Kings

Kings’ First Task Must Be to Retain or Replace Barnes

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Editor’s note: This piece was written and published before the Kings signed Harrison Barnes to his reported three-year extension.

2023 NBA free agency kicks off this Friday at 6 p.m. EST. For the Sacramento Kings, the first task on the list is Harrison Barnes.

Arguably the Kings’ third-best player last season, Barnes tends to be an afterthought. But he’s been a valuable piece to the franchise since arriving in Sacramento in 2019. 

The Kings shipped Richaun Holmes to Dallas on draft night, which created upwards of $30 million in cap space. 

Many Kings fans seem to think the team should move on from Barnes. However, general manager Monte McNair needs to be meticulous with this move.

While the grass may look greener, it rarely is during free agency for Sacramento. 

With that said, McNair has earned all the trust in the world and if there was anyone that could bring a top-tier free agent to Sacramento, it’s him and this Kings core. 

THE ARGUMENT FOR RETAINING BARNES

The team’s chemistry was an integral part of Sacramento’s success last season and Barnes has been one of the leaders in the Kings’ locker room dating back to his arrival. Barnes was one of 12 finalist’s for the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.

Kings head coach Mike Brown even called him irreplaceable. Clearly, Barnes is valued by his coaches and teammates.

But, how much does the front office value him?

McNair spoke highly of Barnes following the Kings’ first-round exit and noted his championship experience as being important to the locker room.

It’s McNair’s job to improve the roster, but the Ames, Iowa native deserves his respect.

Barnes fits like a glove alongside the rest of the Kings’ core. He’ll willingly take a backseat to De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis or Malik Monk, but when the Kings found themselves in a rut, Barnes was often the player the team leaned on. Whether it was getting to the charity stripe or knocking down a timely three, Barnes came through more often than not.

He shoots it well, can create for himself in a pinch and doesn’t miss many games. He’s as dependable as they come and that’s worth something.

As the old saying goes, ‘everything good comes to an end,’ and this may just be the end for Barnes’ time in Sacramento.

So, who might the Kings look to replace him with?

EXPLORING OTHER OPTIONS

Rumors have circulated that Sacramento may be suitors for four-time NBA champion, Draymond Green. But, until Green actually inks a contract elsewhere, it’s difficult to envision him leaving Golden State.

SPLASH SIGNINGS

KYLE KUZMA

Kuzma is the best all-around fit of anyone on the market. He can stretch the floor, rebound and defend. At 6-9, 220 pounds, Kuzma would bring much-needed size and strength at the forward position. Plus, he has a championship pedigree.

He’s an intelligent off-ball player and would fit in well in the Kings’ offense. He’d cost a pretty penny, but would be every bit worth it for Sacramento.

The question is will Kuzma be open to accepting a lesser role than he was playing the last two seasons in Washington?

After winning a title in Los Angeles and following it up with two seasons in the lottery in Washington, Kuzma has to be hungry to join a winner. Where better than the 48-win Sacramento Kings?

McNair has targeted Kuzma in the past. Not to mention, Kuzma took a liking to the Kings’ playoff crowd.

Higher-tier free agents are typically a pipe dream in Sacramento, but this one may not be so far-fetched after all.

CAM JOHNSON

On surface level, Johnson to Sacramento seems improbable. Brooklyn acquired him when they shipped Kevin Durant to Phoenix and the Nets can match any offer. But will Brooklyn want to pay one of the league’s highest payrolls for a team without title aspirations?

The Nets got swept in the first round last season and will likely bring back a good portion of that roster into next season. Sacramento could give Johnson an offer that would force the Nets to either go over the luxury-tax threshold, or let him walk for nothing.

Johnson would fit right in with Sacramento’s high-powered offense. He is one of the most accurate sharpshooters in the league. It may be a bit redundant next to Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter, but you can never have too much shooting.

Johnson’s presence would further open the lane for Fox and Sabonis to go to work. Surrounding those two with three knock-down shooters would be a nightmare for opposing teams to deal with.

Sacramento desperately needs better individual defenders. And although Johnson isn’t a standout defender by any means, his length and experience would help the Kings.

OTHER OPTIONS

Some other big names that would fit in from a basketball standpoint are Khris Middleton, Jerami Grant and Josh Hart.

Middleton seems like a safe bet to return to Milwaukee, and Hart seems to have found a home in New York. Grant would fit in well but he may want a bigger role than Sacramento can offer.

And while Sacramento has the financial ability to throw somebody a bag, they may be better off chasing lesser names.

Rui Hachimura is an interesting option. He was a vital part of the Lakers’ post-all-star-break success, and was a key part of their run to the Western Conference Finals.

Hachimura is a solid two-way player that still has some untapped potential. Who better than Mike Brown to help Hachimura take a leap?

The Lakers are already well into the luxury tax. With Austin Reaves hitting the market, Los Angeles may end up having to let Hachimura leave.

Would Sacramento be better off with Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe, or with Harrison Barnes?  

Barnes isn’t the only Kings player hitting free agency. Trey Lyles, Terence Davis and Alex Len will join Barnes in free agency. It’s tough to envision the team letting them all go, but it’s equally as tough to envision them all returning. Especially with Euroleague MVP, Sasha Vezenkov, being at the top of the team’s radar.

There will be at least one odd man out, and Harrison Barnes may just be the one.

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