Now that the Sacramento Kings’ season is officially over, it is time for GM Pete D’Alessandro to focus on making this team into a playoff contender again. The Kings are posed with a variety of payroll budgeting issues, and are more than likely to pay a pretty penny in luxury taxes. In this feature, I am going to play in the GM’s “big boy” pants and crunch some numbers that will optimize the Kings’ offseason.
Crisis: If Rudy Gay decides to exercise his $19.32 million player option, the Kings are due for at least $68,179,693 in the 2014-15 season. This puts the Kings $3.52 million under the current luxury tax line of $71.7 million. Fortunately, the NBA is projecting the new luxury tax floor to be $77 million. Regardless of the whether the Kings are $3.52 million or $8.82 million under the luxury tax going into the offseason, it isn’t enough space for the Kings to achieve their summer goals without dipping into a quite “unluxurious” (yes, I know its not a real word, but it should be!) tax.
For those of you that aren’t sure how the luxury tax works, here is my “NBA budgeting for dummies”. When a team’s payroll is anywhere between $0 and $4.99 million over the tax level, they have to pay $1.50 for every extra $1 they spend. The rest works as follows
- Portion of team salary $5-$9.99 million over tax level: $1.75 for $1
- Portion of team salary $10-$14.99 million over tax level: $2.50 for $1
- Portion of team salary $15-$19.99 million over tax level: $3.25 for $1
From there on, every additional increment of $5 million they have to pay an additional 50 cents per dollar. As you can see, living in the luxury tax can leave a franchise seriously strapped for cash.
Goal #1: Convince Rudy Gay to opt out and re-sign at a lower price
This task is much easier said than done. I feel inclined to call out the obnoxious elephant in the room, and say that Gay is not and never was worth $19 mil. D’Alessandro needs to guide Gay into the concept of winning, and away from the personal gain phenomenon we see in professional sports everyday. Gay needs to understand that taking the $19 million could cripple any chances the Kings have of making the playoffs during his NBA career. The Kings have to re-sign Gay at his true value, which is estimated to be around $9-12 million. If Gay jumps on the royal kingdom boat for $11 million, that will leave the Kings payroll at around $60 million. Being $17 million under the luxury tax would give the Kings a variety of options this offseason, and most importantly the ability to resign Isaiah Thomas without paying the luxury tax.
Goal #2: Re-sign Isaiah Thomas
Thomas was one of the NBA’s top point guards in 2013-2014, averaging 20 points and 6 assists per game. It is a top priority to bring him back to Sacramento.
The Kings will extend a qualifying offer of around $3.5 million to make Thomas a restricted free agent, but at that price he is bound to receive higher offers that Sacramento will be forced to match. I would value him between $7-10 million.
For the sake of this exercise, lets say Thomas resigns for $8 million. Thomas has been quoted saying that he would prefer to stay in Sacramento because he is comfortable there.
“I definitely want to be around when it does turn around,” Thomas said. “I was drafted here. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by the Sacramento community. It just feels like a second home. I can’t control it, though. At the same time, I’m going to do whatever’s possible to be around. That’s all I can do.”
This reacquisition would still leave the Kings with around $9 million to play with, allowing them to build around its hopeful nucleus of Thomas, Gay, and Demarcus Cousins.
Goal #3: Capitalize in the NBA Draft
With a projected top-10 pick, the Kings will be dishing out anywhere from $1.6-$5.5 million just to sign their first-rounder. Add the second round pick into the equation, and Sacramento could be paying upwards of $6 million after the draft. Spending $2.1-6 million in the draft would leave the Kings with $3-6.9 million to spare.
How much the Kings spend in the draft is no where close to as important as who they end up picking. The Kings need a born winner; a “glue guy” that can shoot, play tough defense, and play within the means of Mike Malone’s system. They don’t need someone who needs to put up a ton of shots to succeed, but instead someone who leads by the example of being a team player.
The Kings are going to draft the best player available, no matter their position. Optimal fits include players such as Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, and Noah Vonleh. Nonetheless, scoring a player like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker could be huge depending on how the rest of their offseason agenda unfolds. I could also see the Kings missing out on all of those players and having to settle, in comparison to a top-5 pick, with a guard like Marcus Smart or Tyler Ennis. If the Kings are put in the position where they have to settle like this, they should look into trading their lottery pick for a proven veteran that can offer an immediate contribution.
Goal #4: Sign veteran free agent with acumen for winning
If the Kings aren’t able to find their “glue guy” in the draft, they will have to go fishing for veteran that can help form a winning culture in the Kings locker room. Depending on whether or not the Kings are above or below the $4 million luxury tax apron, they should be able to sign someone for anywhere around $3-5 million without having to pay taxes.
Free agent fits include Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko, Shawn Marion, Francisco Garcia, Avery Bradley, Shannon Brown, Caron Butler, Darren Collison, Mike Miller, Metta World Peace, Marvin Williams, Marcin Gortat, Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Mario Chalmers, and Jodie Meeks.
Major Takeaway: The Kings are just a few steps and moves away from being a legitimate playoff contender in a talented Western Conference. In order to cement this status they will need to maintain their core three in Thomas, Gay, and Cousins. Pete D’Alessandro will have to make moves similar to the ones I described above to make this happen.
I believe my job here is done. Dear Mr. Vivek Ranadive, I usually only accept money orders, but in this case I am willing to take payment in the form of check, PayPal, direct money transfer, or even Venmo.