Domantas Sabonis

Kings Notes: Sabonis, Ford, Stockton, Akinjo

One of the biggest storylines during the 2022/23 NBA season was the Kings ending their 16-year playoff drought. Domantas Sabonis was a major part of that, earning a spot on the All-NBA Third Team and in the All-Star Game.

However, when Sacramento took on the Warriors in the first round of the 2023 playoffs, Sabonis struggled relative to his regular season numbers. The 6’11” forward/center averaged 16.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 49.5% shooting in seven games in the playoffs compared to 19.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists on 61.5% shooting in 79 regular season games.

On a recent episode of their show, James Ham and Kyle Madson of ESPN 1320 Sacramento discussed the specific ways Sabonis can improve heading into next season (Twitter link).

The pair reason that while Sabonis’s box-score numbers will likely look similar to last season’s, he can improve on the little things, like his aggression. Ham and Madson don’t want to see Sabonis be complacent, and would like to see him take more attempts from the mid-range.

Sabonis signed a four-year extension that includes at least $184MM in new money earlier this offseason.

We have more Kings-related notes:

  • During Jordan Ford‘s stint with the Kings’ Summer League team, a high-ranking member of the organization said he felt as though the Saint Mary’s product was close to becoming an NBA-caliber player, according to The Sacramento Bee’s James Anderson. It appears Ford will get the chance to prove as much, with his Exhibit 10 deal reportedly being converted to a two-way contract. According to Anderson, Ford will compete for the third point guard spot behind De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell.
  • The Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate, are acquiring the rights to James Akinjo from the Westchester Knicks in exchange for Jeriah Horne and Alex O’Connell, per Anderson (Twitter link). Akinjo, a Baylor product, averaged 14.5 points and 8.0 assists in 38 G League games in the regular season and Showcase Cup. Horne and O’Connell spent a brief time with the Kings in training camp last year but spent most of the season with Stockton.
  • In case you missed it, the Kings waived Neemias Queta and Nerlens Noel on Tuesday. Sacramento made the move to give Queta and Noel an opportunity to catch on with another team before training camp. They’ll clear waivers on Friday, assuming they go unclaimed.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Durant, Reaves

The Kings have signed JaVale McGee to a one-year contract. McGee got a guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal but that doesn’t mean he’s assured of making the roster out of training camp, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes.

The Kings have McGee, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Neemias Queta and Skal Labissiere on the camp roster as potential backups to star center Domantas Sabonis. Labissiere is ticketed to the G League but Len has a fully guaranteed one-year deal, while Noel and Queta have partial guarantees. That means four players are essentially vying for two roster spots.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors won championships in 2017 and 2018 with Kevin Durant on their roster. Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic compares those Warriors teams to the current Suns group with Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal as the main trio, evaluating how Phoenix might emulate those championship clubs.
  • The Lakers have tried to acquire a third star in recent years to join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Do they now have that player on the roster in the form of Austin Reaves? Jovan Buha of The Athletic explores that topic, considering how well Reaves has performed for Team USA. With several weeks to adjust to his new role as a primary ball-handler during training camp, Reaves can cement his status as an All-Star-level third option, Buha concludes.
  • Reaves said the World Cup hasn’t taken a physical toll on him, he told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times in a Q&A session. “I feel great. It’s been better than I expected,” the Lakers guard said. “You look at it, you go down the list of minutes guys have played and nobody plays more than 25 minutes. On max, someone might play 30 minutes a game. So, it’s not really like the NBA season where you’re playing 32, 35, maybe 40 minutes. The minutes are way shorter.”

Kings Interested In JaVale McGee

The Kings are interested in signing veteran center JaVale McGee once he clears waivers, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and NBA on TNT tweets.

The Mavericks officially waived McGee on Monday and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent on Thursday.

Sacramento has 13 players on guaranteed contracts and two more frontcourt players —  Neemias Queta and Nerlens Noel — on partially guaranteed deals. The Kings also have Alex Len behind Domantas Sabonis in the center spot with Trey Lyles another possibility in small-ball lineups.

McGee could join the battle for backup minutes behind Sabonis. He’d be on his ninth NBA team since entering the league in 2008.

McGee signed a three-year, $17MM+ contract with Dallas last offseason, but only spent seven games in the starting lineup and subsequently fell out of the rotation altogether. The 35-year-old averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in a career-low 8.5 minutes per game across 42 appearances during his second stint as a Maverick.

And-Ones: Washington, Available FAs, Player Tiers, CBA

Exploring possible destinations for some of the top remaining free agents, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests that many people around the league think that P.J. Washington – the only standard restricted free agent still on the board – will eventually accept his qualifying offer from the Hornets. Pincus also confirms that the Lakers have conveyed interest in big man Christian Wood.

In considering a potential landing spot for Kelly Oubre, who averaged more than 20 points per game last season, Pincus notes that Memphis makes some sense. While it’s not clear if the Grizzlies have actually expressed interest in Oubre, Pincus points out that they haven’t really replaced Dillon Brooks at forward and have some young players – such as Ziaire Williams or Josh Christopher – who might appeal to the Hornets in a sign-and-trade scenario.

Here are a few more odds and ends from the league:

  • Seth Partnow of The Athletic has published the first two installments of his player tier rankings for the 2023/24 season. Breaking down the top 125 players of the league into five tiers, Partnow lists 45 players in tier five – including Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson and Raptors forward Scottie Barnes – and 41 more in tier four, such as Kings center Domantas Sabonis, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Partnow’s top three tiers will consist of 39 players and will presumably be posted later this week.
  • Now that hoarding cap room into the regular season is no longer a viable strategy, Rob Mahoney of The Ringer wonders how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will change the way that rebuilding teams approach future offseasons.
  • With no sign that the Damian Lillard or James Harden situations will be resolved anytime soon, John Hollinger of The Athletic questions whether the NBA’s player empowerment era has reached its ceiling. During the last several years, stars who ask for trades have sought increasingly specific destinations despite having less and less leverage, Hollinger observes, adding that the outcomes for Lillard and Harden could create new benchmarks for future star trade requests.

Mavs Notes: Draft Picks, Bogdanovic, McGee, Centers

The Mavericksacquisition of Grant Williams in a three-team sign-and-trade agreement with Boston and San Antonio was initially reported on July 5, but wasn’t officially completed until a week later. According to Tim Cato of The Athletic, that delay was by design, as the three clubs agreed to keep the deal unofficial through Tuesday evening to give everyone a chance to explore expanding it further. No opportunities materialized, so the teams completed the trade as planned on Wednesday.

The Mavs were – and remain – willing to immediately flip the 2025 and 2028 second-rounders they acquired from San Antonio in order to further upgrade their roster, but they’ve been “incredibly cautious” about trading their own 2027 first-round pick, a team source tells Cato.

Because Dallas has already moved its 2029 first-rounder, it would be difficult to put any protections on its 2027 first-rounder due to the Stepien rule, which prohibits a team from leaving itself without a first-round selection in any two consecutive future drafts.

If the Mavs were to trade their 2027 pick, it would have to either be unprotected or turn into a second-rounder (or multiple second-rouders) if it were to fall into its protected range in ’27, since it couldn’t be rolled over to 2028. An unprotected pick would be an extremely valuable trade chip, whereas one that would become a second-rounder if not conveyed in 2027 would have more limited appeal to potential trade partners.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Confirming an ESPN report, Cato says that the Mavericks and Pistons recently revisited conversations about a possible Bojan Bogdanovic trade. League sources tell The Athletic that the two teams discussed a framework that would’ve sent Bogdanovic and Killian Hayes to Dallas, with Tim Hardaway Jr. and JaVale McGee going to Detroit. It’s unclear what level of draft compensation the Pistons would’ve been seeking in such a deal or how far discussions advanced, says Cato.
  • As previously suggested during Tim MacMahon’s Howdy Partners podcast (YouTube link), the Mavericks are considered likely to trade or waive McGee before the 2023/24 regular season begins, according to Cato.
  • Assuming McGee is moved or let go, the Mavericks’ centers would be Richaun Holmes, Dwight Powell, and Dereck Lively. The team could still trade for another big man, but would be content to open the season with that trio, according to Cato. While Powell would be the favorite to start, Mavs staffers are optimistic about Holmes’ bounce-back potential, believing that he’ll be a better fit in the team’s “guard-based schemes” than he was in a Sacramento system centered around Domantas Sabonis, Cato adds.

Domantas Sabonis Has Not Undergone Thumb Surgery

2:33pm: Sabonis did not undergo surgery on his thumb, a league source tells James Ham of The Kings Beat (Twitter link). It seems that Maksvytis was misinformed or something was lost in translation.

The Kings’ big man continues to follow a “strict rehab protocol,” Ham adds.

12:57pm: Kings center Domantas Sabonis, who suffered an avulsion fracture in his right thumb last season, underwent a surgical procedure to address the injury, according to Lithuanian national team head coach Kazys Maksvytis.

The Kings have been cagey about providing updates on Sabonis’ thumb during the offseason, with general manager Monte McNair declining to comment in his post-draft press conference on whether or not the star center went under the knife.

However, as relays, in discussing the anticipated absence of Sabonis for the 2023 World Cup, Maksvytis confirmed in a presser of his own that the big man underwent surgery.

“He tried to recover without the surgery, but it didn’t work, and he lost time,” Maksvytis said. “After the surgery, everything takes longer.”

Sabonis, who broke his thumb in December, only missed a single game before returning to action. The injury didn’t slow him down much, as he averaged 19.1 points, a league-leading 12.3 rebounds, and 7.3 assists in 79 games (34.6 MPG) during his first full season in Sacramento, earning his third All-Star berth and his first All-NBA nod. Sabonis cashed in this offseason when he signed a four-year extension that includes a renegotiated salary for 2023/24.

Without a formal update from the Kings, it’s unclear what sort of recovery timeline Sabonis might be looking at or whether he’ll be available when training camp begins in September. However, McNair did say last month that the team’s expectation is that the 27-year-old will be “good to go” for the regular season this fall.

As for Lithuania’s national team, Maksvytis said during his press conference that Sabonis “apologized for not coming and promised to be available next summer” for the 2024 Olympics.

Contract Details: Sabonis, Middleton, VanVleet, Russell, Clark

The Kings’ renegotiation and extension of Domantas Sabonis‘ contract includes $203.6MM in guaranteed money, Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype tweets. The five-year deal also includes $13MM in incentives, raising its potential value to $216.6MM.

Sacramento used $8.6MM in cap room to give Sabonis a raise on next season’s salary – from $22MM to $30.6MM — then added four more years via the extension.

We have more contract-related notes:

  • Khris Middleton has a player option in the final season of his new three-year deal with the Bucks, Scotto tweets. As previously reported, his contract includes $93MM in guaranteed money and another $9MM in bonus incentives.
  • Fred VanVleet‘s huge three-year contract with the Rockets includes a 15% trade kicker, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet (Twitter link). The previously reported team option for the third year is valued at $44.89MM.
  • D’Angelo Russell‘s two-year contract with the Lakers is guaranteed for $36MM, Spotrac contributor Keith Smith tweets. The second season is a player option and Russell has $700K in incentives for both seasons. Additionally, Russell has waived his implied no-trade clause.
  • Jaylen Clark‘s two-way contract with the Timberwolves is a two-year deal, Smith tweets.
  • Leonard Miller‘s four-year, $8.3MM contract with the Timberwolves is guaranteed for the first two years, Scotto tweets. The third year is 50% guaranteed, and the fourth year is a team option.

Kings Renegotiate, Extend Domantas Sabonis’ Contract

JULY 7: The Kings have officially renegotiated and extended Sabonis’ contract, the team confirmed in a press release.

JULY 1: The Kings are renegotiating Domantas Sabonis‘ 2023/24 salary and signing him to a long-term contract extension, agents Greg Lawrence and Jason Ranne tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Sacramento will use $8.6MM in cap room to give Sabonis a raise on this year’s salary – from $22MM to $30.6MM – and will tack on four new years to his expiring contract. According to Wojnarowski, the deal will be worth $217MM over five total seasons, including $195MM in new money.

There won’t be any team or player options in the new contract, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

After being acquired in a blockbuster trade involving Tyrese Haliburton at the 2022 deadline, Sabonis thrived in his first full season in Sacramento, averaging 19.1 points, 7.3 assists, and a league-leading 12.3 rebounds in 34.6 minutes per game across 79 contests despite sustaining an avulsion fracture to his thumb in December.

In addition to earning the third All-Star nod of his career, the 27-year-old made an All-NBA squad for the first time, claiming the center spot on the Third Team. Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox led the Kings to a 48-win season and their first playoff berth since 2006.

Contract renegotiations are rare in the NBA and can only be completed when a team has cap space and intends to increase a player’s salary rather than reducing it. The Kings created additional spending flexibility on draft night by agreeing to send Richaun Holmes to Dallas in a salary-dump trade.

There was some speculation that Sacramento may be preparing to make a run at a top-tier free agent with that extra cap space, but Sacramento has instead focused on its own players, extending Harrison Barnes earlier in the week and agreeing to new deals with Trey Lyles and now Sabonis.

The Kings’ one notable deal with a player who wasn’t on the 2022/23 roster is a three-year, $20MM commitment to EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov. Vezenkov, who is expected to slot into Sacramento’s room exception, wasn’t technically a free agent since the club held his draft rights.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), without a renegotiated 2023/24 salary, Sabonis would have been eligible for a maximum-salary extension of $138MM over four years. That may not have been enough to prevent him from testing the market in 2024, since he would’ve been eligible for a significantly higher salary – and an extra year – at that point.

Interestingly, the only other NBA player to get a renegotiation and extension since 2017 is Sabonis’ former frontcourt partner in Indiana, Myles Turner, Marks observes (via Twitter). Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson is also expected to join that group.

Kings Rumors: Barnes, FA Targets, Kuzma, Lyles, Sabonis

Harrison Barnes‘ departure from Sacramento this offseason appears increasingly likely, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who identifies the Pacers as a “strong contender” to sign the Kings‘ free agent forward.

As previously reported, Barnes’ connections to Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton and head coach Rick Carlisle could make Indiana an appealing landing spot for him. Fischer says Barnes is close with Haliburton, who played with him in Sacramento, and has support from Carlisle, who coached him in Dallas.

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Sacramento’s decision to trade Richaun Holmes and the No. 24 pick in Thursday’s draft to Dallas in order to generate additional cap room has rival executives speculating that the Kings have a specific move in mind for free agency, says Fischer. While Khris Middleton and Draymond Green have been floated as possible targets, those veterans are considered likely to remain with the Bucks and Warriors, respectively, according to Fischer, who hears that the Trail Blazers and Pistons may nonetheless make a run at Green.
  • The name gaining the most traction as a possible Kings free agent target is Kyle Kuzma, according to Fischer. The Jazz‘s trade for John Collins should take a rival suitor for Kuzma off the market, Fischer explains, since Utah is unlikely to pursue another significant frontcourt piece in free agency after adding Collins.
  • Besides using their $33MM+ in cap room to pursue Kuzma, the Kings will also likely look to bring back free agent forward Trey Lyles and renegotiate and extend Domantas Sabonis‘ contract, Fischer reports, estimating that a new deal for Sabonis could be worth in the neighborhood of $120MM over four years.

Kings Notes: Sabonis, Cap Space, Flexibility, Green

The Kings made a salary-dump trade on Thursday, agreeing to send the No. 24 pick (Olivier-Maxence Prosper was selected) and reserve center Richaun Holmes to the Mavericks. Holmes is owed $24.9MM over the next two seasons, including a player option in 2024/25.

The move could give Sacramento about $33MM in cap room this summer if they renounce most of their cap holds. A league source tells James Ham of that one option the team has considered with that financial leeway is renegotiating Domantas Sabonis‘ $22MM expiring contract in ’23/24 in order to give him an immediate raise and thus a larger extension offer.

As Ham details, if the Kings were to increase Sabonis’ deal to $30MM, they could offer him a four-year extension worth about $189MM (with a starting salary of $42MM in ’24/25, which is close to his projected maximum), plus the $8MM increase to his ’23/24 salary.

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • At his post-draft press conference, GM Monte McNair declined to say whether or not Sabonis had thumb surgery, but suggested the expectation is he’ll be “good to go” for ’23/24, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Sabonis sustained an avulsion fracture to his thumb in December, but decided to play through the injury.
  • The flexibility the Holmes trade created was key for McNair, per Anderson. “I think, for us, we always value the optionality and flexibility when we can acquire it,” McNair said. “This was a great season for a lot of reasons and we want to have a long playoff run here and continue to compete. To do that in today’s NBA, you have to be able to build your team out, not just in the very near term, but over the course of many years. So, we’re always having that balance.”
  • Could the Kings pursue their playoff nemesis Draymond Green in free agency with their extra cap room? ESPN’s Brian Windhorst speculated on his Hoop Collective podcast that it shouldn’t be dismissed (YouTube link). “(Coach) Mike Brown is extraordinarily close to Draymond Green — extraordinarily close,” Windhorst said (hat tip to Anderson of The Sacramento Bee). “Mike Brown was the Draymond Green whisperer with the Warriors. Draymond Green is a free agent. They now have the money, if they want, to give him a premium over what he opted out of in Golden State. … The Kings can now go hunting for Draymond Green if they wish and that would be extraordinarily interesting because it is the exact — exact — type of player they need. … To be continued.” As Windhorst noted, owner Vivek Ranadive was a former part owner of the Warriors and has often tried to model the Kings after Golden State, as there are numerous ties between the organizations. Green recently declined his player option for 2023/24.
  • Windhorst isn’t the only reporter to take note of the trade. As John Hollinger writes for The Athletic, the Kings need a power forward and need to upgrade their defense, so Green is a logical fit in some ways. The move should have the Warriors “sweating,” says Hollinger, because the Kings are a “highly plausible rival Green bidder.” Sacramento could also potentially pursue a number of other power forward free agents, such as Jerami Grant, Kyle Kuzma, Grant Williams, Cameron Johnson or P.J. Washington, according to Hollinger, who notes that re-signing Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles and operating as an over-the-cap team while creating a trade exception for Holmes and having access to the full mid-level exception is another option.
  • Yossi Gozland of HoopsHype examines options Sacramento could pursue after the trade.