Five Potential Outside Options to Target as Sabonis’ Backup

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 20: Nerlens Noel #3 of the Detroit Pistons warms up before the game against the Utah Jazz on December 20, 2022 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mike Brown is “searching” for a backup to star center Domantas Sabonis.

“If you watch the games, we’ve had to run Domas forty minutes and I can’t run Domas forty minutes every night,” Sacramento’s head coach stated after his team’s loss to Charlotte Monday night. “So I need to find a guy in that spot who’s gonna defend, run the floor, spell Domas for six to eight minutes a half, and play as hard as he can while trying to follow the game plan, not fouling, boxing out, doing all of the little things that need to keep that group solid for those six to eight minutes. And we’ve found it in spurts, but I want to get to a point where it can be a little bit more consistent, so I’m going to keep searching until I feel like that person is there.”

For now, coach Brown is left to experiment with the three guys he’s had all year.

Richaun Holmes got the initial nod for the first eight games before Chimezie Metu took over. Metu was pretty adequate for a couple of weeks, but the road trip was a reminder that a more complete center might be necessary to find any consistency.

Right now, two-way player Neemias Queta is being given a shot. Queta is still a little green in that he’s prone to foul and at times looks awkward on the floor, but he was okay on Monday night.

However, just “okay” won’t cut it.

The Kings head coach will continue trying different guys out—maybe even mixing and matching based on matchups—but it’s not easy to feel hopeful about the current circumstances.

Queta may work out, which would be a feel-good story for Kings fans, but it’s important not to get ahead of the present moment. It very well could be, as it seemed coming out of summer league and moving into the preseason, that Queta may need a little more time. The young center out of Portugal will have his chance, but it’s very possible he’s not the immediate answer either.

In that case, the experimenting will continue. Holmes, Brown said, will “get an opportunity,” noting that “he had a pretty long leash.” Seeing how the best case scenario for the backup center matter would be—as imagined in the summer—a perfect marriage between Holmes and that role, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the cycle of experimentation circle back to him, and then, if necessary, Metu again.

But Brown and the Kings front office cannot wander in circles forever. Coach said it himself: “I can’t run Domas forty minutes every night.” At a certain point, when the season for it draws closer, a trade seems like it will be the best crack at a solution.

Who might Sacramento realistically be able to target?

Nerlens Noel

Last week, James L. Edwards of The Athletic reported that Nerlens Noel and the Detroit Pistons had come to a mutual agreement that a trade would best serve both parties. Furthermore, he noted that the Kings were one of four teams most engaged in potential trade discussion.

Noel was sent to Detroit in a salary dump this season, and the Pistons are not necessarily seeking immense value so long as they don’t take on any money beyond this season.

The competition in bidding may be there, but Noel may also be the most realistic option.

And he wouldn’t be a bad one by any stretch.

While he is not quite the same as two seasons ago when he was providing excellent reserve center minutes for Tom Thibodeau in New York. The following year, Noel dealt with some missed time and kind of fell out of the rotation.

Nevertheless, the number-six pick in the 2013 draft is a nice mix of size and athleticism. He can block shots with his length, but also uses his verticality well, which is more important to Mike Brown. 

Noel also runs the floor well and would probably play comfortably alongside an energizing second unit.

The interest in Noel is there, so it’d be interesting to see if the Kings can manage to snag him without Portland, Dallas, or someone else doing so.

Mo Bamba

Kings fans can’t help pointing out that Mo Bamba is not playing very much down in Orlando. A glance at the depth chart expresses that clearly.

Prior to the season, Bamba was re-signed to a two-year, $21 million deal. But they’d signed Wendell Carter Jr. to a max deal the summer before and then drafted Paolo Banchero in June.

Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus posited that the re-signing occurred “in order to trade him.”

On that thought, using the former sixth overall selection as a trade chip could yield a nice return.

Bamba is a large inside presence who uses his size to be a rim-protector and has proven he can stretch the floor on offense. The intrigue around him is undeniable.

Though promising, the center has been described by scouts as a low-motor, low-instincts player, but who knows what a change of scenery could do for his further development.

No matter what, Bamba could be both an instant and high-upside option behind Sabonis in terms of depth, but can the Kings offer enough value?

It might be unrealistic at face value, but with multiple teams involved in a deal a month or two from now, maybe something can happen.

Mason Plumlee

Over the summer, the Hornets were looking for a starting center that they could move forward with. That would have likely entailed moving on from Mason Plumlee.

Fast forward to December, Plumlee is their starter. They drafted Mark Williams, but he’s a bit of a project, and no other center was added.

As some have noted on social media, a Holmes for Plumlee swap would work on it’s own. How realistic that specific scenario is remains unknown, but the idea that Charlotte would benefit from a 29 year-old Holmes and that Sacramento could benefit from a veteran like Plumlee to serve each team’s respective needs is not entirely crazy.

What’s more, if the belief is Queta will be the guy come next year, then Plumlee would be an excellent stopgap option for this season.

Plumlee is a smart player who will go out there and be a steady inside presence with a high basketball IQ. He always finds a way to make a positive impact and earn minutes wherever he goes.

In 31 games this season, the big man is averaging 9.8 points on 60.4% shooting from the field with 9.3 rebounds and an impressive 4.0 assists per outing.

His efficiency, passing, and experience would be very useful for the Kings.

The lone question is whether the Hornets want Holmes in any capacity, which is really hard to say.

Damian Jones

This may be conjecture, but it feels like the Kings would have retained Damian Jones had they been able to move Richaun Holmes in the summer.

The inability to move Holmes left Sacramento without much alternative and they could do nothing to hold onto Jones, who was terrific late down the stretch last season both as the backup 5 and then as the starter after Sabonis went down with a knee bruise.

Now with the Lakers, Jones is not seeing much playing time. Of course, with the injury to Anthony Davis, more minutes should come his way, but the former King is clearly not a prized possession for what Darvin Ham is trying to build; at least that is the way it appears now.

And as a result, the Lakers fanbase does not seem to find much endearment in their summer acquisition.

Jones proved he has enough size inside mixed with an ability to switch out to the perimeter when needed. He was mobile, using it to his advantage running the floor and roaming the paint as a defensive presence.

Another thing Kings fans saw from him is that he never plays outside of himself. Jones goes in there and finds a way to make an impact “while trying to follow the game plan,” as Mike Brown would say.

LA could use shooters. As much as Terence Davis and Trey Lyles are solid pieces on Mike Brown’s bench, losing one or both of them to shore up a gaping wound would be worth it in the long run.

Plus, Jones would, in a way, be returning to his previous job backing up Sabonis. He was just here last spring doing that before filling in for him.

Zach Collins

Out of all of these five, Zach Collins would be the most ideal fit in ability and age, but he’s at the bottom because he might not be as immediately available as the others.

Still, Collins possesses excellent size, some mobility, a nice inside presence, solid passing ability, and skills around the rim.

In 19 games this season, the Gonzaga product is averaging 8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He’s shooting 53.2% from the field and has a decent jump shot.

Collins is under contract through next season for the Spurs, and at 25 years-old, he could be a part of future plans. Then again, he is on the slightly older side of a team that has an average age of about 24 years-old. 

It’s hard to say whether or not the Spurs are interested in moving him—they may want him to be the next starter when they deal Jakob Poeltl—but if Sacramento can make a good enough offer, he’d be perfect not only as the backup to Domas, but also because he fits perfectly in with the Kings’ age group, which centers on players who are on the cusp of their prime.

Collins is just that.

That’d be two Gonzaga Bulldogs manning the five for Mike Brown if the front office could find a way to pull it off.

But do the Kings have enough pull to make it happen?

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