When the Sacramento Kings traded the 24th pick and Richaun Holmes to the Dallas Mavericks, it created cap space for the Kings to raise-and-extend Domantas Sabonis. Or, at least, that’s the most common framing of the move. But the Kings could have done the raise-and-extend before that trade, they simply wouldn’t have had the cap space to raise-and-extend Sabonis and re-sign all of their core players from last season. The move allowed the Kings to complete the Sabonis deal without losing Harrison Barnes or Trey Lyles for nothing in free agency. Lyles returned to the Kings on a 2-year, $16 million contract. It wasn’t a move that gets a lot of attention, but Lyles was a key bench contributor for the Kings last season and keeping him in Sacramento is a big win for the Kings.
The question now is how Lyles will be utilized in the upcoming season. Last year Lyles spent most of minutes playing the power forward spot, but the Kings found success late in the season and in playoffs utilizing Lyles as a small ball center. The Kings still have Keegan Murray, they brought back Harrison Barnes, and the Kings added Sasha Vezenkov. While we don’t know exactly how quickly Vezenkov will be ready for rotation minutes, the expectation is that he comes to Sacramento ready to contribute and play right away. Although Barnes tends to play more of a small forward role for the Kings, there’s clearly a bit of a logjam forming among Sacramento’s big forwards.
It’s a reasonable expectation that Lyles will still see minutes at the 4, but that he will play even more minutes at center this coming season. Behind Sabonis the Kings have Alex Len, JaVale McGee, and Lyles. Len and McGee provide varying skill sets but are both big lane cloggers. Lyles is the center option that allows the Kings to maintain their shooting and spacing, and can be used to pull opposing rim protectors out of the paint.
I’d expect Lyles to see his minutes split between multiple positions, and that his minutes could fluctuate from game to game dependent on matchups. But it’s a great problem for a team to have so many playable forwards who can shoot and space around Fox and Sabonis.