Four free agent bigs who could address Sacramento Kings’ need for rim protection

Emeka Okafor blocking DeMarcus Cousins. (Photo: Steven Chea)The Sacramento Kings have six bigs currently on their roster. Only one of them fits into their long-term plans. Therefore it’s no secret that the Kings are looking to shuffle the deck that is their frontline.

“I think definitely we’d like to acquire perhaps another big, shot blocker (type),” Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said after the NBA Draft of an area of weakness he’d like to address this offseason.

With Collison and rookie Nik Stauskas in the fold, the Kings’ projected salary for the 2014-15 season currently stands at $73.5 million. That puts them just $3.5 million under the NBA’s expected luxury tax threshold of $77 million. They have the option of giving themselves more room to breathe under the NBA tax line by waiving one or a few players using the CBA’s stretch provision.

The Kings are expected to use their mid-level exception toward signing new point guard Darren Collison, which doesn’t leave much left in the cupboard to offer other free agents. One option at their disposal is their bi-annual exception, which the Kings can use to offer a player a maximum salary of roughly $2.1 million. They also have the ability to sign players to minimum contracts. Depending on a player’s experience, that could range anywhere from $507,336 to $1.5 million.

The market is thin for what the Kings want to add to their front court. There are just a handful of players who fit their criteria of skill-set and price range. Here are a few free agent bigs the Kings could explore signing.

Ed Davis

The 25-year-old power forward is the type of long, rangy big man that could look good next to DeMarcus Cousins. Davis has the length and athleticism to make him an ideal complement to the Kings’ starting center. He’s used those tools to his advantage as a rim protector and over his five-year career, he’s averaged 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes.

However, there is a reason why Davis was not extended a qualifying offer by the Memphis Grizzlies. His body and game hasn’t changed much since he was made the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He still weighs the same 225 pounds that he did four years ago and his offensive game continues to lack polish.

What could they offer? Davis still has some upside considering the lack of opportunity he got playing behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis. That might mean he may be able to command all or part of the Kings’ bi-annual exception. If that’s the case, a two-year deal with an early termination option valued at about $3 million could be a fair offer for the 25-year-old forward.

Ekpe Udoh

Like Davis, Udoh is another 2010 lottery pick that’s failed to find his footing in the league so far. Throughout his four seasons in the NBA, Udoh has managed to play an average of just 19 minutes per contest. With Larry Sanders, Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson occupying the Bucks’ front line, Udoh was left as the odd-man out in Milwaukee.

Udoh, however, could find work with a team like the Kings because of his reputation as a defender. The 27-year-old center/forward is athletic and has also shown himself to be a pretty good rim protector when given the opportunity. For his career, Udoh’s averaged 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes.

Bringing his defensive talent to the Kings might make sense considering his history with Michael Malone. The Kings sideline leader coached Udoh for half a season in Golden State before the 27-year-old big man was shipped off to the Milwaukee Bucks.

What could they offer? Udoh and Davis may have similar skill-sets, but age is what sets these two players apart. A reasonable contract for Udoh could start at the minimum salary for a player of his experience, which is $981,348. A two-year deal valued at just under $2 million with a team option for season two seems like a fair offer for a player of Udoh’s talent.

Emeka Okafor

Okafor is floating under the free agent radar after missing the entire 2013-14 season due to injury. The 31-year-old big man suffered a herniated disk in his neck that forced him to sit out the season. But depending on his health, Okafor is another capable rim protector the Kings could take a look at who also offers close to a decade of NBA experience.

If Okafor returns to an NBA bench this upcoming season, it will be his 10th campaign in the league. The former lottery pick didn’t turn into the next Alonzo Mourning as some had projected he would following a stellar career at UConn. But, he puts defense above all else when he plays the game, which is something the Kings could certainly use. For his career, Okafor has averaged 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes.

It’s worth noting that like Udoh, Okafor has experience playing for Michael Malone. The two linked up in Malone’s lone season in New Orleans, where Okafor served as the starting center for the 2010-11 Hornets.

What could they offer? Considering his injury history and age, Okafor isn’t likely to command more than the veteran minimum. For someone with nine years of NBA experience, one season at $1.4 million is an appropriate price to pay.

Greg Oden

The Kings kicked the tires on the former No. 1 overall pick last summer before he decided to take his talents to South Beach. There was some thought that Oden could be a difference-maker for the Heat in their run for a third-straight title. However, he barely got off the bench and appeared in just 23 of the Heat’s 82 games, playing just 9.2 minutes per contest.

Like the previously mentioned bigs, Oden fits the criteria for a shot-blocking big man that could thrive next to DeMarcus Cousins. Health, however, remains a concern for the 26-year-old center. Oden made major strides towards getting himself back on an NBA roster last year, but not enough to earn himself a spot in a team’s rotation.

What could they offer? Oden wouldn’t command anything more than the veteran’s minimum, which is what he made last year. As a seven-year pro, Oden could sign a one-year deal worth an estimated $1.2 million.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.