Four versatile free agents who could bolster the Sacramento Kings backcourt
Priority No. 1 for the Sacramento Kings in free agency remains Isaiah Thomas. Finding out the worth of the restricted free agent guard is the first step in deciding whether to retain the Kings fan favorite.
But even if they keep Thomas, the Kings still face questions about their backcourt. They just drafted rookie Nik Stauskas while Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore are entering just their second years in the league. Jason Terry could provide leadership and experience, but whether he’s healthy enough to play next season is up in the air.
Considering the questions about their backcourt, it’s no surprise that the Kings reportedly were intrigued by Shaun Livingston. The 28-year-old guard recently agreed to a contract with the Golden State Warriors according to multiple reports, but he would’ve been an ideal fit for the Kings. Livingston is a playmaker with high basketball IQ, who’s also capable of playing and defending both guard positions.
Players like Livingston fit the bill for what the Kings are looking to add to their roster. Yes, they value athleticism, but they also value versatility. The interest in Livingston plus the selection of Stauskas present evidence for that notion. There are high hopes that the rookie guard is capable of seeing minutes at both point guard and shooting guard this season. As the worst passing team in the league last year, it’s not shocking that the the Kings have their eyes on versatile playmakers that can keep the ball live.
“You just watched the finals right?” Kings head coach Michael Malone asked members of the media rhetorically following the draft last week. “We all love the games. You watch the San Antonio Spurs and it’s not just Tony Parker. It’s Manu Ginobili. It’s Boris Diaw. It’s Marco Belinelli. It’s Patty Mills. They have basketball players. They have guys that can make a shot when they’re open. If they’re not open, they can make a play for a teammate. They can drive. They can pass.”
After starting off the year in the middle of the pack, the Kings finished last in assists last season. During the entire 2013-14 campaign, they averaged just 18.7 assists per contest. Adding players who are willing to make plays for the next man is a way they can improve that number next season.
“Our whole mindset has to be make a play for your teammate,” Malone said. “Instead of holding and holding and holding it, it’s gotta be make a play for your teammate. And the Spurs did that the best this year and they won it and that’s something that we need to do a much better job of this year.”
What available free agents can fill the Kings’ need for versatility and playmaking? There are a few options that come to mind.
Stuckey may not have the same court vision as Livingston. But like Livingston, he’s a big guard that stands at 6-foot-5 and has proven that he’s capable of playing both backcourt positions. Throughout the course of his seven years in the NBA, Stuckey has also shown himself as a pretty solid playmaker. For his career, the 27-year-old guard has accumulated an assist percentage of 22.7.
He’s played for some pretty bad Pistons teams in recent memory, but he does know what it’s like to play for a winner. Stuckey was part of the tail end of the Pistons’ last dynasty, appearing in the postseason in the first two years of his career.
What could they offer? Nothing higher annually than $5.3 million, the Kings mid-level exception. A contract similar to Livingston’s reported three-year, $16-million deal could be the model.
Kings fans might not be high on the idea of bringing back Vasquez. But remember, the Kings were a much better passing team when the 27-year-old guard was a part of their roster. Before he was traded, the Kings averaged 22.2 assists per game. After he was dealt, that number dropped to 18.1 assists per contest for the remainder of the season.
It’s also important to note that Vasquez was still recovering from offseason ankle surgery during his brief tenure with the Kings and was nowhere near 100 percent. He thrived with the Raptors after regaining much of his health in the latter part of the season.
Vasquez is a restricted free agent, but the Kings might be able to steal his services. The Raptors just re-signed Kyle Lowry to a reported four-year, $48-million deal and they also just traded for Lou Williams. With Williams and Lowry in the mix, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Raptors let Vasquez walk in free agency.
What could they offer? Stuckey probably wouldn’t command the entire mid-level exception, but Vasquez could. He played on a playoff team last year and was a big part of the Raptors’ turnaround following the Rudy Gay trade. A four-year deal worth $18 to 20 million with the last season partially guaranteed could be enough to entice Vasquez to return to the Kings.
The 37-year-old veteran is likely at a stage in his career where he wants to play only for contenders. In addition to Dallas, it’s been reported that playoff teams like Oklahoma City, Portland, Miami and Toronto have interest. That said, the likelihood of him signing in Sacramento is probably low.
But if the Kings decided to chase the eight-time All-Star, Carter would be a solid fit. He would immediately be a capable backup at both shooting guard and small forward and could serve as a secondary or tertiary playmaker. Carter would also provide spacing, having shot 39.4 percent from 3-point land last season. He’s also embraced being a mentor at the latter stage of his career, which would be valuable for the Kings’ young core of guards.
What could they offer? He’s made roughly $3 million a year in his last three seasons. At 37, the Kings could probably offer him a two-year contract at around $8 million with part of their mid-level exception.
Hinrich is in the same position as Carter. At 33-years-old, the veteran guard probably wants to play for a winner, so acquiring his services would likely mean that the Kings would have to outbid any contenders.
Like the previously mentioned players, Hinrich would fit the Kings’ needs to add versatility, playmaking and experience to their roster. Hinrich is 6-foot-3 and 190 lbs., but he’s proven capable to play both point guard and off-guard throughout his career. The 33-year-old guard won’t be a ball-stopper as well. Last year, he posted an assist percentage of 22.6 for the Chicago Bulls.
What could they offer? Upwards of around $4.5 to 4.8 million annually for three years might do it, partially guarantee the last season.