Kings' Thomas suddenly a deadline topic

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
10:00
AM ET
Isaiah ThomasRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesIsaiah Thomas is averaging 20.2 points and 6.3 assists per game this season.
It would be wrong to say that the Sacramento Kings are shopping backcourt dynamo Isaiah Thomas.

However …

Sources with knowledge of the situation say that Thomas can indeed be plucked from the Kings this week … provided someone meets their presumably high asking price for him.

Which is still fairly surprising to hear when Thomas is having a breakout season.

The Kings, though, are in a tough spot. They can't really rush out with the same zeal shown Tuesday, when GM Pete D'Alessandro forcefully quashed the notion that high-flying rookie Ben McLemore is in any way on the table because Sacramento has no choice but to investigate every option with Thomas as he inches closer to restricted free agency in July.

It's a tricky case all around. Thomas is making less than a million bucks this season on the final year of his rookie contract while producing at some genuinely gaudy levels with his sparkly PER of 21.06. Yet it's also true that re-signing him this summer could take the Kings into luxury-tax territory depending on the size of the offers Thomas receives. So a trade can't be ruled out, especially not if someone is willing to offer a quality draft pick, which has become such a coveted form of currency in the NBA.

The Kings have been so active on the trade front in recent months since the arrival of new owner Vivek Ranadive that it was only a matter of time before Thomas' name made it firmly into speculation circulation. The safe assumption is that Thomas would have to be part of a bigger deal or draft-pick-sweetened trade, given his minuscule salary, to bring back anything of value to the Kings. Yet the mere fact that we even have to examine all the variables so hard here makes this one of the more interesting subjects of what's been a fairly pedestrian week so far.

And it certainly adds a new wrinkle to the long-running debate in Sacramento about whether Thomas, despite all of his statistical success both off the bench and as a starter this season, is truly at his best as a tempo-changing sixth man because of his size and skill set.

Maybe Rudy Gay will opt out of the $19.3 million he's owed next season and sign a long-term extension in Sacramento at a lower annual number that takes the Kings out of luxury-tax jeopardy and renders all of the above concerns moot. The Kings' issue here, however, is that they're not going to know what happens with Gay before Thursday's deadline, which is among the reasons Toronto traded him in December.

So while it's true that no team out there is going to be able to just swipe him for a like-salaried player, Thomas' future has emerged as a trade deadline week factor. Which is surely sooner than the Kings' fans who've grown to love the little guard so much were expecting.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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