The Kings didn’t make one of the mega-moves that shifted the balance of power and reshaped the NBA landscape over the past few days, but they were quietly considered one of the winners in the first 48 hours of free agency.
General manager Vlade Divac stayed true to his stated vision, executing a series of smart, purposeful moves to improve the team now without compromising future salary cap and roster flexibility. Eventually, the Kings will have to decide how to allocate their last couple of roster spots, but they are now unlikely to make any more significant free-agent acquisitions.
The Kings didn’t add a star to the stable of young talent they assembled over the past two years, but they retained Harrison Barnes and added four players who fit their style and fill their needs without disrupting the team’s timeline. Dewayne Dedmon is a perfectly suitable replacement for Willie Cauley-Stein at center and the Kings bolstered their rotational depth with point guard Cory Joseph, small forward Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Richaun Holmes.
Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni praised the Kings’ moves.
“I actually like the vets the Kings have brought in this summer around their promising young core,” Nadkarni wrote. “Sacramento should have some positional flexibility next season, and keeping Barnes always made more sense than chasing other pipe dreams in the open market.”
The Kings went into free agency with $59.1 million to spend. They started by re-signing Barnes, 27, to a four-year, $85 million deal with a deescalating salary structure that will amount to just 14 percent of the team’s salary cap space in the final year, a league source told The Sacramento Bee.
Sacramento then agreed to terms with Dedmon, 29, on a three-year, $40 million deal with a partial guarantee in the third year, and Ariza, 34, on a two-year, $25 million deal with a partial guarantee in the second year. Kings fans awoke Monday morning to learn the team had agreed to a three-year, $37 million deal with free-agent point guard Cory Joseph, giving the second unit a bigger and more versatile backcourt defender.
To clear space for Joseph, the Kings rescinded their qualifying offer to Cauley-Stein, granting his agent’s request to make him an unrestricted free agent. The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson reported Tuesday that Cauley-Stein had reached an agreement with the Golden State Warriors. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported the Warriors will pay Cauley-Stein slightly more than the league minimum, which is set at just over $1.7 million next season for players with four years of experience.
The Kings made one more move Monday, agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with Holmes using their room mid-level exception.
Divac worked closely with assistant general managers Peja Stojakovic and Ken Catanella, special advisor Joe Dumars and coach Luke Walton to assess the team’s options and needs leading up to free agency. They were determined to improve the roster in hopes of ending the league’s longest playoff drought after 13 consecutive losing seasons, but they wouldn’t give in to the temptation to make a bigger deal that might have been problematic later.
A league source told The Bee on Sunday morning the Kings would make a substantial offer for five-time All-Star Al Horford, but Horford ended up accepting a four-year, $109 million offer from the Philadelphia 76ers.
There was one more development Monday night involving the Kings and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley, who was one of Sacramento’s top free-agent targets. After agreeing to return to the Clippers on a three-year, $40 million deal, Beverley told the Los Angeles Times he “got a bigger offer from Sacramento and I took $9 (million), $10 (million) less to come here.”
The Athletic later confirmed the Kings made Beverley an offer, but a source said it was for $35 million over three years.
None of the deals reached in the first days of free agency can be finalized until the moratorium ends Saturday.
Free agent center Kosta Koufos has probably played his final game for the Kings after four seasons in Sacramento, but small forward Corey Brewer could be retained.
The Kings have a surplus of point guards with De’Aaron Fox, Joseph, Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason III. Ferrell’s contract for 2019-20 becomes fully guaranteed Thursday. Mason’s contract becomes fully guaranteed Oct. 15. The Kings will likely have to part with at least one of them.