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3 players Sacramento Kings should pursue in 2023 NBA free agency

The Sacramento Kings reached the NBA playoffs for the first time in 17 years, taking the defending champion Golden State Warriors to a Game 7 in the first round. While the Kings’ season ended with a first-round exit, the upcoming NBA offseason may allow them to take another step forward.

Sacramento enters the summer in an excellent position to remain a threat in the Western Conference. De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis are both under contract next season and just entering the prime of their careers. With Davion Mitchell, Keegan Murray, Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter also signed to multi-year deals, the Kings’ core pieces are in place.

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However, it became apparent in the playoffs where Sacramento’s shortcomings are. Harrison Barnes, an unrestricted free agent, played just 29 combined minutes in the final two games and the Kings were better with him off the floor. With Trey Lyles also a free agent, Sacramento has clear needs at forward this summer.

Here are three top NBA free agents the Sacramento Kings should pursue this summer.

P.J. Washington, forward, restricted free agent

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Oklahoma City Thunder
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While the class of unrestricted free agents isn’t great this summer, there are a few appealing restricted free agents Sacramento should target. P.J. Washington is among them, despite the fact he’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds.

Related: What was happening the last time the Sacramento Kings made the playoffs?

Washington, who has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, proved to be a very effective player with the Charlotte Hornets. Selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Kentucky alum shot 44.4 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from the perimeter this past season.

One of the nice things about Washington, beyond his solid three-point shooting, is his switchability. He can be a floor-spacing forward when Sacramento has the ball and handle himself defensively against wings of all sizes. If Sacramento can’t bring Lyles back, Washington is an ideal replacement.

Kyle Kuzma, forward, UFA

NBA: Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kuzma almost played for the Sacramento Kings. He revealed that in 2021, he was informed that he was part of the trade sending Buddy Hield to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was excited about the opportunity to play in Sacramento, but the Lakers backed out of the deal at the last minute.

Now, there could be an opportunity for the 6-foot-9 forward to make his way to the Kings. Sacramento needs a forward to replace Barnes in its starting lineup and Kuzma would be an upgrade. Plus, he fits into the core as an ascending 28-year-old wing.

Related: Sacramento Kings’ Game 7 draws highest TV ratings in decades

Kuzma can do a lot for the Kings. He’s a better rebounder than Barnes (11.5 percent total rebound percentage vs 7.9 TRB%) is a more reliable playmaker (11.5 AST% vs 7.9 AST%) and he rates as a better player defensively. Sacramento would also benefit from adding his shooting from the corner (41 percent). The only major hurdle for the Kings would be Washington’s willingness to meet Kuzma’s asking price.

Cameron Johnson, forward, RFA

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired by the Brooklyn Nets at the NBA trade deadline, 6-foot-8 forward Cameron Johnson blossomed after receiving a better opportunity. In Brooklyn, Johns’s usage rate climbed to 21.1 percent and he turned that into some of the best numbers in his career.

  • Cameron Johnson stats (Brooklyn Nets): 16.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 114 Defensive Rating

Related: European basketball star likely to join Sacramento Kings for 2023-’24

Johnson is expected to land a multi-year deal worth more than $18 million per season in free agency. It’s a significant price to pay, but his time with Brooklyn and Phoenix demonstrates why he’s a fit in Sacramento.

Among forwards with 20-plus starts, Johnston ranked 21st in Defensive Win Shares (0.116) right behind the likes of Jaylen Brown (0.214) and O.G. Anunoby (0.12). In addition, he posted the 13th-highest steal percentage (26.6 percent) among starting forwards. Lastly, Johnson’s +2.5 D-Raptor would’ve ranked third on the Sacramento Kings roster last season and his 3.8 total RAPTOR would’ve led the team.

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