VLADE, TARGET MY LOCATION WITH AN ORBITAL STRIKE
It took one day for the NBA to up the ante. One day to remind everyone who follows and covers this wild league that it can do barely organized chaos better than any other league in America. Maybe even the world. Big names shocked the league. High-tier role players shuffled teams and possibly the balance of power. Kawhi Leonard didn’t even partake; he probably drank some black coffee and read the newspaper.
The Kings did not make any huge splashes. Instead, they made some light waves. While they played with Al Horford a little bit, they didn’t sign him the massive deal that it would have taken to convince him to wear purple and black. They signed a bunch of role-players to oversized contracts.
And that’s perfectly fine. Not signing a 33 year old Al Horford to a four year contract is smart for the Kings. Walking away because you’re not willing to pony up the four years +$100m for him is one of the smartest things the Kings have done in years. Signing the players they did to the contracts they got was also smart, even if you don’t love the players or figures. But let’s dive into said deals. We won’t use a grading system because that’s stupid, but we will prognosticate from our chairs or couches nonetheless. Because that’s way smarter.
Harrison Barnes: 4 years, $85 million
It’s an overpay. There’s no doubt about that. paying over $20 million a year for a guy who’s probably going to be a fourth offensive option and has never sniffed an all-star team is an overpay. However, it’s one of those OPs that I think are worth it based on the type of player Barnes is. He is a 3-and-D wing who can credibly guard multiple positions and is a career 37% three point shooter who knocks down his open shots. He’s also reputable as a veteran locker room guy who brings championship experience, both good (2015) and bad (2016). He’s only 27 and he already brings a wealth of NBA experiences to a young team he’s not going to an old fart to.
This is a guy teams like the Kings have to overpay. He fits with their young core as a low-usage shooter and defender who gives them versatility and can even post up the occasional mismatch to grab them an ugly bucket. The Kings weren’t getting a legit star at this position, so getting Barnes is a strong move, anyway. Even better? His contract is front-loaded. He’ll make only about $19 million in the final year of his contract, mitigating the cap hit when the Kings will also be paying Marvin Bagley, De’Aaron Fox, and Buddy Hield.
Dewayne Dedmon: 3 years, $41 million
Here are the two most important details regarding this signing: Dedmon is better than Willie Cauley-Stein as a shooter (he shot 38% on threes last year) and as a rebounder (28% defensive rebounding to WCS’s 23.7) and his third year is only partially guaranteed.
Dedmon also grades out better as a shot blocker than Cauley-Stein (career 3.9 to 2.8) and isn’t significantly older as a 29 year-old who has only been in the league since 2013. He also shouldn’t have any qualms about relinquishing a starting role to Harry Giles should Giles prove more capable than expected. Either way, Dedmon, barring injury or a catastrophic decline in production, should see plenty of time on the floor since his spacing ability helps with Fox and Bagley.
Trevor Ariza, 2 years, $25 million
This is likely more like a one year deal because, again, his final year is only partially guaranteed. The Kings prioritized future flexibility over dollars, so they overpaid guys to be able to get out of the contracts earlier.
As for the player, he outwardly did not care when he started the year in Phoenix. His production ticked back up when he got traded to the Wizards, but I’m not going to sit here and lie to you like I know how he played. He’s 34. He’s probably a little washed. But he’s also going to be a bench player soaking up twenty-something minutes a night at most.
Ariza has a reputation as a 3-and-D forward, but at this stage of his career, it will have to be seen to be further believed. Sanjesh Singh went into some detail on Ariza’s last season split between Phoenix and Washington. I recommend reading it to get a better sense of how Ariza will probably look in the 2019-2020 season.
Cory Joseph: 3 years, $37 million
I remember how Kings fans so eagerly threw themselves behind Yogi Ferrell last year. Golden 1 Center even had a “YOGI YOGI YOGI” chant going one game. But one year later, the Kings looked for a different backup point guard despite coveting Ferrell last summer. I don’t know what they want in a backup PG. Ferrell provides shooting and effort on defense. Joseph’s shooting splits last year were horrific for a point guard at 41/32/70. I’m genuinely not sure what they are looking for at this position.
Once again, the final year is a partial guarantee.
Richaun Holmes: 2 years, $10 million
The last piece of the Kings’ free agency puzzle and a nice player for big man depth, Holmes is a pure hustle and energy guy. He started his career in the dark depths of the Processing 76ers before going to the Phoenix Suns last year where he averaged 8.2 points per game 61% shooting. He shot the three on a very small rate in Philly and didn’t even attempt one last year, so I don’t know if it’ll come back.
In order to sign Holmes, the Kings had to grant Willie Cauley-Stein his wish and renounced his rights, making him an unrestricted free agent. Willie’s tenure in Sacramento is over. His lasting impact will be that he was drafted to play next to Demarcus Cousins and could never justify his self-belief that he was a star.
To me, this is a solid free-agency for a young team that needed to find low-maintenance players that would complement their emerging young stars. If Bagley and Fox are going to be these All-NBA cornerstones that the Kings think they can be, the team will need to keep those books relatively clean.
Those books will get large soon. Buddy Hield is up for an extension now. He will command at least $20 million per year. Fox is next year. Then Bagley. There is a chance that the Kings will allocate $80 million of cap space to three guys. That’s not a bad thing,. It can mean that they’ve got a championship core. But we’ve seen teams lock themselves into expensive, underwhelming cores before. Now is not the time to worry, but it will be nice if these guys can show that they’ll be a team worth considering as contenders soon enough.