Apparently, the Kings are highly interested in a defensive-minded center. Marc Stein of ESPN reports on TrueHoop that the Kings are in exploratory discussions with Philadelphia and Boston in a deal that would bring centre (boom!) Samuel Dalembert to Sacramento with Kenny Thomas and Andres Nocioni departing. Essentially, it brings in Dalembert, whose defense is well-reputed but whose offense and sometimes attitude is disastrous, for two seasons while cutting some salary off this season's ledger and freeing the team from Nocioni's longer contract. Here are the full contract details for the only three players who matter to Sacramento. (Boston, who would receive Nocioni, would also send a couple of dudes to Philly.) As always with matters of salary, thanks be to ShamSports (who you can also follow for pithy remarks, obscure transaction news and feuds with Sam Amick [no really!] on Twitter: @ShamSports).
The Kings would save a solid $4 million this season, give or take as roughly 10 percent of the season's salary has already been paid out. Next season, the Kings would have $46 million in payroll on the books instead of $40 million, and would be out of the running for a major free agent chase, barring something unexpected with the salary cap. The Kings would gain $6.7 million in space in 2011-12 (putting the team at $34 million in commitments without accounting for Spencer Hawes's extension) as the then-31 Nocioni would no longer be on the books. Nocioni's 2012-13 salary is a team option, which is unlikely to be picked up by any team, unless Bueno Aires grabs an expansion club and Dorothy Nocioni is the owner. So basically, the Kings would save roughly $4 million this season, spend an extra $6 million next season and save $6.7 million in '11-12. A net savings of roughly $4.5 million over three seasons.
That's the money situation. What about the talent?
As we've discussed, Thomas is a bit of gravy right now. He's playing well on defense and on the boards, but he's really just an expiring contract. Adding another pivot would guarantee that. Heck, if Jon Brockman were an inch taller, or Sean May were 10 pounds lighter, Thomas would never get off the bench. Losing Thomas, while sad, because man we have been through a lot with that guy!, would not matter much to the product on the court. Just the product in my chest.
Nocioni has been a good contributor for the Kings, maybe the fourth best offensive weapon at any time. He's also, as we were reminded frequently during the Thunder-Kings game, an active defender, though he's less brilliant against lesser talents, where he loses concentration and chases the ball. Right now, he's the team's most easily swingable big small forward (a minor victory) and one of the team's more reliable shooters (with Omri Casspi, Beno Udrih and a healthy Kevin Martin ... and someday a healthy Francisco Garcia). You assume Ime Udoka would take over Nocioni's spot, at least temporarily, as the suggested three-guard line-up looms with Martin's expected return around the New Year. If it's not Udoka, Paul Westphal can choose between Casspi (the better scorer and more energetic defender) or Donte Greene (the ultra-athletic, hyper-celebratory choice).
But that's all temporary. Long-term, the Kings have plenty of options at the position. Udoka is the team's best defender without question, and he can hit an open shot (which is arguably all you want from Nocioni, though he tends to create in a pinch, which we'd miss until Martin returns or Spencer Hawes regains confidence). Casspi is a bright star -- not star as in NBA Star, but star as in shining light which will always rise with the moon and never disappear until it burns out in a wonderful supernova, which won't happen for millions of years. Greene, of course, is the secret lock of hair in the shoebox, the everlasting dream of tomorrow. Garcia might be a lost cause this season (he'll have about 25-30 games once he returns, and he'll need to refind his stroke on that shooting hand), but he's signed up for the long haul and can do a lot of what Nocioni can do, except for the rebounding. He is, basically, Nocioni. Which makes it weird that we have two Nocionis. But it had to happen -- we couldn't go from two Salmonses (John Salmons and Garcia) to zero Salmonses without making it up somewhere else. (Can we try two Martins or two Thompsons next time? Thanks.)
Now, to the Haitian Conflagration. Interestingly enough, I wondered about Dalembert last trade deadline.
[Tyson] Chandler's reputation is much stronger than that of Dalembert, though I can't really understand why. The only real, measurable advantages for Chandler are that he is 17 months younger, that he refuses to shoot if he can't dunk (hence the higher FG%) and he doesn't put the ball on the floor ever.
Dalembert is an equal or slightly better rebounder, a far better shot-blocker, is slightly cheaper in salary and MUCH cheaper in terms of acquisition costs.
(Quoting myself once again! The Ego is back, baby! Step off, Id.) Chandler is no longer a comparison, as he is spoken for. But look at Dalembert on his own merits: a career defensive rebounding percentage of 24.5 percent, a career block rate of 5.8 percent (that is, when on the court he blocks 5.8 percent of all opponent field goal attempts), a career individual Defensive Rating of 101.5, which happens to rank 88th in the NBA ... all time. He has played every game in each of the past three seasons. He is 75th in NBA history in total blocks, despite averaging only 26 minutes per game for his career (due to fouls and a lack of offensive ability). He was the third best rebounder in the league last season: 6th on the offensive glass (better than J.T.), third on the defensive glass (behind Troy Murphy and Dwight Howard), third overall (behind Howard and Kevin Love). He has finished top seven in the league in block rate in five of his eight NBA seasons, and top nine in rebound rate three times.
For a 7-footer, his career field goal percentage of 52.3 percent might be a bit low. But his True Shooting percentage (that's the best measure of scoring efficiency) is above league average, because unlike most defensive specialist centers he can hit free throws (better than 70 percent in each of the past four seasons and at 78 percent this year). His turnover rate is atrocious, which means he needs to stop handling the ball. I think a coach like Paul Westphal -- who convinced D.G. to stop taking hurried off-balance threes -- could impart that knowledge effectively. If not, your third big (who might start in front of Hawes -- that'd be a pretty big question) would have terrible hands. Not the worst realization, given how many top-level bigs have terrible hands, and given how good the other two prominent Kings bigs' hands are. (No Hamburglar.)
You know, if too many deals which I support come up, I'm going to be found out as an antsy Nancy who is just rooting for a trade. I'm not. But I understand the importance of interior defense -- look at much Hawes, who improved from dreadful to passable on defense, has helped! Imagine inserting a real, live, intimidating defender to the back line. The Kings, no matter how much they have surprised, are still a bad defensive team. Dalembert would help, this year and next. Given that the financial commitment is relatively short, and the price relatively small (no knock on Nocioni -- again, he's a bit superfluous here), it's something any team in Sacramento's position should consider. I trust that provided Boston is on board (Philadelphia certainly must be -- that franchise needs cap space like Jim Eyen needs a personal shopper), the Kings will consider this deal extensively. It's an intriguing one.
UPDATE: I completely neglected J.R. Giddens in this. Take roughly $1 million off this season's savings, and add a relatively old (24) Greene-level two-guard prospect. Giddens played 26 games for Kings assistant Bryan Gates's Utah Flash last season, and turned out a non-elite but good 19.1 PER. On the surface, I can tell he shot twos wonderfully and rebounded well for a 6-5 fella.