Kings general manager Vlade Divac moved quickly and decisively to address his team’s biggest needs as the start of free agency arrived Sunday.
League sources told The Sacramento Bee the Kings reached agreements on multiyear deals with Harrison Barnes, Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza, bolstering a roster that already featured emerging stars such as De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III. The signings were seen as sensible moves on team-friendly deals that improve the team’s talent while preserving future cap flexibility.
“Well, I think realistically for Sacramento it’s about building the culture,” former Kings great Chris Webber told NBA TV. “… What Ariza does is he helps build a culture – a winning culture – by showing the young guys how to prepare, how to be consistent, and trust me, it’s so important having those extensions of coaches on the floor, so you’ve got to have that.
“And, secondly, I think Buddy Hield is one of the most underrated shooters in the game, and so any time you have Harrison Barnes, who’s so solid, who can do what he does, it’s just going to space the floor for the speed of Fox and for Buddy to go, and so I like the team. They have a lot of guys who can switch and a lot of length. I like what Sacramento’s doing.”
Re-signing Barnes, 27, was the team’s top offseason priority after he declined a $25.1-million player option for next season in order to become an unrestricted free agent. The two sides ultimately agreed on a four-year, $85-million agreement that declines annually to account for just 14 percent of the salary cap in the final year, a league source said.
The Kings acquired Barnes, 27, on the eve of the February trade deadline in the deal that sent Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph to Dallas. Both sides indicated they were willing to work out a long-term deal.
Barnes averaged 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range in 28 games for the Kings this season. He gives the Kings a versatile forward capable of scoring in variety of ways and defending multiple positions.
“Harrison Barnes is a player who can score, who plays a position of need, somebody we’re looking to have a long future (with),” Divac said in February. “… I see him as a player who is going to help us go to the next level.”
Barnes has previously expressed a willingness to stay in Sacramento, telling The Bee: “I’m confident that will work itself out.”
“Everything here has been great from the coach to the players to the front office to the fans,” Barnes said in March. “It’s been a super warm reception. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Dedmon, 29, comes to the Kings on a three-year, $40-million deal with a partial guarantee in the third year, a league source said. Dedmon will likely start at center in place of Willie Cauley-Stein, whose future with the franchise is in doubt after his agent told The Bee he wanted out of Sacramento.
Dedmon is a six-year NBA veteran who blossomed over the past two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, where he averaged 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals in 25.1 minutes per game last season. He shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range and 81.4 percent at the free-throw line. He will give the Kings a dimension they didn’t have with Cauley-Stein, a 61.1-percent free-throw shooter who has made only four 3-pointers in his four-year career.
Other free-agent centers might have done more to improve the team’s overall talent, but Dedmon was attainable, affordable and a good fit in terms of the team’s style of play and future salary cap flexibility. He also checks every box the Kings were hoping to fill as a rim runner, rebounder and defender who spaces the floor with his perimeter shooting.
Ariza, 34, agreed to a two-year, $25-million deal with a partial guarantee in the second year, a source said. He gives the Kings a veteran backup at the small forward position after the team chose not to extend qualifying offers to Corey Brewer and Troy Williams.
Ariza is a 15-year NBA veteran who started over the past six seasons with the Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns. He averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 34.1 minutes per game for the Wizards last season.
Ariza is a 35.1-percent 3-point shooter who has made nearly 1,500 in his career. He will give the Kings legitimate depth at the small forward position and another veteran presence in the locker room.
Dozens of agreements were announced in the first hours after free agency began Sunday with more than 200 players on the free-agent market. Agreements can’t be finalized until the free agency moratorium ends July 6.
A league source told The Bee on Sunday morning the Kings were expected to make an offer to five-time All-Star Al Horford, who was reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth more than $100 million. The source said there was mutual interest between Horford and the Kings. The Athletic’s Sam Amick later reported that while the Kings had planned to extend the offer to Horford, they were under the impression he would sign with another team.
Another player the Kings considered was Houston Rockets center Clint Capela, but that situation was complicated. The Rockets were trying to orchestrate a trade to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Rockets can’t make the deal work without a third team and the third team could be in to acquire Capela. Amick reported the Kings were one of at least two teams viewed as “secured scenarios” for Capela in the event of a trade, but that deal looked unlikely Sunday afternoon.
By 6:30 p.m., ESPN was reporting that Butler would go to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade agreement and Horford had agreed to a four-year, $109-million deal with the 76ers.
The Kings are still expected to look at free-agent point guards in hopes of finding a solid backup for Fox. Sacramento is believed to have about $16 million in max cap space remaining, but most of that is tied up in the $14-million cap hold on Cauley-Stein’s qualifying offer. The Kings can rescind that offer at any time until July 13, which would make Cauley-Stein an unrestricted free agent.