They’re still walking away from the draft with some prospects, but while in the position to make their first-round pick this year, the Sacramento Kings chose to ship off a hefty contract.
As the offseason was getting under way for the Kings, the prescription from this space was that moving the contract of Richaun Holmes had to be priority number-one. And as the first real move of the summer, Sacramento chose to sacrifice their 24th selection in order to do so.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper was a name that frequently floated around that 24th slot in the draft, particularly because of what he could do for Sac, whose defense needs the most work after the team posted the best offense in the league last season. However, OMax is headed to Dallas along with Holmes in a deal that has yet to be finalized.
Additionally, the Kings also drafted Colby Jones at pick 34 after trading up four spots in order to take the Xavier product. He’s someone GM Monte McNair called a “productive and smart utility player” on both ends as well as “a winner.” (Look for more on Jones in this space at the top of next week and read our pre-draft analysis of him here.)
On top of that selection, with the 54th pick, the Kings selected Jalen Slawson, a five-year Senior out of Furman who has defensive bona fides. (More on him later as well.)
But the big storyline coming out of draft night was the utilization of the 24th selection.
At his post-draft press conference, Monte McNair was restricted from elaborating too much and from mentioning particular names due to the league’s finalization timeline, but when asked about what the movement of the contract means, the general manager deferred on the idea of going into much detail.
His cerebral approach is characteristic, and it seemed to be on display in the decision to leverage the 24th pick to create cap room.
And the Mavericks’ own situation helped.
Ahead of the draft, Shams Charania noted that Dallas had a $17 million Traded Player Exception (TPE) to acquire a current player or a pick, whether from this year’s or a future one. Based off of that, Brenden Nunes had a premonition of what could be, and he was spot on.
Discussions of the Mavericks being interested in Holmes have been floating around for longer than this year’s draft night discourse. Last offseason, the Kings big man was listed as an option for Dallas’ TPE. Those surrounding the Mavs appeared to be considering Holmes for that TPE option this summer as well. And for good measure, back when he was a free agent in 2021, the Mavericks were more than intrigued by Holmes.
Getting back to the present, Holmes is owed more than $12 million over each of the next two seasons, and freeing up that money is not only vital for a team ascending into the upper echelon of the league, it’s imperative for what the Kings are trying to do this summer, which is why it’s a move that can be designated as an addition by subtraction.
One of those tasks at hand—a near certainty and an undeniable priority—is re-signing Domantas Sabonis to an extension. The Third Team All-NBA center is set to enter the last year of his deal this upcoming season.
“We want him back here longterm, and when the appropriate time comes, we’ll be talking about those ways to keep him here,” McNair said at his post-draft presser in his typical fashion: once again expressing interest in a Sabonis extension, but without further detail.
Also, Sacramento appears to be tied to potential seismic-level trade discussions, including those surrounding Toronto’s long, athletic talents in Pascal Siakam and—perhaps more believable—OG Anunoby.
Both Raptors players are essentially entering the final year of their respective deals. Siakam is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2024 and Anunoby has a player option for 2024 at the amount of just under $20 million. For Anunoby, a true defensive weapon with floor-stretching talent, he’s almost certain to decline the option in order to receive a far more lucrative deal that he’d be deserving of. Either player will require financial flexibility.
And with that, on a more practical level, it allows for more wiggle room with free agency. The pending decision on Sasha Vezenkov has danced around thus far this offseason. Plus, Trey Lyles—a star in his role that was key to last season’s success—is an unrestricted free agent. Not to mention the Kings—if they don’t strike gold on the trade market—will either need to replace or re-sign Harrison Barnes. Once more, financial flexibility is paramount, and McNair would agree.
“I think for us, we always value the optionality and flexibility when we can acquire it,” the general manager highlighted late Thursday night.
For a moment there, it appeared a move like this was diminishing in probability. With Holmes falling out of the rotation and finishing the year as one of the lone letdowns amid a very successful season, questions about his value among the league had to arise.
However, the big man had shown glimpses, including in a spot-start in Los Angeles where he had a double-double that earned him praise from his head coach because he performed well in spite of the adversity he apparently still faced off the floor.
Also appearing to help his stock was a clarifying signal—and the final hurdle, potentially—which arose in March when Holmes filed a defamation suit against his ex-wife for said off-court issues. The filing of it seemed to indicate another team could very well view a change of scenery for the center as a way to get him to return to form.
As much as a guy like Olivier-Maxence Prosper would have been a nice selection at 24—or whoever, whether Ben Sheppard, Brice Sensabaugh, or Leonard Miller—the fact that the Kings managed to use their first-round pick to fulfill their main offseason priority has to feel like a victory.
It’s not Tyrese Haliburton, Davion Mitchell, or Keegan Murray—nor could it have been given the position—but the results for Sacramento’s first round still yielded productive results that seem as though they’ll pay off in the long run. And of course, they’re still walking away with two prospects they like, one of whom was always in play to be selected at their original draft position.
So what’s not to like? Thursday night felt like a productive first step in yet another critical offseason.