After years of discussions, the Kings decided to trade DeMarcus Cousins yesterday, moving him to the New Orleans Pelicans. Sacramento seems destined now to move out of contention for the eighth seed and will instead be looking to extract as much future value as possible out of their remaining assets.
The Kings' best player at the start of the year is now gone. Rudy Gay, arguably their second-best player, is out for the rest of the year, and his Achilles tear will scare off any teams that may have been interested in a deal for him.
Recent reports indicate that the Kings are looking to trade Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore in the wake of the Boogie trade. Collison is an expiring contract, and McLemore is headed for restricted free agency. Afflalo is signed through next season but only with a partial $1.5 million guaranteed for 2017-2018. The Kings might not be able to move all three of their guards before this Thursday, but they could get some valuable assets in return if they can find the right buyers.
Collison is the most likely of the three guards to be moved, simply because he is the best player. Additionally, he is only earning $5 million this year, which makes him relatively easy to move.
Teams that might be interested in Collison are playoff-caliber and in need of a backup point guard. Cleveland would be an obvious landing spot, but they lack the kind of assets (future picks and players on rookie deals) that would interest the Kings.
One intriguing possibility for the Kings would be a trade with the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are far enough under the salary cap that the Kings could send Collison to them without having to take much salary back. Utah also has the Warriors' first-round pick in addition to their own, as well as a couple of second-round picks this year.
The Golden State first-round pick is virtually guaranteed to be 30th overall, so Utah might be willing to send that pick to Sacramento. Collison would also serve as insurance for the Jazz in case George Hill signs elsewhere in the off-season. Trading Collison for Jeff Withey (expiring) and the Warriors' pick would make sense for both sides. Utah might value that pick more highly than a potential Collison rental, but they also could use point guard help in both the short and long term.
Similarly to Collison, Afflalo is a starter in Sacramento who would probably come off the bench for another team. Unlike Collison, Afflalo is making $12.5 million this year and could potentially make $12.5 million next year as well.
The combination of the large contract and Afflalo's shaky defense makes him a much less valuable asset; Sacramento should expect to get a second-round pick for him at best. The Kings might be willing to take on a player with a contract that goes into the 2017-2018 season but probably not beyond that.
One intriguing possibility for the Kings would be a trade with the Houston Rockets. Houston is always looking for more 3-point shooting, and Afflalo is a career 38.5 percent shooter from deep. This trade could also allow them to escape from Corey Brewer's contract. An Afflalo for Brewer and K.J. McDaniels trade wouldn't technically satisfy the rookie contract and pick criteria, but McDaniels is still an interesting prospect who has not gotten much playing time in Houston. He might be worth taking on Brewer's contract, and he might also be the best prospect that the Kings can get for Afflalo.
McLemore's recent stretch of play may encourage the Kings to hold onto him; however, the Kings did add three wing players in the Cousins deal and are not expected to waive any of them. That effectively knocks McLemore out of the rotation, which further motivates the Kings to move on from him. Additionally, his recent stretch of good play will probably also boost his value in a trade.
McLemore will be a restricted free agent this off-season, so teams with cap space going forward might be willing to take a flier on him. The 76ers, the bane of Sacramento's present and future, might be a good trade candidate. Now that Sam Hinkie is no longer in charge, the Kings might be able to extract a reasonable deal out of Philadelphia. They also have enough cap space to take in McLemore without sending money back.
Philly controls two second-round picks this year that will almost certainly be the Knicks' and Warriors' picks — they get the best and worst second-round picks among the Knicks, Pistons, Warriors and Jazz picks with the other two going to Utah. Philadelphia also has a host of future second-round picks. If the Kings could get the Knicks' pick from this year and a future second from Philly, they would be well-served by sending McLemore to Philadelphia. Given that Nik Stauskas has been better in Philly than he was in Sacramento, they might want to give another Kings two-guard a chance.