Five free agent point guards the Sacramento Kings could consider

Sep 20, 2023, 10:58 AM

Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns goes up for a shot against Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacram...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 28: Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns goes up for a shot against Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on November 28, 2022 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings currently have 17 players under contract, including their three two-ways. Teams are able to bring a maximum of 21 players into training camp, one more than the 20 that was acceptable last season thanks to an additional two-way slot. Looking at the current roster construction, they may benefit from considering some of the free-agent point guards.

De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell are the two traditional point guards along with Jordan Ford on a two-way. Malik Monk could potentially fill that role, but he primarily functioned as a secondary playmaker last season.

Last season, the Kings utilized all of their openings and allowed guys to compete for who would stay. Ultimately, Quinn Cook, Kent Bazemore, and Sam Merrill were released in favor of Matthew Dellavedova and Chima Moneke.

There are not a plethora of options this time of year, but let’s take a look at five free-agent point guards the Sacramento Kings could consider.

Cameron Payne (29)

After a decent season with the Phoenix Suns, Payne was traded this past summer to the San Antonio Spurs in order to clear cap space. San Antonio waved him, making him one of the more intriguing free-agent point guards.

In 48 regular season games played with the Suns, the Murray State product averaged 10.3 points and 4.5 assists on 41.5 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three on 3.9 attempts. He proved to still be an impactful player who averaged 24.8 minutes in a second-round postseason matchup with the Denver Nuggets.

Payne is capable of running an offense for short stints with his ability to break down defenses off the dribble and set his teammates up from there. He’s not one to pressure the rim with just 19 percent of his field-goal attempts coming within four feet per Cleaning the Glass, but is a threat from beyond the arc.

He converted 33.3 percent of his 108 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts last season, per NBA Stats. His efficiency improved off-the-dribble where he knocked down 42.5 percent of 73 attempts from range. Payne is a career 36.3 percent three-point shooter throughout eight seasons played.

He has been an inconsistent defender throughout the course of his career though. He has moments of effective perimeter containment where he embraces the physicality and other times where he fails to realize his responsibility to rotate. Standing at 6’1″, he’s limited by his physical tools but capable when engaged. Effort is rarely a concern with Payne, which is always a positive.

From Sacramento’s perspective, Payne may want a bigger role than what the Kings can offer. The Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly “kicking the tires” on the guard and have more of a potential opening for him. After Mike Conley, their guard options are Jordan McLaughlin, Shake Milton, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Daishen Nix who was recently signed to an Exhibit-10 contract. None of the players in that grouping are seemingly into the backup point guard role.

Justice Winslow (27)

Winslow’s season ended in December last year as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers when he suffered a grade two ankle sprain in Oklahoma City. In 29 games played prior to that, he averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 assists on 40.9 percent from the field in 26.8 minutes of play.

Winslow has been plagued with injuries throughout the course of his career, but the talent is clear. At 6’6 with a 6’10” wingspan, the former lottery pick excels on the defensive side of the ball and provides positional versatility. Through eight years in the NBA, he’s spent time with the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, and Portland Trail Blazers.

There are a limited amount of under-30 options with previous experience, but Winslow would provide a defensive challenge for Fox and Mitchell in practice similarly to how Dellavedova did.

Aside from injuries, one of his most notable shortcomings has been his offensive efficiency. Winslow is a career 31.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc who has also converted just 44.8 percent of his two-point attempts. All of the free-agent point guards at this stage are going to have notable deficiencies, and Winslow clearly provides more on the defensive side than the offensive.

Ish Smith (35)

Ish Smith is a known journeyman, having played for 13 teams in 13 seasons. Most recently, he won his first championship last season as a member of the Denver Nuggets. Smith played just 398 minutes in 2022-23 through 43 games, but that’s to be expected for a third-stringer. For reference, Dellavedova played 213 minutes for the Kings last season.

Smith averaged 2.5 points and 2.3 assists while converting 39.7 percent from the field in 9.3 minutes a night with Denver. Known for being one of the most well-liked teammates around the league, Smith and is experienced in adjusting to new roles through his travels.

Listed at 6’0″, he can struggle to survive on the defensive end of the floor. The opposing team would likely mismatch hunt the undersized guard, but matching him against other backups could help limit those concerns.

Smith projects as a solid offensive fit with someone who does not require the ball in his hands and has converted 34.9 percent from beyond the arc in his last five seasons.

Elfrid Payton (29)

Payton, who was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has played for four teams in his eight NBA seasons. Following his 2021-22 stint with the Phoenix Suns, he played five games for Osos de Manati in the Puerto Rican BSN league — former Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Malachi Richardson, and Tyreke Evans all played in the same league.

In those five games, Payton averaged 15.0 points, 7.4 assists, 7.2 assists, and 1.6 steals on 42.9/23.1/42.9 shooting splits. Following that showing, Payton made his way to the G-League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants for 10 games. He averaged 7.9 points, 6.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in 20.5 minutes of play.

Payton’s 6’4″ frame and 6’8″ wingspan have always given him the potential to be impactful on the defensive end, but he was prone to being overly risky. If he is able to improve his discipline, the blueprint is there. His rebounding numbers have always popped off the page for a point guard and Sacramento finished 20th in rebounds per game (42.5) per season.

“Eight-year NBA veteran Elfrid Payton has worked out for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets, league sources told HoopsHype.”

Payton appears to be attempting an NBA return. He’s capable of passing and kicking to shooters but historically struggles from three-point range himself. Again, every remaining free agent point guard is going to have their flaws, but Payton could supply different strengths than most options.

Quinn Cook (30)

Quinn Cook was a member of the Kings’ training camp in 2022-23 before the team ultimately elected to go with Dellavedova. After that, Cook made his way to the Chinese Basketball Association as a member of the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. In 14 games played with the Lions, Cook averaged 17.2 minutes, 11.8 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 rebounds on 33.7/32.9/93.8 shooting splits.

He’s proven to be impressively efficient from beyond the arc with 40.8 percent of his 441 career total three-point attempts being converted. His speed is a useful tool as well, and he’s played in a similar offense to how Sacramento functions, maybe because he spent two seasons with head coach Mike Brown on the Golden State Warriors where he won one of his two NBA championships.

Cook is another example of a player who has significant defensive deficiencies as a result of his size (6’1″). He fights on that end, but can easily be overwhelmed by larger opposing players.

The fact that general manager Monte McNair and this Sacramento front office have brought him in before shows a pre-existing level of interest that could be revisited this offseason.

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