In moves designed to create more financial flexibility for the future, the Kings parted with two 2016 draft picks and their biggest free agent signing from last summer in a busy Thursday at the NBA trade deadline.
The Kings traded guard George Hill to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a multi-team deal in which they received guard Iman Shumpert from Cleveland, forward Joe Johnson from Utah, a 2020 second-round draft pick from Miami and, according to league sources, a little more than $3 million in cash.
The Kings also waived second-year center Georgios Papagiannis, the 13th pick in the 2016 draft, to create a roster spot because they were already at the league maximum of 15 players. The move came as a surprise because general manager Vlade Divac previously said he thought the 20-year-old would become a contributor, even as many NBA scouts and coaches disagreed.
In another hit to the Kings’ 2016 draft class, they agreed to trade guard Malachi Richardson to the Toronto Raptors for seldom-used forward Bruno Caboclo.
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If the Hill move was not the most surprising, it was the most significant. Sacramento made him its highest-paid player when he signed a three-year, $57 million deal in the offseason.
Hill averaged 10.3 points and 2.8 assists while shooting an NBA-best 45.3 percent from 3-point range.
But the union was uneasy as Hill, long an NBA starter, had to adjust to splitting time with rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox, whose development is a priority for the Kings.
By trading Hill, the Kings gain financial flexibility for the summer. Even if Shumpert exercises his player option for next season worth a little over $11 million, Sacramento would have $8 million more available under the salary cap than if it had kept Hill.
The Kings are also freed of the $1.6 million owed to Richardson next season. They still owe Papagiannis his $2.4 million salary for 2018-19, but cut ties with him before picking up his contract option for a fourth season became a consideration. Caboclo is in the last year of his deal.
Shumpert, 27, was a key piece of Cleveland’s 2016 championship team, but is not considered part of the Kings’ long-term plans, even though it’s expected he will pick up his option.
He had knee surgery in November and has been limited to 14 games this season. He’s averaging 4.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
Johnson, 36, is a seven-time All-Star guard-forward who spent the best years of his career in Atlanta (2005-12). He will be a free agent after this season and reportedly will seek a buyout from Sacramento so he can join a playoff team.
With young guards such as Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings’ depth on the wing made Richardson, the 22nd overall pick from Syracuse, the odd man out. He appeared in 47 games over two seasons and averaged 3.5 points in 25 appearances in 2017-18.
Papagiannis averaged 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 38 games in his career with the Kings, including 16 games this season. He was part of the 2016 draft-day trade that netted the Kings the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and Skal Labissiere in exchange for the eighth pick in the draft, former Pleasant Grove star Marquese Chriss. Richardson also was the product of a deal that day – the Kings acquired his draft rights from Charlotte for Marco Belinelli.
As part of the Hill deal, the Kings sent the draft rights to center Arturas Gudaitis, acquired in a 2015 trade with Philadelphia, to Cleveland while obtaining the draft rights to Greek forward Dimitrios Agravanis.
The Kings announced the moves Thursday night and planned a news conference with Divac and assistant general manager Brandon Williams for Friday.