Kings swing for DeRozan – Will he thrive as scorer in Sacramento?

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday night that the Sacramento Kings are acquiring free agent DeMar DeRozan in a three-year, $74 million sign-and-trade deal involving the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs. As part of the deal, Harrison Barnes and an unprotected 2031 pick swap will go to the Spurs, while Chris Duarte, two second-round picks and cash will go to the Bulls.

The Kings have been looking to add another star player to a core that includes De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray and Malik Monk after missing the playoffs last season. This trade carries significant fantasy basketball and betting implications. But will it make the Kings a true contender in the Western Conference? Let’s take a closer look. — Eric Moody

Fantasy value: Can DeRozan thrive as a scorer in Sacramento?

The six-time All-Star, who turns 35 next month, is coming off an impressive three-year run with the Bulls, during which DeRozan averaged 25.5 PPG. A big part of that scoring came from the midrange area. DeRozan has been the most prolific scorer on midrange attempts during that span, and the margin between him and the second-highest volume scorer, Kevin Durant, is wide. Last season, he averaged 24.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 5.3 APG. DeRozan also finished second in Clutch Player of the Year voting, behind Stephen Curry. Also, he led the league in total minutes played last season at age 34, making him the oldest player to achieve this feat. DeRozan has not missed more than 11 games in a season since 2012.

Earlier in his career, DeRozan spent most of his time at shooting guard before transitioning to small forward over the past five years. He will remain a top fantasy option with the Kings, particularly in points leagues versus category formats. However, he won’t help the Kings address their need for size, length, and defense, which is crucial since Sacramento has ranked in the bottom half of the league in points allowed per 100 possessions over that time frame. — Moody

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Betting implications: Are the Kings legitimate contenders in 2024-25?

In 2023, the Kings made the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. However, last season, Sacramento landed in the play-in tournament and lost to the New Orleans Pelicans in the matchup for the No. 8 seed. Although the Kings were desperate for someone other than Fox to run the offense and create shots in a high-level playoff setting, I can’t shake the feeling that DeRozan’s addition is more about satisfying an ownership group looking to recapture the magic from the 2022-2023 season. Let me explain.

Sacramento has ranked in the top half of the league in points scored per 100 possessions over the last two seasons. The Kings’ mantra is to play at a fast pace and outscore opponents while playing mediocre defense. While DeRozan does give the Kings a legitimate third option behind Fox and Sabonis, the reality is that defense is the greater concern here.

The problem is DeRozan isn’t great on defense, and he can’t make much of an impact on offense when he doesn’t have the ball. The Kings already have a lot of ball-handling with Fox and Monk, both of whom command high usage rates. Additionally, the Kings run a lot of their offense through Domantas Sabonis. Their system emphasizes movement, both off the ball and with their players, but DeRozan is a bit of a ball-stopper. While he is a solid playmaker when he has the ball, Fox and Monk are also not known for their exceptional defense.

Furthermore, the Kings don’t have a high-end rim protector, and let’s be real, Sabonis is an offense-first big. The loss of Barnes, especially on the defensive end, will be felt by the Kings. Although Keon Ellis emerged as an excellent defender late last season, with DeRozan in town, will Ellis even be provided enough minutes to make an impact?

Even though it’s a cliché, the phrase “defense wins championships” holds true in the NBA. While adding a talented player like DeRozan might seem like a great move on the surface, the Kings’ defensive woes will be tough to overcome in a stacked Western Conference. Until Sacramento addresses these issues, it’s hard to take them seriously as a contender for the conference title (+3300 at ESPN BET) or the NBA championship (+7500). However, DeRozan does raise the Kings’ regular season floor in terms of win total, given that Sacramento now have two top clutch performers in DeRozan (+20000 to win regular season MVP) and Fox. This also makes betting on the Kings to win the Pacific Division (+370) an intriguing wager. — Moody

Pacific Division Odds:

Other moves around the NBA:

Klay Thompson to Dallas Mavericks: Thompson left his Warriors’ home to join a Mavericks squad that desperately needs a consistent 3-point shooter on the wing. During the regular season, the Mavericks played two departed wings – Tim Hardaway Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. – a combined 50+ minutes per game, and in that time they combined for 23.0 PPG on a combined 8.1 of 18.9 (42.9 FG%) from the field and 3.8 of 10.7 (35.5 3P%) from behind the arc. Thompson should be able to produce very close to that volume of scoring and 3-point shooting in about 60% of those minutes, due to better shooting efficiency. Thompson should get better shots in Dallas, playing off the gravity and playmaking of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, than even what he was used to in Golden State. Instead of having to operate so much off the move, which has gotten more challenging as he has aged and come off major leg injuries, Thompson should get more spot-up looks, particularly in the corners.

Prior to the offseason moves, while with the Warriors, I had Thompson projected around 130th in my way-too-early rankings. This move likely moves him back into my top-100 as a solid starting flex option.

Buddy Hield to Golden State Warriors: The logic for this move seems clear. The Warriors lost Klay Thompson and replaced him with the player whose offensive game most resembles his. With the Warriors last season, Thompson averaged 17.9 PPG on 6.4 of 14.7 (43.2 %) FG and 3.5 of 9.0 (38.7 3P%) from downtown in 29.7 MPG. Hield has career averages of 43.4 FG% and 30.0 3P%, on shots very similar to the ones he should get with the Warriors. Thompson started the majority of last season, but by the end he was coming off the bench. Hield, too, mixed starting and coming off the bench for both the Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers last season. He played fewer minutes (25.7 MPG) than Thompson last season, but the season before averaged 31.0 MPG for the Pacers and scored 16.8 PPG.

One area Hield has a clear advantage over Thompson is availability. Hield has averaged about one missed game per season in his career, and that durability helps his projected fantasy totals. Prior to the move, Hield projected to a borderline fantasy roster spot in the 130s of the rankings. With this move, he rises to just outside of the top-100, firmly in play for a starting flex spot in typical fantasy hoops leagues.

Harrison Barnes to San Antonio Spurs: Barnes is a 12-year veteran with a history of availability and professional scoring, both inside and outside the arc. Barnes becomes the second notable veteran to join the very young Spurs this offseason, and presumably he’ll be expected to work with Chris Paul to help Victor Wembanyama and the developing Spurs learn to play winning basketball. It isn’t clear whether Barnes will start or come off the bench, but he will likely score more per-minute playing off Wembanyama on a team without dominant perimeter scorers than he did on a Kings squad that had been chock-full of perimeter scoring options.

Prior to the move, I had Barnes ranked 141st in my way-too-early rankings. He has the potential to move up into the 110 to 130 range with this move, with the variability tied to his uncertain role. We should get a better idea of what his role should be later in the offseason.

Caleb Martin to Philadelphia 76ers: Martin has toggled between starting and coming off the bench for the Heat over the last two seasons, but appears slated to be the fifth starter on the 76ers this season. He would be a role player 3-and-D forward on a 76ers squad featuring three high-usage scorers, so would likely produce numbers similar to the 10.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.4 3-pointers and 1.4 combined steals and blocks he averaged in 23 starts for the Heat last season.

Prior to the move, Martin ranked 182nd in my way-too-early rankings, outside of draft range for all but the deepest fantasy leagues. If he is a full-time starter in Philadelphia, his upside could get him closer to that top-150 and consideration for late round fantasy draft consideration. — Andre Snellings

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