After a rough start to the 2020-21 NBA season, the Sacramento Kings have found their footing as of late, winners of three in a row after a 5-10 start. There have been a handful of players who have stepped up and contributed to the turnaround, none more so than Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes.
Barnes has been big for the Kings all season. One of the more underrated players on the roster, he has given the Kings a much-needed veteran presence since his arrival nearly two years ago. He is enjoying his best statistical year in Sacramento, averaging over 16 points and 6 rebounds per game, and has been arguably the most reliable player on the team thus far.
The Sacramento Kings should look to sell high on Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield, and now might be as good a time as ever
As for Hield, his lackluster performance from last season carried over to the start of the current campaign. Over the course of the Kings’ first ten contests, he was putting up 14.4 points per game on 35/34/31 shooting splits, a heavy regression for one of the elite long ball specialists in the game. But he has recently regained his rhythm. Since January 11th, Hield is averaging a more familiar 18.2 points per game and is doing so by making 47.0 percent of his threes. Despite the positive production, his inflated turnover numbers from a season ago have also taken a turn for the better.
The increased performance from both players obviously benefits the Kings in the win column, but their long-term plans may be getting a boost as well.
While the front office has not come out and said it publicly, Sacramento is in for something of a rebuild. The need for young talent is obvious, and adding players on contracts that fit the timeline of franchise star De’Aaron Fox is certainly a high priority. These things make both Hield and Barnes liabilities to the roster and payroll. Hield is owed north of $61 million over the next three seasons and recently turned 28 years old. Barnes is under contract for two years after the current season and is owed more than $38 million on a deal that wraps up when he is 31.
If the Sacramento Kings are looking to get younger while gaining salary cap flexibility, then it would be in their best interest to rid themselves of both players. Given the solid performances on the court as of late, now may be the time to work the phones while the value is up. It was not long ago that Hield’s trade stock was plummeting, and Barnes has always been seen as a good player with a bad contract. But there are plenty of struggling teams out there who could become desperate for rotational help as the season wears on. Should one of them have an asset or two that the Kings covet, then a deal that benefits all involved parties could be in the making.
There is the possibility that the Kings try to make a run this season with the pieces that they have, but we are hoping that Monte McNair and the front office aren’t so short-sighted. A run for, or even an appearance as, the eighth seed in the playoffs would be fun for the fan base for 4 to 6 weeks, and they absolutely deserve it. But it would also put the team in a similar situation next year, likely again to compete for the lowest of playoff seeds and nothing more. Instead, they should do what they can to acquire young talent with the few assets that they have, and focus their attention on the loaded 2021 Draft.
There is no small-market NBA team that builds by remaining in perpetual mediocrity. Sometimes in the NBA, being a terrible team pays off in remarkable ways. There may be no better season to be bad than the one we are in right now.