The NBA trade season will likely kick into full gear over the next few weeks, as many of the players signed last off-season became eligible for trades on January 15. The Kings are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference, hoping to sneak into the eighth seed and return to the playoffs after a 10-year drought. The Kings have a few valuable trade pieces — especially one player in particular, Rudy Gay — that they will almost certainly be looking to trade.
Gay has talked openly about opting out of his deal at the end of this season and about how he does not want to return to the Kings. Sacramento would like to hold onto their second-best player to try to make a playoff push, but it would be foolish to hold onto Gay and let him walk in free agency for no return. Unfortunately, that makes trading him exceedingly difficult, especially if he will not commit to re-signing in his new home.
A number of teams have been linked to Gay, and the Thunder appear to be the most likely potential destination. A deal for Gay centered around Cameron Payne was reported early in the season but put on hold after Payne broke his foot prior to the season. Payne is now back in the lineup for the Thunder, but this deal seems to make less sense now for both teams than it did earlier in the season. Oklahoma City's Semaj Christon has been one of the worst backup point guards in the league so far this year, while Ty Lawson has been a solid backup for the Kings this year. The Thunder desperately need another wing player, but they may need Payne almost as much to keep them afloat when Russell Westbrook sits.
The Clippers are another team that could really use Rudy's production, but they simply do not have the assets that the Kings would need to recoup if they were to trade Gay. The Clippers cannot trade a first round pick prior to their 2021 pick and are bereft of young players who the Kings could see as part of their future.
An interesting possibility that has popped up in recent weeks is the Orlando Magic, specifically one rumor centered around a potential package of Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic. This trade would make little sense for a Kings team with a massive glut of centers, but both Vucevic and Payton have proven more than Payne so far in their NBA careers. The current options for trading Gay seem slim, but this trade with Orlando would be a much better choice than one with Oklahoma City for Payne.
Omri Casspi has been a fan favorite in Sacramento for many years now and re-signed with the Kings on a below-market deal mostly because of his love for the city. However, his sporadic minutes under Dave Joerger mean that he might be on the trading block. Casspi's representatives were given permission to look for a trade partner a couple of months ago, but nothing has cropped up yet.
The most likely trade destinations for Casspi would be contending teams that could use him as a 3-point specialist off the bench. Oklahoma City was reportedly interested in him during the initial rounds of trade talks, and a deal centered around Anthony Morrow and a second round pick or two could entice the Kings to move on from Casspi.
Kosta Koufos has played solidly for the Kings so far this season, starting a majority of their games alongside Cousins and shooting 58 percent from the floor. However, the Kings have quite a stable of young centers behind Koufos, notably Willie Cauley-Stein and 2016 first round picks Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis, who could use some developmental minutes. Trading Koufos for young assets would likely mean a step back for a Kings team that is not looking to do so, but Koufos is also somewhat redundant on this Kings team and might be able to net them some useful pieces.
Marc Stein reported two weeks ago that the Rockets were very interested in Koufos, and the Kings might be able to find a trade partner there. A package of Corey Brewer and K.J. McDaniels might be enough to entice the Kings and would certainly be an intriguing prospect. Brewer is not worth his salary anymore and the second year of his contract is a concern, but he might be useful as a stopgap solution at backup shooting guard. McDaniels would be a nice upside play for the Kings; he has shown great defensive potential in spurts and could become a solid 3-and-D option for a Kings team that is very thin at off guard. If Sacramento could convince Daryl Morey to throw in a second round pick as well, this deal would be a good choice for the Kings.
Sacramento will most likely be looking to trade a few of their players at the upcoming trade deadline to make a push for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. If they can get a team to give up a good package for Gay, Casspi, or Koufos, it would be hugely beneficial to their chances of climbing back into the eighth seed.