I started this as a response on the Boozer post and realized it was really too long for that. I keep reading that we shouldn’t sign this player or that player because we are "rebuilding." By its very nature, rebuilding is tearing something down—or starting with it torn down—and making the same thing or something newer and better. Clearly we are rebuilding. But what phase are we in?
There are two kinds of demolition—intentional and unintentional. The Clippers would be a great example of unintentional demolition. They don’t mean to give away all their best talent, they just do. I think most of us would agree the our demolition phase started unintentionally when Webber injured his knee. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had reached our peak and began the decent. The process sped up as we lost Vlade, Christie, Peja, etc.
A few of us clung to the hope that we had already hit bottom, and keeping players like Artest would help us rebound more quickly. Clearly Kings management didn’t feel that way. Last year we went into full blown, intentional, damn-the-torpedoes, wrecking ball teardown. I would say the last part of that process will be complete when K-9 (woof) goes bye-bye. Since Webber got injured, we have replaced every player on the team. (Yeah, we got B-Jax back, but now he’s probably gone again.) You don’t get much lower than worst in the NBA.
This would put us in the "building" phase. The goal of building is to get us back into the playoffs and hopefully ring contention. How we do this—especially how quickly we do this—depends on what we want to have when all is said and done, which I’ll explore shortly. First we need to know what our base and is, how we can build on it. Let’s take a look at what we have to work with.
(Continued after the jump)
Evans—Hopefully Tyreke is a long term solution at the point guard. Considering that we had our choice of any point in a point-heavy draft, we have to assume this is the guy to get the team back to the playoffs, or we screwed up big time. Obviously we don’t have a crystal ball, but it is not unreasonable to assume Evans may be a future All-Star.
Rodriguez—Possibly a long term solution, but we have to remember he was essentially given away. He could just need a different system, but we shouldn’t place our hopes too high.
Beno—Best case is a slightly overpaid back-up or traded away if Rodriguez fills that role. Worst case, a new contract to hate.
Overview: On a scale of 1-10 for the PG lineup to take us to the playoffs and beyond, this has to be a solid 7. We don’t really know what we have for sure. But having a future All-Star at point is never a bad thing. And back-ups are in place.
K-Mart—I know we talk about trading him a lot. He certainly has value. If we were still tearing down, he would be a great trading chip for another young. But however you look at it, he is a great value for his productivity if he stays healthy and we surround him with a couple of defensive stoppers. If we compare him to our championship caliber teams, I place him at or above Peja.
Garcia—Is Garcia a part of a championship squad? Possibly. Definitely not a starter, and maybe not even a sixth man on a team that wins a ring. But considering his defense, intensity, ability to make clutch shots, etc, I think he is at least a definite seventh or eighth man. A good piece to have around, but tradable for the right deal.
?—Don’t know that we have anyone else at this point we really want backing up the 2 spot.
Overview: Could a team win a championship with K-mart and Garcia at the 2? I say yes . . . if they have at least one All-Star, and one other All-Star or near All-Star. I’m going to give us an 8 here, just because K-Mart could start—and shine—for most teams in the NBA.
You know things are starting to get dicey when you can’t even decide for sure which player should be your SF of the future. But let’s see what we’ve got.
Nocioni—He’s a career 11/5 guy with grit and hustle. His contract is probably a little high, but not enough to make it untradeable. Those numbers aren’t bad. But Chicago—a team that was trying to push deep into the playoffs traded him for Salmons. I could see him as an off the bench, hustle guy. Or even a starter if we had him surrounded with three top tier players. He would probably not start for most championship contenders, but he could start for a playoff team.
Greene—I’m listing Greene above Casspi only because of his time with the team here. The best that can be said of Greene at this point is potential. He was amazing in college and lit up the summer league last year. But at this point I’d put his chances of being a top tier player at about the same odds of him not being with the team by the time we reach the playoffs. He is a total question mark at this point.
Casspi—Again, a big question mark. Looks like a good risk at the 23rd pick. But we can’t say yes or no as to whether he is part of our future.
Overview: This is probably the toughest call of the bunch. We have some exciting young prospects and a gritty veteran who brings some needed toughness. But at the same time, we don’t have anyone who would definitely start on a team looking to go deep into the playoffs. I think the best I can rate us here is 4.
JT—Is he a key part of our future? Yes. No. Maybe. He’s good enough that most of us don’t want to see him traded. He’s questionable enough that everyone with any sense would have cheered had we landed the first pick and taken Griffin. Again, he has lots of potential. He’s only played for a year, and already teams are trying to get him from us. But for every good thing he does, he does something very poorly. At this point he can score and rebound, but he is not the inside defensive presence a championship team needs. In short, he is a rookie.
Brockman—He could be the next Scott Pollard, or he could be the next Sheldon Williams.
Overview: Realistically, I have to assign an incomplete here. JT appears to be a stud in the making. 11/7 for a rookie is nothing to scoff at. Probably a steal at where he was picked. But is he the starting forward of a playoff team? Not yet. If he doesn’t turn into the starter we need, or if he gets hurt, there is nothing behind him.
Hawes—Of all the positions, this is where I would expect to get the biggest disagreements. I think we have a future All-Star center on our team. LPA is not so sure. He is not an All-Star player yet. But he has shown some signs of greatness—in spurts. He has also shown that he is capable of losing focus when things don’t go his way. His numbers last year were virtually identical to JT, even though it was his second year in the league. Not even good enough to get him into the 2nd year All-Star game. But, when you consider that he is actually almost two years younger than JT, and was injured most of his first season, it makes you wonder what he might be capable of if he continues to progress at the rate he has over the last two years. None-the-less, despite my optimism, he would not start for almost any playoff team at this point in his career.
?—We don’t have a true back-up center.
Overview: I’m going with a 5.5 here. In my opinion, Hawes is a solid 7. He should play significant minutes with us in the future as either a starter or backup center. But again, if he gets hurt or does not pan out, we end up playing someone out of position.
So our base is solid in the backcourt, deep but lacking known commodities at the three, and dangerously shallow but with good potential at the four and five. Where do we go from here?
Well there are three primary options for the building phase which I believe we have entered.
1) We continue to play the young guys and see what happens. This is not a bad strategy. It lets us see what we have in players like Greene, JT, Hawes, and our new picks. It will also almost assuredly get us a top draft pick next year. I don’t care if you think Evans is the next D-Wade or whoever, I don’t see a huge turnaround in our team as currently comprised. The upside of this option is that we get to see all of our favorites play extended minutes. The downside is that we are going to lose a lot of games. In fact, I honestly don’t see us breaking 25 wins, unless Westphal proves to be a genius. Yes, losing is part of rebuilding, but the danger is forming a losing mentality, not selling tickets, and possibly losing our team to another city. (I don’t think the last is going to happen, but it must be considered.)
2) We take all of our young guys, picks, and cap space, and make a Celtics-esque transformation this summer, opening a short window with players like Turk, Boozer, Amare, etc. This is an all or nothing scenario, and it probably isn’t even doable. But after what Ainge pulled off, every team’s fans have to at least have it in the back of their minds. Go from something to nothing in one fell swoop. Hey GP has done it before. If we did make such a move, I would rather see us do it with guys whose windows don’t close in the next couple of years. Do you want to be a Celts fan two years from now?
3) The last option is to keep what we have—as much as possible—while shopping for the veteran pieces that could step right in and make us better. How much better, and at what positions? Well that’s where we have to decide what we really have on our current roster. If you believe that every one of our starters listed above are the team of the future in larval form, you go for backups at the four, five, and possibly two.
If you believe that some of our players are not sure things, you have to at least consider taking a player like Bosh, Boozer, Milsap, etc who would be expected to start at their position. Personally I think we would be foolish to sign or trade for a starting point or shooting guard. We are solid there, or will be if Evans pans out. I don’t see us getting a starting small forward, unless we can trade Noc. However, much as I like JT and Hawes, if we have the chance to acquire an All-Star at the four, five, or three, without giving up a key part of the future (Evans, Martin, Hawes, or JT) it would be foolish not to consider it. At best we end up with two great players at one position (see Utah with Milsap and Boozer.) At worst, one of them pans out and the other one doesn’t.
In recap, I’m not saying who we should focus on—although a K-9 for Boozer deal would definitely pique my interest—but I am saying that unless we are 100% positive Greene, Hawes, and JT are going to be future top tier players we should be looking for All-Stars who have at least five years of quality playing time in them. The time of building has begun.