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Kings offseason guide: Malik Monk, free agency, NBA draft

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Kings general manager Monte McNair must find a way to improve the roster after the team failed to meet its goals this season, but that could be difficult for a number of reasons.

Sacramento’s season ended Friday with a 105-98 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in a play-in elimination game at Smoothie King Center. The Kings finished ninth in the Western Conference and failed to reach the playoffs a year after securing the No. 3 seed, ending a 16-year playoff drought.

The franchise now faces some serious questions in the offseason. Malik Monk enters unrestricted free agency, salary cap restrictions will prevent the Kings from signing a top free agent, and missing the playoffs hinders their ability to trade future first-round draft picks under terms of the 2022 Kevin Huerter trade .

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The Kings need more size, length and athleticism, but the most immediate concern is the uncertain future of Monk, who came to Sacramento in 2022 on a two-year, $19.4 million contract. The 26-year-old guard is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year after averaging career highs of 15.4 points and 5.1 assists. The Kings can offer him about $78 million over four years using his early bird rights, but he could command more than $20 million per year from other teams that are free to offer more money.

Monk will be asked about his future when players are made available to the media for exit interviews at the Golden 1 Center on Monday.

Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox spoke in the past tense about Monk’s time in Sacramento after Friday’s loss to the Pelicans.

“Obviously, I think he was extremely big for us,” said Fox, Monk’s childhood friend and former Kentucky teammate. “People who have seen us play know that he should be the sixth man of the year. But at the end of the day, this is a business, and I feel like what he’s given us in the two years he’s been here, I feel like he’s shown his value, what he can do for a team.

“I’m happy for him, regardless of whether he’s with us or not. He knows that. But at the end of the day, this is a business. You can only play basketball for a limited time.”

Backup centers Alex Len and JaVale McGee will also be unrestricted free agents this summer.

Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair looks at the scoreboard as his team takes on the New Orleans Pelicans during an NBA play-in game at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Friday. Hector Amezcua [email protected]

Sacramento has 11 players under contract for the 2024-2025 season, with salaries totaling approximately $151.5 million. The salary cap is projected at $141 million.

The only spending instruments that the Kings will have at their disposal are the mid-level exceptions, the six-monthly exceptions and minimum contracts. The mid-level standard exception is projected at $12,859,000. The semi-annual exception is estimated at $4,681,000.

Missing the playoffs means the Kings are back in the NBA draft lottery. The lottery will be held on May 12. The draft is set for June 26-27 with a new two-day format.

The Kings expected to trade this year’s first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Huerter trade. However, the pick will be protected by the lottery this year, the top-12 will be protected in 2025 and the top-10 will be protected in 2026 before turning into two second-round picks.

The Stepien Rule prohibits teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive drafts, so the Kings cannot trade their first-round picks until the pick from the Huerter trade is transferred to Atlanta.

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Jason Anderson is the beat writer for The Sacramento Bee’s Kings. He was born in Sacramento and graduated from Fresno State, where he studied journalism and college basketball under the late Jerry Tarkanian.