Kings Add Monk, Lose Jones, Trade For Huerter During First 24 Hours Of Free Agency
On the first day of the NBA’s Free Agency period, moves happened in bunches around the league.
As soon as the clock struck 3:00 pm PST on Thursday, dueling NBA insiders Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN flooded everyone’s Twitter feeds with signing after signing to signal a wild summer ahead.
One of those very early signings was conducted by the Sacramento Kings, who reportedly reached an agreement with former Los Angeles Lakers guard–and good friend of De’Aaron Fox–Malik Monk. The 24-year-old guard was Fox’s backcourt mate during the pair’s lone season at Kentucky in 2016-17 where they led the Wildcats to a Final Four appearance.
FOX x MONK. CAN'T WAIT. pic.twitter.com/KuZJY9mJml
— Kings Film Room (@SacFilmRoom) June 30, 2022
By adding Monk to the roster on a two-year, $19 million deal, the Kings used most of its mid-level exception, leaving the team with a little bit of cap-space wiggle-room, a small portion of the mid-level exception (about $1.2 million), and the bi-annual exception ($4.1 million) remaining.
Heading into free agency, Sacramento had two precise needs when assessing the current roster: shooting and defense.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Kings decided to let guard Donte DiVincenzo enter unrestricted free agency, raising the common question, “what is Sacramento thinking?” DiVincenzo is very active on defense–check–and possesses the ability to be a knockdown threat on the perimeter. If Kings general manager Monte McNair was choosing to let the 25-year-old walk for nothing, he had to have a plan for a replacement, right?
McNair has brought Monk, a guard who enjoyed a breakout season with the Lakers during the 2021-22 season as a legitimate perimeter threat, to play alongside his college teammate Fox in Sacramento’s backcourt.
Over the past two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets and Lakers, Monk has changed the narrative on his career from fringe-rotation piece to starting-caliber guard. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, Monk holds averages of 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 0.7 steals per game on 46 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.
For a Kings team that desperately needs perimeter options on the floor to compliment the likes of Fox and All-Star center Domantas Sabonis, Monk is the type of player that this roster needs to take a step forward.
Of course defense is a glaring issue with the Sacramento Kings, and Monk is not considered a plus-defender. The guard did enjoy a solid year on the defensive end in 2021-22, holding his opponents to just a 34.5 percent rate from outside of 15 feet, per NBA stats.
McNair used nearly the entire mid-level exception on Monk, so any large defensive upgrades for the team will likely take place on the trade market. The move to bring in Monk was to address shooting, an offensive aspect that could still be improved even more over the coming days and weeks.
Sacramento’s team chemistry could use some work as well, and this move absolutely moves that needle forward as Kentucky teammates in Fox and Monk will share the same backcourt for the first time as professionals. According to The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson, the relationship between the two guards played a massive role in Monk’s decision.
Sources with knowledge of the situation described Monk and Fox as “brothers,” saying their relationship was a key factor in Monk’s decision to sign with Sacramento.
“Him and De’Aaron are extremely close, and they’ve been close since high school, so I would say the overall factor with Fox, their relationship and the friendship they’ve always had, definitely played a big role,” the source said.
When the ‘Scores’ era of Kings basketball took place during the 2018-19 season, fans were able to enjoy the team’s best season since the start of the playoff drought thanks to fun personalities and an exciting offense. Following a 39-43 season, Sacramento has been searching for a similar sense of fun and enjoyment on the court ever since.
Reuniting Fox and Monk, one of the most exciting college backcourt duos of the past decade, gives this team an immediate boost in that department.
The Lakers wanted to retain Monk, but didn’t have the cap space to do so. Other teams, however, were certainly interested in the young guard as free agency approached. Instead, Monk will join Fox in Sacramento as the former Wildcats will look to lead this franchise to break the record-long postseason drought together.
Update: During the writing of this article, Sacramento traded for Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter. To read about Huerter, click here.
The Lakers punched back following the Malik Monk signing on Thursday night as they lured former Kings center Damian Jones to Southern California on a two-year commitment.
Jones, 27, enjoyed a breakout season with Sacramento in 2021-22, averaging career-highs in points (8.1), rebounds (4.4), and blocks (0.8) per game while shooting 65-percent from the field and 34-percent from beyond the arc over 56 games (15 starts).
When center Domantas Sabonis went down with a knee injury in late March, Jones impressed as the starting center during the final stretch of the season. Over nine games, Jones posted 17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.6 blocks per contest while shooting a blistering 72 percent from the field and 44 percent from the three-point line.
With Jones heading back to the Lakers, the Kings have another question that needs to be answered this offseason: Who will be Sabonis’ backup this fall?
Richaun Holmes thrived as Sacramento’s starting center over the past three seasons, but seemed very uncomfortably in a reserve role behind Sabonis. Over eight games in a reserve role during the 2021-22 season, the 28-year-old averaged 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds over 15.4 minutes per contest. Holmes was dealing with an assortment of injuries and off-the-court distractions throughout the season, something that surely impacted his ability to perform at a high level in both a starting and reserve role.
If Holmes can establish himself as an efficient backup to Sabonis, the Kings could arguably have the best center depth in the NBA.
According to ABC 10’s Matt George, there isn’t much of a trade market for Holmes and it’s very possible that the big man heads into next season on Sacramento’s roster. Having Holmes play behind Sabonis is definitely an intriguing option following Jones’ departure, especially when you factor in that there are no clear upgrades on the free agent market.
Holmes still has three years and around $35 million remaining on his contract, while Alex Len’s expiring $3.9 million contract could be moved at some point this summer.
Sacramento also has the option of signing rookie center Neemias Queta to a contract for the 2022-23 season, as it’s believed that the organization is high on the 22-year-old. If Len is moved, Queta could slide in and provide depth behind Sabonis and Holmes.