The Sacramento Kings have traded forwards Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan to the Portland Trail Blazers for guard Kent Bazemore and forward Anthony Tolliver. Sacramento also received Portland’s 2024 and 2025 second-round picks in the deal.
Bazemore, a 6-4 swingman was touted as a player with star potential when he signed a 4-year/$70 million deal with Atlanta back in 2016. In 43 games with Portland this season, he is averaging 7.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, while hitting just 32.7% from deep.
The 7-year veteran does bring a scrappy presence to the court, but his limited height might hinder his defensive effectiveness at the small forward position. It will be interesting to see how head coach Luke Walton chooses to use him as the club has plenty of quality shooting guards already on the roster, but a newly opened gaping hole at the backup small forward position behind 6-8 Harrison Barnes.
Tolliver is making a return trip to Sacramento. He played in 65 games for the Kings back in the 2016-17 season. Best described as the “classic stretch 4”, the 34-year-old veteran can do little more than grab a few rebounds and shoot the three. In 33 games with the Blazers, he averaged 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds. It is unclear what his role could be in Sacramento as sharp-shooter Nemanja Bjelica has the stretch big man role firmly claimed. But he is a solid locker room presence and the team is in desperate need of that as they go through troubling times at the midway point of the season.
Who are the Kings losing?
The move marked the end of Ariza’s brief 32-game career as a King where he averaged 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists off the bench. He was brought in to bring a veteran mentality to the locker room and a 3-and-D presence to the floor where he shot a respectable 35.1% from deep and was a key figure in Walton’s defensive lineup.
Gabriel went undrafted out of Kentucky in the 2018 NBA Draft and played for the Kings’ G-League squad in Stockton as a two-way player last season. In 11 games with the parent club this year, the 6-8 small forward averaged just under two points and one rebound in limited minutes.
The Sudanese native was viewed as a project by the front office with a nice mix of athleticism and scoring from both inside and out. He teamed up with Kings’ star point guard De’Aaron Fox during their freshman year in college.
In a strange twist of fate, Swanigan is headed back to Portland after being acquired by Sacramento back in 2019 when the Kings sent center Skal Labissiere to the Blazers in a straight up swap. The 6-9 big man out of Perdue never fit into the Kings’ rotation and had his 2020-21 rookie option declined earlier this season.
What this move could mean?
For Sacramento, this appears to be the first step towards another move. Aside from collecting a couple additional second-round picks and clearing a roster spot, Sacramento really didn’t gain much with this trade as a standalone. They saved about $1.8 million in salary space next season via Ariza’s small partial guarantee but lost significant length at the backup small forward position.
With center Dewayne Dedmon wanting to move on, it is highly likely that GM Vlade Divac is working on a second move that could involve that newly opened roster spot and/or those 2nd round picks from Portland.
With the recent emergence of center Richaun Holmes, Dedmon has become expendable. The Kings are hoping that the three-man rotation of Marvin Bagley, Holmes, and Bjelica will serve as the core bigs of the future.
This move could also spell more consistent time on the court for swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic. Many national writers would love to see the 6-6 sharpshooter/playmaker move to a team where he could be a focal point of the offense, but Divac and the front office have been clear that they want to re-sign the 27-year-old Serbian star this summer. And getting Dedmon’s money off the books for next season would clear enough room for that to happen.
The Kings’ season has not necessarily turned out as everyone planned, but Divac and his staff are in no way panicking. Things happen and you just roll with it.
Let’s see what is next as this team is not afraid of shaking things up mid-season. While we wouldn’t expect a major bombshell, clarity on the new direction of the Sacramento Kings should reveal itself soon.