Isaiah Thomas a hot commodity as free agency opens

Isaiah Thomas looks to break down Damian Lillard. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)

The NBA’s 2014 free agency period opened up last night to the usual rumors and innuendos.  Kings fans were met with the news that Isaiah Thomas is a hotter commodity than many believed.  According to reports, the Celtics were first in line for the 5-foot-9 dynamo, but he has also drawn interest from the Lakers, Warriors, Heat, Mavericks, Pistons and Suns.

Sacramento enters the free agency period with very little wiggle room under the NBA’s luxury tax, and we continue to hear that the team will not go above the tax threshold to retain Thomas.

Currently, the Kings have roughly $68.2 million wrapped up in guaranteed deals, and it will cost another $2.3 million to sign first-round pick Nik Stauskas.  With the luxury threshold estimated around $77 million, that leaves the Kings around $6.5 million in space and that number drops by $900K if they pick up the option on Quincy Acy.

Pete D’Alessandro has a bargaining chip in Jason Terry.  The 15-year veteran came to Sacramento in a deadline deal for Marcus Thornton.  The team has the option of buying out Terry while using the league’s stretch provision.  The provision would allow Sacramento to break Terry’s $5.8 million salary over three seasons and reduce their cap figure by nearly $4 million this season.

If they hold onto Terry, he joins a bevy of Kings on expiring contracts, including Derrick Williams, Travis Outlaw, Reggie Evans and Rudy Gay.  Gay is due $19.3 million this season and may get extended after the new season officially begins at midnight eastern time Wednesday morning.  The other four players make roughly $17 million combined, leaving the Kings in good shape salary-wise going forward, even if they pay the tax this season to retain Thomas.

With Thomas’ name flying about, how high will the Kings go to retain their 25-year-old restricted free agent?  How will the fans react if their most marketable player gets paid big bucks from the competition?  Can the Kings “afford” to let a player go that averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and posted a PER of 20.5?  As a team that won just 28 games the year before and made only small adjustments, would the Kings pay the luxury tax?

I’m not sure there is a right answer.  The Kings will tell you that they want him back, but the price has to be right.  But with so many teams lining up to bid on the former Washington star, it’s unlikely he will stay in Sacramento’s price range.

Sacramento will wait until the market for Thomas is set and then make a difficult decision.  If they get nothing in return, it would be a public relations nightmare.  Thomas has been nothing short of spectacular with both the media and the fans.  He is close to DeMarcus Cousins and maybe more importantly, the Kings have no other real option at the position and the free-agent market is weak at the point guard spot.

This is a pivotal moment in the Kings’ rebuild.  Who would have thought that so much would ride on a player taken with the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft?

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".