Analyzing the Kings’ Deadline Moves and Their Path Forward

Just like that, the NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and new General Manager Monte McNair managed to make a few moves even as it whistled, zipping by.

In the lead up to the deadline, reports were mixed regarding Sacramento’s strategy. Were the Kings going to make a playoff push or were they ready to set up shop as sellers?

While there was speculated potential for both options, the decision soon became clear. Owner Vivek Ranadive indicated his desire for the team to continue making a push for the postseason, even as the team showcases a historically bad defense. Along with that were reports that Sacramento was willing to ship off players like Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Richaun Holmes only if they received an offer that blew them away.

Now on the other side of the March 25th deadline, the decision has been finalized that the Kings will focus on the success that they feel is immanent by bringing in additions and making alterations.

The Kings Get Mfiondu Kabengele

Clippers receive: 2022 second-round pick (heavily protected)
Kings receive: Mfiondu Kabengele, 2022 second-round pick (top-55 protection, via Atlanta), cash

The Kings started off their deadline spree with the acquisition of Mfiondu Kabengele, a late first-round pick in the 2019 draft, who they waived following the deadline.

It was a small scale move. The reason for the trade was that it allowed the Clippers to clear up an extra roster spot and $2.6M in cap space, and in the process, the Kings received more cash than what Kabengele was owed for the remainder of the season.

Grade: C

The Kings Get Rid of Cory Joseph 

Pistons receive: Cory Joseph, 2021 second-round pick (via L.A. Lakers), 2024 second-round pick
Kings receive: Delon Wright

The biggest improvement for the Kings’ immediate success was swapping Cory Joseph for Pistons guard Delon Wright.

Cory Joseph regressed after one season in Sacramento. He was their defensive stopper at the guard position and set up the offense last year when Fox was resting, but Joseph has not been a reliable player this year. His defense has declined compared to last year and he often exhibits the frustrating habit of dribbling too much on the offensive end.

The addition of Wright gives De’Aaron Fox a solid back up who is capable of playing both sides of the ball. Averaging around 10-5-5 on the year, Sacramento upgrades their bench and gets someone they can plug into defensive situations on the perimeter with Fox and Haliburton, as opposed to Buddy Hield.

The only problem that comes with Wright is that he adds $6M to the Kings payroll next season, which constrains the ability to re-sign Richaun Holmes. 

Just to note, if Sacramento chose to waive Joseph before next free agency (which they probably would have done) then they would have only owed him $2.4M next season as opposed to the $12.6M he was set to make.

Despite the fact the Kings add $6M with Wright’s contract, they have him locked up for one more season at $8.5M next year, which is a complete steal for his talent.

Grade: A-

The Kings Part Ways With Bjelica

Heat receive: Nemanja Bjelica
Kings receive: Maurice Harkless, Chris Silva

With spotty minutes in Walton’s system and the resulting dissatisfaction, it was apparent that Bjelica would be moved at the deadline.

In return for Bjelica, the Kings acquired: Moe Harkless, a nine-year veteran small forward who can play the four in a pinch; and Chris Silva, a second-year power forward.

Harkless will add some much needed defense off Walton’s bench, but as an unrestricted free agent, he will likely be a half season rental for the Kings.

Chris Silva is a young piece who the Kings can try to develop. He has the potential to be a solid defender and rebounder, but is on the smaller side at 6’8”. If the Kings like Silva, they have the option to bring him back next season on a $1.8M team option.

After the great play Nemanja provided for Sacramento through two and a half seasons, it was only right to send Bjelica off to a contender. F*** it, he deserves this.

Grade: B-

The Kings Get Terence Davis

Raptors receive: 2021 second-round pick (via Memphis)
Kings receive: Terence Davis

In return for a second-round pick, Terence Davis is a low-risk, high-reward acquisition for Monte McNair. 

At 23 years old and in his second season, Davis has proven to be a good three point shooter (career 38%) and an above average defender on the wing.

However, he does come with some drama. Davis was charged in October after an incident where he allegedly hit his girlfriend in the face. Last month, he had 5 of his 7 charges dropped and the remaining two could be dismissed in a year if he stays out of trouble.

As of now, Davis will get some minutes as the back up shooting guard and can work to prove he is disciplined enough to stick around in the league.

He is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer, but with his stock relatively low, the Kings will probably be able to keep him for cheap, providing he fits into Sacramento’s system. If not, he will be another rental.

Grade: B

This deadline might have seemed anticlimactic, but McNair made sensible improvements without hurting the team’s cap space or getting rid of any key pieces.

The Kings are currently 1.5 games out of the 10th spot, and the acquisitions at the trade deadline has given Sacramento a chance to have a shot at the play-in tournament that will determine the 7th and 8th seeds.

With the addition of Wright alone, the Kings got noticeably better. Plus, they added pieces to work with in Silva and Davis. Add this to a foundation of Fox, Barnes, Haliburton, Holmes, and Hield, and the deadline strategy makes sense.

Don’t forget, the Kings have looked like a different team since Haliburton moved to the starting lineup, too, going 5-1 in that stretch. It’s also important to note that Sacramento went from having the toughest schedule in the first half to having the sixth easiest schedule in the second. 

Needless to say, the Kings have a solid chance to make the play-in tournament, and this could mark a complete pivot going forward. In contrast to the thought of tanking yet again, making strides toward cultivating a winning culture in Sacramento now may help attract a nice free agent to come play for a smaller market down the line.

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