Rudy Gay’s contract decision brings clarity to Sacramento Kings’ offseason plans

Rudy Gay rises for a jumper over the Golden State Warriors. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The Sacramento Kings’ summer plans are a little less uncertain today after learning yesterday that Rudy Gay would opt into the final year of his contract. Instead of becoming a free agent this summer, the veteran small forward will earn roughly $19.3 million and can hit the open market in 2015. The Kings, however, are hoping to work on a contract extension with Gay that would lock up the 27-year-old forward beyond next year.

Now that Gay’s situation for the upcoming year is settled, the puzzle that is the Kings’ roster becomes a little easier to solve for Pete D’Alessandro. With Gay opting in, the Kings GM no longer has to plan for a scenario in which the Kings have cap space to use at their disposal. Having the 27-year-old veteran back in the mix puts the Kings’ total salaries at approximately $69.3 million going into July 1, per Sham Sports.  According to NBA CBA expert Larry Coon, the 2014-15 salary cap is projected to be at about $63.2 million, meaning that the Kings will be roughly $6.1 million over the new cap.

The Kings would still be in a solid position to re-sign Isaiah Thomas, who is the next major question-mark in the their offseason plans. Per Sham Sports’ salary database, the 25-year-old point guard will receive a qualifying offer of approximately $1.1 million from the Kings, making him a restricted free agent going into July. Though the Kings are over the cap, they have bird rights on Thomas, meaning that they don’t need to be under the cap to re-sign him. The Kings will have to be cognizant though of whether a new contract with Thomas gets them over the luxury tax, which is projected to be at $77 million according to Coon.

How much money the Kings will have to spend on Thomas is dependent on a few factors, beginning with whether they’d keep the No. 8 pick. If they draft someone with the eighth overall selection, that player will make roughly $2.2 million in his first NBA season according to the projected 2014-15 rookie scale on Coon’s CBA FAQ. That would leave the Kings approximately $5.4 million to re-sign Thomas if they choose to avoid going over the luxury tax threshold.  If they trade the pick, that’s another story. How much they’d have to spend on potentially re-signing Thomas depends on whether they’re giving up versus taking back salary in a deal.  The Kings can also create a little more wiggle room by cutting both Willie Reed and Quincy Acy. The contracts of both big men are not fully guaranteed this upcoming season with both men combining on the books at a projected $1.8 million.

Thomas’ value in this year’s free agent market is anyone’s guess.  He’ll likely be ranked the third best free agent point guard this summer behind Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.  As they did with Tyreke Evans last summer, the Kings may let the market dictate his price and decide whether it’s just right or too rich for their pocket books.  It’s not a secret that some within the Kings organization believe Thomas is better suited as a sixth man rather than as a starter.  Thomas averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 34.7 minutes per game this past season.

Gay’s decision brings a little more clarity to what will still be an unpredictable summer for the Kings. With little cap space to spare, D’Alessandro at least knows now that he must continue to reshape this roster by trades rather than free agency.

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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.