The afternoon of June 30 was officially the beginning of the free agency period where teams and players could begin negotiating contracts that won’t become official until July 6, and with it comes the clearest look yet at what next season’s roster for the Sacramento Kings will look like.
Earlier in the week, the Kings had picked up the option on Trey Lyles and guaranteed Chimezie Metu’s contract. They had also abstained from tendering Donte DiVincenzo a qualifying offer, which made the guard an unrestricted free agent.
On Thursday afternoon, shortly after the clock hit 3 p.m. on the west coast, Sacramento finalized a two-year deal worth $19 million to bring in guard Malik Monk.
In addition to that, Damian Jones—who was wildly impressive during the final stretch of the season—came to an agreement with the Lakers on a deal that includes a second year player option, adding to the growing expectation that Richaun Holmes will remain on the roster despite being considered on the verge of being moved not too long ago.
Monk in, DiVincenzo out
Leading up to the kick off of free agency, word was that the acquisition of Malik Monk was going down for the Kings.
In Monk, Mike Brown’s team will get a great shooter who will work extremely well as an off ball scoring threat beside guys like Domantas Sabonis and his former college teammate De’Aaron Fox. Last season for the Lakers, he averaged 13.8 points on 39.1% shooting from three, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.
After spending four seasons in Charlotte that weren’t in any way exceptional, Monk signed a one-year veteran minimum deal with Los Angeles. As many observed, the wager he placed on himself paid off as Monk had his best career season.
One of the primary and more obvious reasons for Monk’s success in Los Angeles was that he got to play beside experienced playmakers like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, which allowed him to play off ball, moving off of screens and hovering around the perimeter to get open looks.
Playing with such good facilitators whose presence didn’t force him to try and do too much, Monk not only had a great season based on standard statistics, but he was also one of the Lakers’ most efficient and effective players as the team’s efficiency rating was 6.6 points better when he was on the floor.
This foretells potentially great things for Monk in Sacramento. Beyond reuniting with his former Wildcat teammate, he’ll benefit from roaming the three-point line, moving off of screens, and having good looks fall in his lap while passes circulate through a Kings offense run by Fox and Sabonis.
When the Kings declined to extend a qualifying offer to DiVincenzo, signs pointed to a move like this being on the horizon.
It’s not clear whether the reports from a few months ago about DiVincenzo’s camp being dissatisfied with the player’s usage had any effect on this roster decision, but it’s doubtful. For one, he himself seemed always open to being in Sacramento. Also, Monk is coming off a better season than him and is also no doubt the more consistent three-point threat, and therefore is arguably an upgrade.
At the same time as gaining an exceptional and efficient shooter, the Kings did lose a defensive difference-maker in Donte DiVincenzo. Not only was his high motor a boost for the team’s defense, his energy seemed to be having a widespread effect during his short time, and he took a rookie Davion Mitchell under his wing, which formed a short lived dynamic duo.
However, as Mike Brown noted in his introductory presser, there’s a way to turn out a good defensive team without a roster full of defensive stalwarts. Brown described the formula as the instillment of communication, effort, and trust, followed by a good system, which the coach is more than familiar with.
“People look at Steph Curry, (Nemanja Bjelica),… Otto Porter, Jordan Poole, (Andrew) Wiggins… I mean I can go down the line of the quote-unquote personnel that we quote-unquote have with the Warriors, and people did not think that they can defend, and somehow, someway we ended up the number-two defense in the league,” Brown remarked about his former team.
Under Brown’s philosophy and system, Malik Monk could ascend beyond what his small stature at 6’3″, 200 lbs. allows him to do and become a contributor to what needs to be an above average defense.
Now the outlook at guard for Sacramento includes Fox, Mitchell, Monk, and Terrence Davis, with Justin Holiday as a perimeter wing.
Overall, the acquisition of Monk and his replacement of DiVincenzo in the rotation looks like it could pay off as a net gain. One of the things McNair noted he wanted to add was shooting, and the Kings certainly got better in that department.
Damian Jones earned it
When Sabonis suffered his bone bruise in Phoenix during a matinee game on March 20, the opportunity for Damian Jones was gaping.
He’d already been playing impressively off the bench with the injuries that plagued Richaun Holmes in the time since the deadline, and even in his opportunities before that, but this was a chance to get some starting minutes at the end of a contract year.
In the final few weeks of the season, with both Fox and Sabonis out, Jones was one of Sacramento’s best players. The big man went on to close out the final 9 games averaging 17 points on 72.5% shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game.
He was effective at scoring when the ball was passed his way whether his back was to the basket or he was facing up, and at using his athleticism to be a disruptive defender both inside and out.
Many fans were so in awe of Jones’ stint as their starting center at the end of last year that they yearned to have him back as a reserve for this upcoming season—and rightfully so—but the Lakers will benefit from his services as they are getting a great player and competitor in Damian Jones.
“Expectations” are Richaun Holmes stays in Sac
With Jones in Los Angeles, it’s looking more clear that Richaun Holmes will remain with Sacramento next season after signing an extension last year.
Matt George provided some insight, tweeting that “there’s not much interest in Richaun Holmes on the trade market” and Mike Brown is said to be a “a big fan of the versatile big man,” which, in all, substantiates the wide belief that he “will be a King next season.”
There were some reports that teams like the Pistons, Hornets, Raptors, and Blazers were all in search of a starting center with connections being made to Holmes, but those seem like a distant memory now at the start of July. Detroit drafted Jalen Duren, Charlotte drafted Mark Williams, the Raptors are interested in Jakob Poeltl or others, and Portland should be a competitor for Sacramento in the West.
Considering Brown’s philosophy as described above in regards to what it means about Malik Monk, Holmes’ athleticism would be beyond useful for this team’s defense, and he’d classify as a backup center with more than enough starter talent on both ends.
Brown made it known what he thought of Richaun Holmes when he listed the center among the players he’s excited to coach at his press conference, which Holmes was in attendance for. With the big man there for Brown’s inaugural moment with this franchise, it may have been a slight foreshadowing of this growing expectation.
After a season riddled by injuries, Holmes will have a chance to post a productive season, which he seems poised to do. The fact he is ostensibly so loyal to this team that paid him to be the starter may not be a surprise, but it shows he’s willing to help this team in any way, which could benefit this team immensely as it tries to end the 16-year playoff drought in a tough conference.
John Collins to the Kings is not a dead narrative (yet)
The buzz about the Kings getting John Collins from the Hawks seemed to fizzle for the most part when no major movement occurred on draft night. And then it seemed extra dead when it was revealed that the offers Sacramento was extending to Atlanta were “underwhelming.”
However, now, there is a sign that the potential for a Collins acquisition exists.
If the Kings were to get Collins, it would require the movement of money, maybe Holmes (but as one can read above, not exactly likely) or, more likely, Harrison Barnes.
More would have to come out on the reporting side to back this up, and as James Ham notes, “the Kings are trailing in that chase,” but the prospect of getting the offensively dynamic stretch-forward remains alluring. Though, for it to happen, a hefty return will be required.
McNair mentioned “asset management” when describing his thought process when parting ways with his two second round picks. Perhaps draft capital is used as the primary value to pull off a trade, not necessarily for Collins, but anyone really.
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