The backup center role was one of the most unsteady roster components throughout most of last season in Sacramento.
Almost like a savior, Alex Len finished out the final eight games of the regular season by providing excellent play in that role on both ends of the floor. And he continued his contributions into the playoffs to a decent degree until the adjustments dictated that the team go small.
While the idea of bringing back Len can’t be ruled out completely, there is likely still going to be an effort to upgrade that role in order to help the team improve upon a 48-win season.
Assuming the Kings do want a better backup behind their Third Team All-NBA center Domantas Sabonis, here are seven free agents the front office will probably consider this summer.
One of the players that stands out near the top of ideal free agent candidates regardless of position is Naz Reid, and that’s the case for most teams.
For Minnesota this season , he averaged 11.5 points on 53.7% shooting from the field and 34.6% from beyond the arc to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 18.4 minutes per game.
After shining this last season—even with Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert on the same roster—it’s clear he would do so much for Sacramento as a backup center with his versatile set of skills.
Offensively, he’s an excellent roll man and cutter, converting an impressive 76.5% of his shot attempts in the restricted area. He can also function in the post with things like his hook shot, which he hit at a 51.0% clip. And the third layer of his game on this end is his outside shooting. He’s not a sharpshooter, but he’s a reliable stretch big with his ability to hit 36.2% of his wide open three’s this season.
Defensively, he’s nothing to gawk at. While solid at getting contests up (49.2% of his opponents’ shots within 6 feet received a Reid contest), his defensive versatility could be a lot better for a 264-pounder with notable agility. And a primary concern is Reid’s propensity to foul. He was averaging 2.6 fouls per game in a little over 18 minutes per, which translates to 5.1 personal fouls committed per 36 minutes. One of Mike Brown’s biggest defensive keys is defending physically, but without fouling.
Of course, arriving under the wings of a coach like Brown could truly help him in that department, especially considering he isn’t a chump on that end.
Overall, Naz Reid is one of the most complete options, but because of that, he’ll likely to have a lot of suitors, some of which may offer him a bigger role than Sac would.
Though he’s probably overlooked in a lot of people’s eyes, Drew Eubanks is another guy that could fit in well as the reserve behind Sabonis, and unlike Reid, it’s likely he will not require much financial pull to acquire.
In 78 games played with Portland this season, the 6’9″ Eubanks averaged 6.6 points on 64.1% from the field and 38.9% from three to go along with 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 20.3 minutes per.
He hit 74.9% of his looks in the restricted area and 50.9% of paint looks outside the restricted area. Eubanks is a good dunker, showing signs of being a solid energy guy, and he also possesses decent touch, hitting 65.0% of his hook shots (40 total attempts).
The three-point shooting-percentage looks great, but it was on an extremely sparse volume (0.2 attempts per game; 18 total). Still, he possesses some ability to stretch the floor when the opportunity arises.
One Trailblazers writer highlighted his ability to help his teammates get open looks, citing Eubanks’ screen-setting as a catalyst for the “easy opportunities” Shaedon Sharpe and Skylar Mays found late in the season.
Eubanks is also a solid defender, most notably near the basket. Within 6 feet of the rim, opponents shot 5.4 percentage-points less than usual when the former Spur was contesting their attempts. In fact, he contested nearly 50% of all opponents looks at the rim when he was on the floor, which does a lot of explaining for his 1.3 blocks per game.
Overall, Drew Eubanks would stick to his role and provide energy on both ends of the floor
Similar to Eubanks, another less sexy name that would actually be a good option for the Kings is Dwight Powell.
After another season as the primary starting center for the Mavericks, he averaged 6.7 points on 73.2% shooting to go along with 4.1 rebounds—2.0 of which came on the offensive glass—in 19.2 minutes per game.
His scoring will rarely come from anywhere outside the restricted area, but he hits 77.4% of his attempts in there. Also, Powell converts 73.6% of his looks where the coverage is “tight,” which accounts for 60.6% of his attempts. Needless to say, as a roll man and a cutter, he’s a capable finisher that could benefit from playing with guys like De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who can get down hill.
Unlike some others on this list, there’s no jump shooting production, but what may be his biggest strength is that he’s a guy that always plays within himself, something a guy like Chimezie Metu struggled to do at times this season when serving as Sacramento’s backup 5.
Defensively, Powell’s nothing special, especially with a susceptibility to foul, but he’s adequate nonetheless. The Mavericks actually tried to improve the defense at the starting center position by bringing back Javale McGee, but as a Mavs writer put it, it took only a handful of games to find out that Powell was still better than the 35-year old.
That same writer called the 31-year old Dwight Powell “the ultimate known quantity,” and that stability within the backup 5 role was missing practically all season. Again, he may be underwhelming, but he would be a reliable presence, which along with his energetic play would provide productive minutes in relief of Sabonis on a nightly basis.
Moving on, but sticking with the same team, another candidate steps forth.
Last season with Dallas did not go how many imagined it would for Christian Wood after the Mavericks traded for him last June, but his offensive talent is always a significant factor.
Wood is an excellent stretch big that is a career 38% shooter from three, posting a 37.6% clip this past season. This makes him a nice asset in the pick-and-pop game, but he’s also got value as a cutter and roll man. The big man converts 69.0% of his looks in the restricted area.
Of course, his offense had little to do with his losing favor with coach Jason Kidd. It was his lack of defensive chops that proved his main draw back. He’s averaged over one block per game over the previous three seasons, but as Mike Brown would tell you, that is not necessarily the indication of a good defender.
Aside from blocked shots, Mavs fans would presumably prescribe that he would need to step up his rotations and his awareness on that end.
There’s no denying the allure of his offense. And the defensive expertise of Mike Brown and—assuming he doesn’t get a head coaching job this offseason—Jordi Fernandez is undeniable as well, but it might be a hard ask for even them to turn Christian Wood’s defense around in 360-degree fashion as he enters his eighth season.
When the trade deadline was coming up this past February, a player a lot of Kings analysts and fans thought might be a good acquisition was Mason Plumlee. He was ultimately traded to the Clippers, but as an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Kings may be able to snag him.
A few different factors paint Plumlee as an ideal backup. For one, his ten years in the league provides a wealth of experience. Two, while he’s not among the likes of Jokic and Sabonis, he was one of the top ten passing centers this season at 3.1 assists per game. And three, his 73.6% clip within the restricted area demonstrates his value as a roll man.
In a lot of ways, the argument for Plumlee at the deadline and presumably this offseason is that his game can do a decent job of playing a similar role to Sabonis, which allows for the option of continuity.
Defensively, he’s the kind to hang back, but he’s able to be an effective shot contester and alterer without relying on blocks, though not at an elite level. He does foul a fair amount, but his skillset and know-how would presumably allow him to play the kind of D that Mike Brown wishes to see.
He is on the older side, of course. Plumlee just turned 33 in March, so he’d be the oldest member of the Kings, well outside the timeline of the younger core. But looked at another way, the vet could be a solid stop gap for a season—maybe two?—to give time to a developing player to grow into the role for the future. That could be Neemias Queta or someone they draft with their 24th pick or whoever.
In all, Plumlee might be a solid option to fill the backup center role for the short term.
Thomas Bryant has not recorded a single minute of play in this year’s playoffs for Denver, but with the Lakers and then the Nuggets, he put together a nice season, which makes the unrestricted free agent a viable option this summer.
In 59 games, the 6’10” center scored 9.8 points on 62.3% from the field and 44.1% from three-point range to go along with 5.7 rebounds per contest.
His jump shooting and floor stretching ability revealed itself with prominence, but he only hoisted 1.8 jumpers (from either mid or three-point range) per game. It’s his status as an insanely efficient scorer around the rim that is his most remarkable trait. In the restricted area, Bryant converted 77.2% of his looks with three-quarters of those makes being assisted by teammates. He’s more than effective as a roll man and a cutter.
But two things stand out as major concerns. One, he’s a bad defender, perhaps worse than Christian Wood. Two, he has an injury history as seen in his 37 games played between 2020-2022.
Perhaps Mike Brown can get Bryant—who has a 7’6″ wingspan—to buy into the defensive end a little more seriously and maybe this past season is a sign his durability is heading in the right direction for the soon to be 26-year old.
In all, Thomas Bryant is an efficient scoring big man that can be impactful from multiple levels, but the Kings will have to come to a conclusion that they’re confident in his potential defensive ceiling and health in order to bring him in.
If it were more likely that restricted free agent Paul Reed isn’t going to return to Philadelphia, he’d be up there with Naz Reid. Unfortunately for the Kings, it really isn’t likely at all, but he has to be mentioned due to the value he would certainly provide off Mike Brown’s—or anyone’s—bench.
He’s not an outside shooter by any means, but Reed is a tremendous rebounder and defender, shining as the Sixers’ backup 5 through the late part of the season and throughout their playoff stint.
Though he’s prone to fouling like Naz Reid, Paul Reed averaged 3.7 deflections per 36 minutes. He also forced opponents to shoot about 4 percentage points less than their average within 6 feet of the basket when he contested their shots. Similarly, he was able to get up contests on 45.3% of opponents’ attempts at the rim, posting 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes.
On the offensive glass in particular, he’s excellent. In about 11 minutes per contest, Reed averaged 1.6 offensive boards, which amounts to an average of 5.3 per 36 minutes. And he’s able to score most of his 4.2 points per game on put-back’s and tip-in’s.
A bonus is the fact he appears to be a guy who just cares about playing the right way. A good illustration of this is how he responded at various points to being vehemently challenged by teammate PJ Tucker to bring more energy and focus to the boards. Rather than succumb to the kinds of back-and-forth’s that marred other teams leading up to and during the playoffs, Reed simply responded to the challenge. That’s the kind of thing a coach or a teammate likes to see.
If the Kings could somehow find a way to get Paul Reed, they’d be striking gold at the backup 5 role, but the prospect is unlikely.