, Sabonis & Siakam complement each other’s games wonderfully. All three players can score, all three can facilitate and all three aren’t afraid of the moment.
We’ve seen Pascal Siakam shine as a true second fiddle on a contender, playing sidekick to Kawhi Leonard four years ago. The former Aggie has only gotten better since then, averaging over 24 points a game last season. His ability to stretch the floor as a small-ball center will make Sacramento more dynamic, allowing for more space to operate across the board.
His fit next to Sabonis should be especially appealing for the Kings, able to defend both on the perimeter and in the paint. Spicy P can take on the opponent’s superior big man, allowing Domas to sag off and play help defense. Or it could be the opposite as well, that’s the beauty of versatility.
The African big man also offers another big-time lob threat for Fox & Sabonis, able to use cutting and movement to his advantage out of screens. He also provides another passing outlet, able to take the ball in transition, draw the help defender and fire a laser to an open shooter.
That’s exactly how coach Mike Brown wants this team to play: Exciting, technical, disciplined.
In all actuality though, this move is most important because of its message to the rest of the NBA. Acquiring Pascal Siakam signals to the league that the “Beam Team” is more than a one-year fad. The best crowd in professional basketball has a team it can get behind again, hoping that this foundation can be the breakthrough to a title that this city so desperately deserves.
It’s a risky move indeed, one that if it goes poorly, could set the Kings back a few years. But like they say: Scared money, don’t make no money.
It’s time for Monte & Vivek to pull the trigger and fire the laser. With a starting lineup of Fox, Malik Monk, Barnes, Siakam and Sabonis, the Beam Team will be staying on National TV for the foreseeable future.
It’s time for the Kings to take their throne in the NBA’s elite once again.