June 11, 2018, 11:57 pm
The upcoming unrestricted free agent market has a few major names that will entice teams. However, most of the major names aren’t expected to move from their current team.
Kevin Durant has already pledged his allegiance to the Golden State Warriors and that became even more certain after they won the championship again, and Chris Paul seems destined to return to the Houston Rockets on a max deal. Those two guys were never going to be attainable for the Kings anyway, so we can sweep them under the rug. A familiar face in DeMarcus Cousins is also on the unrestricted market, but a return to Sacramento seems unlikely at this stage.
The Kings could have as much as $24 million in cap space to work with if they renounce both Vince Carter and Bruno Caboclo, who currently have cap holds of $16.9 million combined. Kosta Koufos and Iman Shumpert have already opted into their contracts for next season, and the Kings are still waiting on Garrett Temple’s decision regarding his $8 million player option.
Sacramento should have significant cap space to work with regardless and, outside of the three names mentioned earlier, there are some players worth looking at once free agency begins on July 1.
Hoop Ball’s Jon Schifferle went over some restricted free agent options for the Kings. You can read that HERE.
We’re going to run through the pros and cons of a handful of upcoming unrestricted free agents. Players with pending player/team options have not been considered.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – G
2017-18 averages: 74 G | 74 GS | 33.2 MP | 13.4 PTS | 5.2 REB | 2.2 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.3 TOV | 42.6 FG% | 38.3 3P% | 78.9 FT% |
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a surprisingly good campaign with the Lakers last season. He was a restricted free agent last summer and didn’t receive much interest on the market. He was renounced by the Pistons and that led to him signing a one-year deal with Los Angeles.
His scoring was down, but he had his most efficient season to date and that’s notable. Caldwell-Pope was inconsistent during his time with the Pistons and that was likely a big reason why they decided to move on. His 42.6 percent clip from the field and 38.3 percent mark from three were both career-highs. The Lakers play with pace, much more so than the Pistons, and Caldwell-Pope seemed to fit well in a system that is looking to push the ball on offense.
KCP’s overall numbers won’t blow anyone away, but he did more good than bad last season and that’s certainly commendable for a guy who’s been criticized frequently during his short time in the league. His offense is reliable and he’s above average defensively. On a poor defensive team like the Lakers it’s hard to gauge how effective he really is, but he’s got a decent reputation in that department and won’t hurt the team too much there.
Caldwell-Pope is better off scoring in transition and on spot-up jumpers. The negative aspects of his play start to creep in when he tries to do too much with the ball. He operates in a similar fashion to Kings guard Buddy Hield. Hield is probably better at creating his shot and is a better shooter overall, but Caldwell-Pope isn’t too far behind and brings more defensively to the table than Hield.
Why shouldn’t the Kings consider Caldwell-Pope in free agency? The team already has a few solid options on the wing. The aforementioned Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic seemingly have the two-guard locked down for the foreseeable future. Iman Shumpert recently decided to pick up his player option for next season so he’ll be on the squad, and Garrett Temple has until the end of June to decide on his option. That’s potentially four shooting guards already on the roster, and if the Kings draft someone like Luka Doncic that position only becomes more crowded.
The players mentioned above could all potentially slide between the two wing spots and so could Caldwell-Pope; it could still work if the team wanted it too. Pursuing KCP should only be on the table if the Kings go for a big man in the draft and another guard or two is moved prior to free agency.
With the team’s current makeup, adding Caldwell-Pope doesn’t make a ton of sense. However, he’s still an option should the Kings make a few moves during the offseason.
Derrick Favors – F/C
2017-18 averages: 77 G | 77 GS | 28.0 MP | 12.3 PTS | 7.2 REB | 1.3 AST | 0.7 STL | 1.1 BLK | 1.1 TOV | 56.3 FG% | 22.2 3P% | 65.1 FT% |
After an injury-impacted 2016-17 campaign, Derrick Favors took a promising step towards returning to form last season. His numbers were pretty much up across the board and he managed a career-high in field goal percentage. Favors spent a lot of time next to Rudy Gobert and together they formed an intimidating defensive front line.
The jury is still out as to whether Favors can get back to the form he displayed from 2014-16, but he showed enough last season to give potential teams some hope. He’s still just 26 years old and a team like the Kings could probably afford to take a chance on him.
Favors is likely looking for a long-term deal, much like Caldwell-Pope, so the Kings would have to offer him multiple years. Money wise he’s probably after more than $10 million per season, and this seems reasonable given his increased productivity last season. It’ll likely come down to whether he wants to chase a championship with a contender, which would mean taking a pay cut, or whether he’s wanting to cash in on a bigger deal.
Where would Favors fit in with the Kings? The team already has Skal Labissiere, Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Harry Giles as their frontcourt options, so Favors would be taking the playing time of one or two of those guys. If the Kings go with a big man in the draft, you can pretty much rule out Favors as a possibility because of the log-jam it would create.
However, if the Kings decide to move one of their young big men and maybe the contract of Randolph, playing time will automatically present itself to a player like Favors and he presumably slots straight into a starting spot. Whilst Giles is on track to play next season, it’s a stretch to expect major minutes out of him straight away. The team will likely continue to instill patience and bring him along slowly.
Much like the Caldwell-Pope situation, a few different factors will have to be considered before adding a frontcourt option such as Favors. Nonetheless, there is some intrigue in adding a guy like him because of his age and what he can potentially do for a team.
Mario Hezonja – G/F
2017-18 averages: 75 G | 30 GS | 22.1 MP | 9.6 PTS | 3.7 REB | 1.4 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.1 TOV | 44.2 FG% | 33.7 3P% | 81.9 FT% |
The former fifth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft finally made some strides last season, however, his improved play came after the Orlando Magic declined his fourth-year player option for 2018-19. This means he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be free to sign with any team he desires, if interest is mutual, of course.
In February (11 games) he posted averages of 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 27.6 minutes per game. He shot an impressive 46.2 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three. Hezonja was not only a knockdown shooter, but he showed an ability to get to the rim and create his own shot. In April, Hezonja was impressive yet again with averages of 13.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 30.2 minutes per game (seven games) on 42.5 percent shooting and 42.1 percent from three.
After his strong conclusion to the season the Magic are probably best inclined to bring him back, but Hezonja may be ready to move onto another team that could utilize his skill set more effectively. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee mentioned that Hezonja could be an option for the Kings this summer, so there is history, to a degree, between the two sides.
From the Bee:
“The Kings need size on the perimeter, and a target is likely to be Mario Hezonja,” said Jones. “He’s the kind of player the Kings could land on a short-term deal and figures to be a high priority. He has fans in Sacramento’s front office, and is still only 23.”
He won’t be incredibly expensive to obtain for Sacramento and could be worth a gamble. He probably wouldn’t eat into Bogdanovic or Hield’s minutes, it would more so be the minutes of Justin Jackson and the minutes Vince Carter has left behind. At 6-foot-8, he’s more than capable of playing small forward and is probably better suited there anyway. Does he fit well next to the current two-guards on the roster? Potentially. They’re all somewhat similar players but with the limited shooting at point guard and in the frontcourt, having scorers on the wing would be optimal for the Kings.
Of the options mentioned above, Hezonja could actually make the most sense and he’ll almost certainly be the cheapest. He’s someone worth keeping an eye on during the free agency period, and don’t be surprised if you hear his name linked to the Kings.