When it comes to contract negotiations, some players like to keep things quiet and avoid as many distractions as possible. Buddy Hield is not one of them. He wants the Kings to pay him big money, and hasn’t been shy about making that clear. Following some interesting quotes during the preseason, he kept up the pressure during the Kings’ fan fest on Saturday.
After throwing down an off-the-backboard alley-oop from De’Aaron Fox, Hield ran past Kings GM Vlade Divac and made money signs with his hands. Divac laughed, and the two hugged it out, but despite that humorous moment, it’s clear Hield isn’t joking about wanting to get paid.
The deadline for upcoming fourth-year players to extend their rookie-scale contracts arrives on Monday, and things haven’t been going well between Hield and the Kings. Chris Haynes of Yahoo reported that Hield is looking for a four-year deal worth around $110 million, while the Kings are offering a smaller $90 million pact.
Typically, these kinds of extensions are negotiated fairly quietly. Even if one isn’t signed, the player only reaches restricted free agency the following summer, so he is still tied to the team until they decide not to match an offer sheet for him. It therefore behooves the player not to create any bad blood with his front office, but Hield threw that script out the window on Wednesday when he claimed that he was ready to “find another home” if the Kings don’t improve their offer.
Hield reiterated that remaining with the Kings is his priority, but he wants to feel wanted by whichever team he signs with.
“I don’t know if things are going to get done,” Hield said. “If it don’t get done, me and my team will look somewhere else, probably look for another home. Until then, we’ll see what happens here. That’s the goal, to be here, and I love Sacramento. But if they don’t want me here, they don’t feel like I’m part of the core — I like respect and loyalty and I feel like I’m part of the group that’s been getting the team back where it needs to be. So like I said I want to be here, but if they don’t want me here I’ll find somewhere else to be.”
There are numerous complicating factors involved in negotiating this deal for both sides. The biggest is Sacramento’s insurance policy, Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Serbian shooting guard is only four months older than Hield, and is likely to come at a cheaper price despite .
Bogdanovic is currently eligible for a four-year extension worth over $51 million. He is unlikely to sign that deal, as free agency will probably yield a far bigger one, but even so, he should cost less than Hield. The two have played together in the past and will do so this season, but in the end, their overlapping skillsets make it likely that only one remains with the team when both are being paid market value.
The clock is ticking on the Kings in that regard. Hield and Bogdanovic are extension-eligible now. De’Aaron Fox will be in a year. Marvin Bagley isn’t too far off either, and Harrison Barnes already inked a four-year megadeal this summer. Eventually, the Kings are going to need to start making decisions about who they can afford to keep.
Keeping Hield would, in all likelihood, be cheaper now than it will be next summer. If Sacramento truly is committed to Hield, $110 million would be a relative bargain. His max on the free-agent market next summer projects to be around $125 million over four years. With younger teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks commanding most of the league’s available cap space in a weak free-agent class, Hield would almost certainly garner such an offer from somebody.
Losing Hield, even by choice, would be a bitter pill for the Kings to swallow. They have not signed any player to a rookie-scale extension since 2013, when they extended DeMarcus Cousins. Hield was acquired in the Cousins trade, and he has more than done his part in helping resuscitate the Kings organization after over a decade in the lottery.
Much of the goodwill this team built up last season would deteriorate if players like Hield walked away, but the NBA is a business first and foremost. Both sides will make whatever decision they believe to be in their best long-term interests, and if this divide persists, there is a real chance Hield plays for a different team next season.