Will the Sacramento Kings be active at the trade deadline?
Despite their sub .500 record to start the season, the Sacramento Kings (12-20) currently sit just two games behind the Utah Jazz for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. For the Kings, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006, it has been years since they’ve been into this position heading into January.
However, the team has lost three consecutive games and holds a paltry 4-14 record versus Western Conference opposition. The Kings recently lost to the league worst Philadelphia 76ers (3-31), which prompted head coach George Karl to make some pointed comments toward his current collection of talent.
“My feeling is we have too many offensive players and not enough defensive players,” Karl said, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “We don’t have enough guts to make stops.”
With just over six weeks until the February 18 trade deadline and the Kings’ playoff hopes still viable, you have to wonder if Karl’s words signal the beginning of a potential roster shift.
“I told the team inconsistent intensity, inconsistent focus, inconsistent toughness and mental discipline,” Karl said. “Too many times we’ve come out on this court and been the quiet team, or the soft team or the cool team and not the man team.”
The team currently has $72 million in guaranteed salaries on the books this season. Reserve Eric Moreland’s $845K salary becomes fully guaranteed on January 10. The only true expiring contract on the roster is former All-Star Rajon Rondo, but the veteran has played extremely well during his short stint in Sacramento and may become one of their long-term pieces.
Veterans Caron Butler and James Anderson hold player options for the 2016-17 season, but they’re both on veteran minimum type deals that will not be able to snag a significant roster upgrade without more parts included.
A player to keep an eye on is former lottery pick Ben McLemore. The guard voiced his frustration with Karl earlier this season after he lost his spot in the starting lineup. McLemore has since reclaimed his starting spot but the third year guard’s minutes (21.4) are down significantly from last season (32.6) and his rookie campaign (26.7).
The only players on the roster locked in through the 2017-18 season are DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli. Forward Rudy Gay holds a $14 million player option for that campaign, with McLemore set to hit free agency during the summer of 2017.
How long can Charlotte hold on without Al Jefferson
The Charlotte Hornets (17-14) are in the hunt for a playoff berth, sitting just a half game behind eighth place Boston in the Eastern Conference standings. What makes the Hornets’ season even more impressive to date is the fact center Al Jefferson has appeared in only 19 contests due to injury.
However, it was recently announced Jefferson will miss another six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to address a tear in the lateral meniscus of his right knee. If the initial timeline holds true, Jefferson won’t be available until after the All-Star break and trade deadline.
But will the Hornets be able to keep pace without their franchise player?
The Hornets last reached the playoffs in 2014 on the back of Jefferson, who was rewarded with an All-NBA third team selection. But last season, his scoring and rebounding numbers declined and the games missed due to injury piled up. This season, despite shedding significant weight during the summer, Jefferson has been battling numerous ailments.
Jefferson, 30, is in the final season of his current deal and set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer. The 12-year veteran is averaging 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds on the season.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.