The two most important assets the Kings acquired at Thursday’s trade deadline were Miami’s second-round draft pick in 2020 and the little more than $3 million cash.
That’s because the deals weren’t about immediate improvement. Instead, the Kings are keeping the focus on the future, and they believe trading George Hill, Malachi Richardson and waiving Georgios Papagiannis makes that possible.
“At the end of the day, every bit of this strategy was about how do we open up opportunities for the young guys to really take advantage of the remaining games,” said Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams. “This is almost like another college season in a lot of ways. So how much more progress do we make by not dividing minutes among more players?”
The front office had asked Dave Joerger to do something that’s nearly impossible for any coach: manage minutes among 10 young players while still mixing in veterans. That usually meant at least two of those young players, Richardson and Papagiannis most nights, had no role on the court.
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Hill, who the Kings signed to a three-year, $57 million contract in the offseason, cut into minutes for rookie point guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III and also Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield when Hill played shooting guard next to Fox.
Of the three players received in the deal, only guard Iman Shumpert figures to be around after this season, because he has an $11 million player option for 2018-19. Bruno Caboclo is in the last year of his deal and Joe Johnson is seeking a buyout, a request the Kings are likely to fulfill.
“You have to understand, we’ve talked for the last couple of years that our focus is on the young guys,” said general manager Vlade Divac.
“So now this is another step to give them an opportunity to play more and develop.”
Richardson, the 22nd overall pick the 2016 NBA draft, had little to no opportunities to develop at shooting guard, a position where the Kings have young options in Hield and Bogdanvoic.
Papagiannis being let go was more of a surprise. He was the first of three first-round picks the Kings acquired in 2016, selected 13th overall.
Divac said it was a tough decision to let go of Papagiannis, who is only 20 but had been unable to crack the rotation, and that wasn’t likely to change in the future.
“I think he’s a talented kid,” Divac said. “I wish him nothing but the best moving forward but we’re trying to focus on where we’re going to be in a year.”
Williams said the Kings “want to stay flexible” in regards to the roster the rest of the season.
A buyout of Johnson would leave the Kings with an open roster spot that could be used to sign players to 10-day contracts, or possibly add another young player to evaluate for the rest of the season.
“This is the part of the season where you want to put it in the fifth or sixth gear with the young guys,” Divac said. “Let them go.”