Fox, Hield, Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley are the future of the team. Hopefully Tyrese Haliburton can make that a quintet, but is it a group with the potential be anything more than an eight seed?
Fox got the max rookie extension, a contract which was an inevitability, though one that comes with pressure. It looks an overpay at this point. Then again, so did Jamal Murray‘s, and he’s proven himself to be well worth it. Fox had injury issues last season and shot under 30% from three. The Kings’ long-term future is no tied to how Fox develops.
Hield is under contract through 2023/24. Barnes’ deal expires a year earlier. Bagley has started just 10 NBA games since going second overall in 2018 – he’s not far off contract extension territory. The Kings’ cap flexibility is already very limited for a couple of seasons. None of those contracts are especially tradeable.
The Fox, Hield, Barnes, Bagley quartet is a nice group. There’s two good shooters on the wing, an explosive point guard and a high-ceiling big man.
Haliburton was considered a draft steal by many experts. He’s got the size, length and instincts to be a plus-defender in the backcourt. He’s a good finisher, and he can be an effective catch-and-shoot guy. There’s a lot to like about him alongside Fox, but it will ask questions of Hield to play as a three on the defensive end.
Letting Bogdanovic go, on what was a reasonable salary, should please Hield, who was unhappy at being moved to the bench. It weakens this team, though, and effectively sees the Kings lose an asset. Trading Hield is no longer a good option without Bogdanovic to fill his spot. This is a shallow team suddenly.
Sacramento has quickly become dependent on Fox developing into an All-Star, on Hield improving as a defender and being happy to stay put. Barnes is who he is, and he’s slightly overpaid, but he’s a solid player. Bagley is one big question mark, a question mark that could determine the franchise. He’s going to demand a big pay day regardless of what happens next season.
The team owning the longest playoff drought in the NBA are locked in. The Kings have locked into a core that’s yet to make the playoffs, a core without a single All-Star appearance. Just making the postseason would be huge for a franchise that has suffered so much losing, but it will take major overachievement to reach the eight seed in 2020/21. They need a leap or two from this core to be considered real playoff contenders in 2021/22.
There is a sense of direction with the Kings. The ceiling of this group is high, but for such substantial financial commitments, there are no guarantees. They could have locked into a group that will never get near the playoffs. They might end up paying hundreds of millions out to players who never make an All-Star team.
At least there’s a clear path they’re following. Maybe these risks are just the life of a small-market franchise. With Fox and Haliburton in the backcourt, there should be highlights aplenty, even if the results don’t come. The Kings are in an interesting spot – the decision to let Bogdanovic walk can only be fairly judged in a couple of years.