The stage is set for an intense backup center battle when the Kings open training camp in Sacramento.
The Kings officially announced the signing of veteran center JaVale McGee on Saturday. When training camp begins Oct. 3, they will have five players vying for what will likely be two backup spots behind All-Star center Domantas Sabonis.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed per team policy, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Kings gave McGee a one-year guaranteed contract for the veteran minimum. A minimum contract for a player with 10 or more years of NBA service is nearly $3.2 million. Under the minimum salary exception, only about $2 million counts against the team’s salary cap.
The guaranteed contract doesn’t guarantee McGee a spot on the roster, but it might give him an inside track. The Kings have six centers under contract: Sabonis, McGee, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Neemias Queta and Skal Labissiere.
Only Sabonis, Len and McGee have guaranteed contracts. Sources have told The Sacramento Bee the Kings plan to assign Labissiere to the G League Stockton Kings, so that will likely leave McGee, Len, Noel and Queta to compete for two roster spots.
McGee is a 15-year veteran, a three-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist who has appeared in 74 career playoff games. He won championships with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018 and another with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.
McGee is Sacramento’s biggest backup option at 7 feet tall and 270 pounds, but he’s also the oldest at age 35. McGee averaged 9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 74 games for the Phoenix Suns in 2021-22, but he showed signs of decline last season, averaging 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 42 games for the Dallas Mavericks.
Len and Noel are also veteran centers with playoff experience. Len, 30, is 7-foot-1 and 250 pounds. He is a 10-year veteran who has appeared in 12 career playoff games.
Len played 26 games for Sacramento last season, averaging 1.7 points and 2.3 rebounds. He played sparingly over the first few months of the season, but coach Mike Brown turned to Len in mid-March as the team continued to search for a reliable backup center option.
The Kings re-signed Len on a fully guaranteed one-year minimum deal for $3.2 million.
Noel, 29, is 6-10 and 220 pounds. He is a nine-year veteran who has appeared in 17 career playoff games. Noel averaged career highs of 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015-16 and recorded a career-high 2.2 blocks per game for the New York Knicks in 2020-21, but he has appeared in only 42 games over the past seasons.
The Kings signed Noel to a free-agent contract for the veteran minimum of $3.2 million. According to Spotrac, the deal includes $300,000 in guaranteed money. Noel will make $600,000 guaranteed if he makes the opening night roster. The contract will become fully guaranteed if he is still on the team Jan. 10.
Queta, 24, is a younger option with great size at 7 feet tall and 245 pounds. He has demonstrated impressive upside in Stockton, where he was runner-up for the G League MVP award last season, but he has yet to find his footing in the NBA.
The Kings re-signed Queta on a two-year, $4.2 million contract, but the deal includes only $250,000 in guaranteed money in the first year with no guarantee in the second year. Queta will receive $500,000 guaranteed on opening night and a full guarantee on Jan. 10.