What comes next for the Sacramento Kings after the NBA Draft?
Jun 23, 2023, 12:21 PM | Updated: 12:22 pm
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Now that the 2023 NBA Draft has concluded, it’s time to dive into the Sacramento Kings’ moves that were made on Thursday night.
For the first time in 17 years, Sacramento was entering the offseason in a position that still needs getting used to as it comes off of the tongue (or, in this case, fingers): an NBA Playoff team.
Instead of looking for a franchise-altering talent that can lift this franchise to the postseason for the first time in nearly two decades, general manager Monte McNair was in the much more comfortable position of adding to a roster that just posted the greatest offensive rating in the league’s extensive history.
One year made quite a difference in the case of Sacramento’s NBA Draft plans, with the 2022 draft revolving around who the team would pick with the fourth-overall selection, while this year’s edition saw the Kings sitting at 24th, 38th, and 54th on the board.
Keegan Murray was a home run of a pick from McNair in 2022, as the forward went on to shatter the NBA rookie record for made three-point field goals (206 on 41 percent shooting from deep) en route to securing All-Rookie First Team honors.
This summer’s marquee draft selection is that of Xavier guard Colby Jones, a 6’6 wing with a 6’8 wingspan that can prove problematic for positions one through three. Jones is a two-way prospect, a player that can be slotted in at the two-guard spot or the small-forward position thanks to his length and impressive range (38 percent from three-point range in 2022-23).
The Murray selection was made with the idea of bringing in a player that can turn into a top option in an offense that features All-Star talents De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. The Jones pick gives Sacramento a true role player that can act as a threat on both ends of the floor while thriving on the defensive end, something that Sacramento lacked during its playoff run against Golden State.
Colby Jones taking over during the final 6 minutes against DePaul in the Big East tourney. Two-way impact player who just makes all the right plays. Man I'm excited. pic.twitter.com/zHnjc2OYFc
— Kings Film Room (@SacFilmRoom) June 23, 2023
Jones did it all for Xavier in 2022-23, averaging 15 points (ninth-most in the Big East), 4.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range.
Several mock drafts had Jones as a late-first-round pick in the 20-30 range, with CBS’ final mock predicting the Kings to select the All-Big East Second Team guard with its 24th pick.
“[Jones] is somebody that we’re really excited to add to the culture that we are building here,” McNair said of Jones during his end-of-draft press conference. “He’s a winner, won almost two-thirds of his games at Xavier, and we’re excited to bring him in.
“We’ve got two All-NBA guys that we’re building around, so guys that can help them on both ends of the floor, we want high-IQ guys that can come in here and just figure out a way to contribute.”
Sacramento likely had its eyes on Jones coming into Thursday night, and once the team got a feel for incoming moves around the rest of the league, they felt confident that the guard would be on the board during the early portion of the second round.
One Murray’s twin brother Kris was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers one pick ahead of the Kings’ 24th spot; ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski almost immediately reported that Sacramento had moved the pick to Dallas along with center Richaun Holmes.
The move raised eyebrows around the media table at the Golden 1 Center practice facility, as the Kings had finally swung a deal to find the disgruntled Holmes (and the $24 million remaining on his contract) a new home.
As soon as McNair made the February 2022 deal with Indiana that brought Sabonis to Northern California, the writing was on the wall for Holmes, a player that had been an integral piece of the 2019-22 Kings teams, so much so that McNair inked the center to a four-year, $46 million deal before the 2021-22 season.
Sacramento had been searching to find Holmes a new team since last summer, but the remaining money on the contract was a tall order for teams kicking the tires on the idea of trading for the out-of-place big.
Thanks to a $17 million trade exception that Dallas created on Thursday during a trade that sent forward Davis Bertans to Washington, the Mavericks were able to absorb Holmes’ $12.9 million salary for 2023-24 while also receiving Sacramento’s 24th overall selection (Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper).
Essentially, the Kings traded the 24th pick in return for nearly $20 million in salary cap space. By trading away Holmes’ contract and moving the 24th pick (worth almost $3 million), Sacramento opened up over $30 million in cap space to make itself a team to watch during free agency in the coming weeks.
According to Spotrac’s Keith Smith, the Kings now possess the fourth-most salary cap space in the NBA as we close in on the free agency start date of June 30th.
Updated post-Draft 2023 cap space projections:
1 Rockets: $60.9M
2 Jazz: $47.2M
3 Spurs: $38.6M
4 Kings: $35.6M
5 Pacers: $32.2M
6 Pistons: $30.0M
7 Magic: $23.9M
-Kings now a cap space team
-Thunder project to stay over the cap
-Hornets still a swing team, Wizards not
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 23, 2023
As soon as the dust settled on Sacramento’s impressive ‘Beam Team’ season that resulted in the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2006, the questions surrounding the roster started to come into focus.
Moving Holmes’ contract was arguably the top priority if McNair was to have any flexibility in making moves that could upgrade a roster that lacks a valid third option and defensive impact. Not only did McNair find a taker for Holmes’ contract, but he did so while taking back zero salary and drafting a player in Jones that many projected well above his draft slot at 34th.
Sacramento needed to move Holmes’ contract this summer and create cap flexibility. Check.
Draft a two-way wing that can act as a threat on the perimeter, play multiple positions, and stretch the floor. Check.
So, what now?
Moving Holmes opens up doors that weren’t there 24 hours ago. The Kings have the ability to go fishing for a whale in a free-agent class that includes the likes of Draymond Green, Kyle Kuzma, Khris Middleton, Jerami Grant, longtime Sacramento forward Harrison Barnes, and more.
ESPN’s NBA insider Brian Windhorst pointed out the possibility of a Kings-Green connection, pointing out that Green has a strong relationship with Mike Brown that stems from the pair’s time together in Golden State–a relationship that featured Brown as the defensive architect and Green as the defensive anchor on the floor for the four-time champions.
With this increased space, possibilities that seemed bleak just days ago are now much more expansive.
Players like Trey Lyles, Bruce Brown, Christian Wood, Brook Lopez, and Josh Hart could also be candidates for contract offers due to this increased cap space.
The Kings can also take on larger salaries in potential trades, making them a prime candidate for hypothetical deals with teams like Toronto that have been involved in on-and-off rumors regarding moving forwards OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.
This newly-created flexibility makes it possible for Sacramento to bring Barnes back on a multi-year deal while also being able to make lower-level moves to add depth around a young, talented core that includes Fox, Sabonis, Murray, Kevin Huerter, and Malik Monk.
Speaking of Sabonis, McNair could also use this new cap space to lock the All-NBA center into a new contract. Sabonis is set to enter free agency at the end of the 2023-24 season, and although league sources indicate there is a strong likelihood that the 27-year-old would ink a new deal with the Kings in the summer of 2024, Sacramento can now take care of its franchise big man sooner.
According to The Kings Beat’s James Ham, the Kings can offer Sabonis a 140 percent raise of his current $22 million salary in an extension beginning at the start of the 2024-25 season. If Sacramento raised Sabonis’ salary to $30 million for this upcoming season, they could sign the three-time All-Star to a four-year, $189 million deal that would run through 2027-28.
As Ham alluded to in his piece, the numbers can change–but the possibility is there for the Kings to ink Sabonis into a multi-year pact that would solidify this team’s core duo with fellow All-Star and All-NBA talent De’Aaron Fox under contract through 2025-26.
What about Sasha Vezenkov?
The Bulgarian forward has been the talk of Kings nation during the early portion of this offseason, and deservedly so. Vezenkov set the EuroLeague and Greek League on fire this season, winning Most Valuable Player honors in both leagues while claiming a second-straight Greek League title with Olympiacos.
Over 37 appearances in the EuroLeague and Greek League this season, Vezenkov averaged 17.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 65 percent on two-point field goals and 39 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
As soon as the last pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft was announced, the drawbridge was lifted as Sacramento and Vezenkov could finally begin official negations after months of speculation.
“The way we play, he fits in really good,” Kings head coach Mike Brown said of the 27-year-old on May 10th after watching Vezenkov play in the EuroLeague playoffs.
“He shoots the three-ball. He’s got size. He’s got toughness. He rebounds. All those things are exciting with the way we play the game of basketball, so we’ll let him finish out his season, and then we’ll make decisions from there.”
Vezenkov nearly made the jump to Sacramento last summer, but instead backed out of a meeting with the team that was set to take place at Las Vegas Summer League to sign an extension with Olympiacos that runs through the 2024-25 season.
The 6’9 forward’s contract has an NBA opt-out clause in his contract that would come with a $1-1.5 million price tag for the Kings that would then make it possible to lock in a multi-year deal.
Sportal’s Christos Tsaltas reported this week that Sacramento has Vezenkov in its plans for next season, as well as a specific role in Brown’s rotation, but it remains to be seen if the sweet-shooting forward will be making the jump to the NBA.
When asked about negotiations with Vezenkov following Thursday’s draft, McNair didn’t reveal much, only stating that the team looks forward to that process once the time comes.
Along with the team’s $30+ million in cap space, the Kings also have a few tools that can help them bring Vezenkov or other talent in this offseason:
- Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: $12.4 million
- Bi-Annual Exception: $4.5 million
We are on the cusp of a very interesting offseason in Sacramento, as McNair will have plenty of tools at his disposal to upgrade a roster that just led the NBA in offensive rating and finished with the third-best record in the Western Conference.
Last summer, McNair brought Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk into the fold with little wiggle-room cap-space wise.
If McNair was able to acquire two legitimate talents with scarce cap space, it’s fun to imagine what could lie on the horizon as free agency approaches.
Sacramento Kings Offseason Schedule
- Friday, June 30 – Free Agent negotiating period begins
- Monday, July 3rd & Wednesday, July 5th – California Classic Summer League at Golden 1 Center
- Thursday, July 6– Free Agents can begin signing deals
- Friday, July 7–Monday, July 17– NBA Summer League in Las Vegas
- August TBD– 2023-24 NBA regular season schedule release
- September TBD– Sacramento Kings training camp begins