The Sacramento Kings exceeded all expectations this season under first-year coach Mike Brown, surging to a 48-34 record and the third seed in the East. A run-in with the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs shut down Sacramento’s romantic year with its only pro sports team, but now the organization will look to keep the beam shining next season and for the foreseeable future.
That goal starts with keeping the Kings’ talented and effective core together, while also adding necessary role players to the roster.
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State of the roster
The 48-win regular season that earned the Kings a top-three seed was not a fluke. If you want proof, take a look at the hard-fought first-round loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The roster in Sacramento, led by Coach of the Year Mike Brown and All-Stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, is in position to have continued success.
Fox, Sabonis, starters Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter, and key reserves Malik Monk and Davion Mitchell are under contract through at least next season. Harrison Barnes is the only starter who is a free agent. Retaining Barnes, along with reserves Trey Lyles, Terence Davis and Alex Len, should be a priority for the Kings front office. The Kings have the financial flexibility to sign the four players and use their $12.2 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception and still remain below the $162 million luxury tax.
Fox is the only player earning more than $21 million. As with any team that deals with success, the challenge is managing expectations in the future. The Kings went through a close-to-perfect regular season and led the league in fewest starting lineups (nine) and fewest games missed because of injury (54). As a result, Sacramento dealt with minimal adversity. The starting lineup of Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes and Sabonis played 63 games together, 15 more than any other five-man lineup this season.
The Kings have $104 million in guaranteed salary but are over the $134 million cap because of the nearly $40 million in free agent holds (including $27.5 million for Harrison Barnes). The lone route to create significant room is to renounce their own free agents. They will have the $12.2 million non-taxpayer midlevel and $4.5 million biannual exceptions available if they act as a team over the cap. The Kings have until June 29 to exercise the $1.9 million option of Kessler Edwards. PJ Dozier‘s $2.4 million contract becomes guaranteed on July 10.
Free agents: Harrison Barnes, Terence Davis, Matthew Dellavedova, Alex Len, Trey Lyles, Chimezie Metu, Neemias Queta (R), Keon Ellis (R) and Kessler Edwards (T)
Top front-office priority
A year ago the Kings prioritized adding shooting, evident by the signing of Monk and trade for Huerter. This offseason, the focus is to retain their own free agents, starting with Barnes. The forward has played at least 70 games in nine out the past 11 seasons, including 82 this past year.
Barnes averaged 15 points per game this season, his fewest since 2019-20, and has seen a small regression on shooting the ball from deep. He shot 36.6% on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, down from 42.2% last season according to Second Spectrum tracking. Barnes is eligible to sign a four-year, $98.6 million extension through June 30, with a starting salary of $22 million next season.
If an agreement is not reached, Barnes will be an unrestricted free agent and Sacramento can sign him and exceed the cap. Lyles was reliable coming off the bench, averaging 7.6 points, but struggled shooting it from deep in the series loss to Golden State. The Kings can use early-Bird rights to re-sign Lyles, but the next contract has to be a minimum of two years and cannot exceed $11.9 million in the first season.
Extension candidate to watch
Sabonis is both renegotiation- and extension-eligible. However, because there are restrictions with both, the All-Star is likely to play out his contract and become a free agent in 2024. A renegotiation of his $19.4 million contract requires the Kings to have cap space, something that is not available unless free agents Barnes, Lyles, Len and Terrence Davis are not brought back or Sacramento finds a taker for Richaun Holmes‘s contract (which has two years and $25 million remaining).
A Holmes trade would still require the Kings to prioritize what free agents they wish to retain. Sabonis is also eligible to be extended for an additional four years and $122 million without a renegotiation. The extension is $132 million less than the five-year deal he could sign with the Kings after becoming a free agent, and $65 million less than a four-year max deal with a team that has cap space. Fox is eligible to extend for an additional two years and $92.6 million. The first year of the extension would start in 2026-27. If Fox is named All-NBA, the guard is not supermax eligible because he is one year short of the service criteria. He could become supermax eligible in the 2024 offseason, but only if he earns All-NBA in 2023-24.
Other extension candidates: Holmes and Chimezie Metu (through June 30)
Team needs: Addressing the defense and fortifying the frontcourt depth. The Kings ranked 24th in defensive efficiency and 26th in opponents points allowed in the paint. Besides Murray, the lone forwards under contract are Edwards and Dozier.
Draft picks in June: Nos. 24, 38 (via IND), 54
Future draft assets: The Kings owe Atlanta a 2024 top-14 protected first. The pick is top-12 protected in 2025 and top-10 protected in 2026. If the first is not conveyed in any of the three seasons, Sacramento will send 2026 and 2027 second-round picks to Atlanta. The Kings have seven second-round picks available to trade.