Quite obviously, I'm in the tank for Leon Powe. I begged the Kings to draft him in 2006 with the No. 19 pick which went to Quincy Douby -- Powe ended up going to Boston with the 19th pick in the second round. Powe's story is heart-rending, and it gets even moreso every passing day. (He also happens to be a killer player.)
In Game 2 of Boston's opening round playoff series against Chicago, Powe tore his ACL. He finished the game on the injured leg, but then had to forfeit his season to get the ligament surgically repaired. This week, the Celtics decided to refuse to make a $997,000 qualifying offer to Powe because he won't likely be ready until December or February and the Celtics cannot afford to lock up a roster spot with an injured player when they're trying to get another championship. (It's perfectly fair. Heartbreaking, considering Powe's work ethic, character and talent. But fair. Boston can do whatever it wants.)
So Leon Powe is a free agent. The Kings will look to reportedly add one big man, with incumbent Ike Diogu as the early favorite. But would bringing in Powe turn out to be a better play for Sacramento?
Powe and Diogu, who battled in the Pac 10 for their Cal and Arizona State teams, are actually rather similar players: tough rebounders, good scorers, undersized defenders. Powe is the better rebounder, Diogu the more frequent scorer. Powe's defense has a better reputation at this point, though Diogu hasn't exactly had a supporting cast like Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo. Diogu will turn 26 in September, Powe will turn 26 in January. Despite one less season in the league, Powe has played about 400 extra minutes.
Powe, despite his size (6'8), is a great rebounder. He rebounds roughly 15% of all offensive rebound opportunities -- if he played enough minutes to qualify, he'd be near the league lead in that category. He's also a strong defensive rebounder, better (by the numbers) than Jason Thompson and on par with Spencer Hawes.
Diogu, though, would also be the best rebounder not named Jon Brockman on a Kings team. Ike's offensive rebounding is better than that of Thompson (who found himself in the league top 20 much of the year) but not quite up to Powe's standard, and Ike's defensive rebounding is just OK. (Thompson, Hawes and one can assume Brockman would be better defensive rebounders. As Thompson and Hawes are not great defensive rebounders, this could be an issue.)
Diogu has always been a high-shot guy when getting into games. His career usage rate is at a mammoth 22% (!), and over his four years he has averaged more than 12 FGAs per 36 minutes -- one shot every three minutes. Powe has maintained a high usage as well, though -- 20% over three season, shooting 10 FGAs per game. This high usage rate for each player makes sense when you consider how strong they are on the offensive glass -- when you get an offensive rebound, you're usually in position to go back up with an open shot. (This also explains why strong offensive rebounders -- think Joel Przybilla -- are often efficient scorers.)
Both are average shotblockers (good for their size, but average for the position) who infrequently commit turnovers. Both draw fouls at an insane rate, though Diogu is a considerably better FT shooter.
The safe bet would be Diogu. He can play from Day 1. He has existed in Sacramento without issue for a while, and Bobby Jackson told KHTK he was the hardest worker in practice. He'll always have the Denver and Minnesota games. Powe might not be back until February. If he's the pick, and God forbid one of the starters gets injured early, you're screwed. But when he does return, he immediately becomes an incredibly third big, a key rebounder, defender and scorer in your frontcourt. And he's a helluva good dude who can help build the relationship between the team and community.
The Kings aren't in a "win now" mode. In all honestly, the Kings could sign both, Powe more as insurance (or Diogu as a placeholder) and still have room for one Summer League invite (Jerel McNeal, John Bryant). I think either would be a smart pick-up, though my heart pulls for Powe.