NBA Trade Buzz: Sacramento Kings Stop Pursuit Of A Trade For All-Star Forward Ben Simmons
Kings bow out of potential Simmons trade
If you see a report regarding a trade involving the Sacramento Kings, you can be almost sure that the deal will not contain the name of Philadelphia 76ers star point forward Ben Simmons. As per a recent report put up by Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski of the ESPN, he pointed out that the Kings have ended their aggressive pursuit of the Sixers All-Star, and that they have already focused their sights on pursuing a trade for other key players in the league who they think can help turn around the fate of the franchise in this current season.
Wojnarowski also pointed out that the Kings were actually one of the teams that tried to create deals with the Sixers as it was obvious that they were enamored with Simmons’ elite services, especially considering the fact that he is still one of the most versatile players in the league, despite the glaring weakness in the offensive facet of his skill set, particularly in terms of the his lack of outside shooting ability. The Sixers star forward has not been able to log even a single game this season, as it has become apparent that the only way that he would play this year is when he will be able to suit up for another team after a trade.
Of course, this halt to a potential Simmons deal will not stop the Kings from making a move for another player who could help them out this season. The Kings are currently sporting a disappointing record of 18 wins against 32 defeats, a paltry win-loss slate that is only good for the 13th spot in the Western Conference. They are still several wins away from the Portland Trail Blazers, who are currently sitting on the 10th spot in the West, which is also the last entry slot to play-in tournament. The Kings have to do a lot of work before they could make it to the play-in, as along with the Blazers, they also have to overtake a couple more hungry teams in the 11th-seeded San Antonio Spurs and the 12th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.
The Kings have tons of pieces to move around, especially if you look at a roster that includes some talented players such as shooting guard Buddy Hield, talented yet unproven power forward Marvin Bagley III, defensive-minded rookie point guard Davion Mitchell, athletic center Richaun Holmes, and veteran scoring small forward Harrison Barnes. But there is also the fact that they are not willing to include guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. As per a column written by Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer last year, he pointed out that Haliburton is indeed thriving in a greater role, and his unique two-way skill set is more than enough to help him become a future All-Star in the NBA.
Haliburton has more than filled Bogdanovic’s shoes, averaging 12.5 points on 48.0 percent shooting, 5.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game as the squad’s sixth man. He’s a wise-beyond-his-years combo guard who can already run the offense, space the floor, and defend multiple positions. He will likely finish second, behind LaMelo Ball, in the Rookie of the Year race. There’s little doubt that Haliburton will have a long and productive NBA career. The only question now is whether he will become a star or merely an excellent role player. Sacramento’s prized rookie helped fuel a strong start to the season. The Kings were above .500 in early February and contending for a spot in a play-in series. That seemingly modest accomplishment would have been a huge victory for a franchise that has the longest playoff drought (14 seasons) in the league. But not much has gone right since.
The Kings have lost 13 of their last 16 games and tumbled to the no. 13 seed in the Western Conference. They are 3.5 games behind the 10th-place Grizzlies, and there was little reason to be optimistic about them making a playoff push even before Bagley went down. It’s no surprise that some of the Kings’ veterans have appeared in trade rumors. The player that seemingly every team wants is Harrison Barnes, a versatile 6-foot-8 wing who could fit on almost any contender. Barnes has become a reliable two-way presence in Sacramento, averaging 16.6 points on 49.4 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while playing both forward positions. The Kings have a few other players on expiring contracts (Nemanja Bjelica and Hassan Whiteside) whom they could move, but neither is likely to bring back much in a trade. The good news for McNair is that he’s holding all the cards. There aren’t many players like Barnes on the market.
There is also the fact that Fox presents the Kings with a rightful cornerstone for their future. Fox, who stands at 6-foot-3 and is one of the fastest players in the league with the ball in his hands, is the 5th overall pick during the 2017 NBA Draft. Having played for the Kentucky Wildcats during his collegiate career, Fox entered his name in the draft as one of the most hyped prospects in his class. He was a part of a draft class that also included other excellent prospects such as Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic, Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Malik Monk of the Los Angeles Lakers, Luke Kennard of the Detroit Pistons, Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks, OG Anunoby of the Toronto Raptors, Kyle Kuzma and Thomas Bryant of the Washington Wizards, Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs, Josh Hart of the New Orleans Pelicans, and Monte Morris of the Denver Nuggets. Among the notable undrafted players in that class are Antonio Blakeney, Chris Boucher, Isaiah Briscoe, Gabriel Deck, PJ Dozier, Luke Kornet, Jonathan Motley, Mychal Mulder, and Matt Thomas.
Fox was mostly compared to Lonzo while playing college ball, but in terms of mere production in the NBA, it is without a doubt that Fox has already exceeded his counterpart. During his rookie year with the Kings, the lefty point guard was able to put up a decent stat line of 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.0 steals, including a set of shooting percentages that included a 41% overall clip from the field, a 31% clip from beyond the arc, and a 72% clip from the free throw line. Fox’s best season of his young career so far was during his breakout year in the 2020-21 NBA Season. He took over for the Kings as he put up an incredible all-around stat line of 25.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks per contest, including a decent set of shooting percentages that included a 48% overall clip from the field, a 32% clip from the three-point line, and a 72% clip from the free throw line.
This season, Fox, who has turned 24 years of age last December, is putting up another all-around stat line of 21.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game. Fox is producing a set of shooting percentages that include a 45% overall clip from the field, a 24% clip from the three-point line, and a 74% clip from the free throw line. Fox is not just a speedy and athletic point guard anymore; he can also create his own shots under pressure and also effectively involve his teammates on the offensive end of the floor and make them better players. As per a column written by Haley O’Shaughnessy of The Ringer, she pointed out that the 6-foot-3 point guard’s improvement makes him one of the steals in the 2017 NBA Draft.
There’s more mass in the 6-foot-3 guard ramming his way to the rim this season than last. Fox spent the summer beefing up, to the point that player development coach Larry Lewis said in July that Fox was “more physical than I have seen him. [...] He’s not going to sit back and take punches, he’d rather give them.” The drives to the rim where Fox might’ve only drawn contact before have turned into drives where he’s now finishing and drawing contact. He averages three more trips (5.7) to the line per game than he did last season and is connecting on almost half the shots he takes off drives. As a result, opponents now have to focus on Fox, giving shooters like Buddy Hield and Nemanja Bjelica the capacity to work freely. Fox’s sudden improvement goes beyond giving his teammates better opportunities at the perimeter. After a summer of studying tape of Chris Paul, he’s looked like a new ball handler in the pick-and-roll, more aptly taking on whatever mismatch may come from it.
There’s a new confidence with his range—as a defender and as a shooter— that takes the limits off what kind of point guard Fox can be. His 3- point shots are more frequent and far more likely to sink (39.6 percent this season compared with 30.7 last), though it’s still one of the streakier aspects of his game. Fox has introduced floaters in the face of taller defenders, stepbacks in the face of fierce ones, and passes around all of them; he is averaging 7.5 assists per game, tied with Nikola Jokic for ninth-most in the league. Consistent defense remains a weakness for Fox, though he’s shown the ability to make a stop and immediately cash it in for points in transition. (As a unit, Sacramento’s defense is in the bottom 10.) After his first career triple-double against the Hawks in November, Fox said one of his goals was making an All-Defense team this season. The block and second-half performance against the larger Doncic will help his case—though he’s realistically a few seasons off from sniffing an All-Defense team.
As for the Kings team as a whole, they have been struggling mightily as of late, as they are on a five-game losing streak after being defeated by the Houston Rockets, the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics, and the Atlanta Hawks. They will try to bounce back but the road gets even tougher as they are tasked to go up against talented teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Golden State Warriors.