30Q asks the important questions about the Kings all through September.
Kenny Thomas is the biggest trade chip the Kings have had in a long while ... and that's saying a lot. This is the team which has, in the past five seasons, traded Chris Webber (2005), Peja Stojakovic (2006), Mike Bibby (2008), Ron Artest (2008), Brad Miller (2009) and John Salmons (2009). That's a lot of salary, a lot of talent -- a lot of movement, most of which happened midseason.
But contracts are everything, and of those traded stars only Peja, Ron (both expirings) and Salmons (cheap) had nonoffensive contracts. Webber, Bibby and Miller were essentially salary dumps. Contract-wise, K-9's trade value is closest to Artest's -- Ron-Ron was a one-year rental for the highest bidder. Of course, Ron had ... outside considerations for any trade partner. Namely, he's one of the most polarizing players in the game, on and off the court.
Thomas doesn't have that sort of baggage ... or anything resemblign Artest's production. He is, for all intents and purposes, an $8.775 million piece of paper. This isn't to say he couldn't give a team (maybe even the Kings!) a solid 10 minutes a night. But at this point, no one is trading for Kenny Thomas for a solid 10 minutes a night. They will consider trading for Kenny Thomas for that expiring contract. For cap relief.
So who could want that cap relief? Can K-9 really (finally) be traded?
The salary cap/luxury tax situation for 2010-11 looks dire. The league has warned teams that the tax threshold could be as low as $61 million. Many teams have already committed more than $61 million in payroll in 2010-11. Not all of these teams will be contending for a championship. Further, some of these teams -- planning for a higher threshold -- will do everything they can to avoid the tax. These are the teams Kenny Thomas can help.
With the Kings holding on to roughly $5 million in cap space this season, the team will be able to take a player (or package of players) worth $17 million in 2009-10 salary in exchange for Thomas. That's the high end -- everything smaller is in play, too. It could be a $3 million player (such as a Rasual Butler). Or a $6 million player. Or a $10 million player. It's all in play.
The Magic, for example, have some $80 million in payroll tied up. This is a team that, until a few months ago, refused to cross the tax threshold. The team could be $20 million over the tax threshold in 2010-11. Isn't that a bit much? If it is, the Kings could give the Magic K-9's expiring contract in exchange for Mickael Pietrus or Marcin Gortat (assuming the Kings want either at their current payscales).
The Hornets are on the books for $67 million in 2010-11. The team seems (rightfully) unwilling to part with David West or Julian Wright. But would they give up Wright if a team (say, the Kings) agreed to take Morris Peterson's dead weight contract? That would slip the Hornets well under the lowest forecasted 2010-11 tax level, and it would give the Kings another small forward for their growing stable of small forwards.
And all this ignores the power of Summer 2010. Has the iffy financial forecasting turned teams off to the Summer of '10? Well, LeBron nor Wade nor Bosh has signed an extension. I think we're safe. Teams will keep trying to open up cap space on the off chance they can win the scraps of free agency. Heck, the Kings might be following this method as well. Kenny Thomas, for these teams concerned about cap space, is free money.
Teams will not decline free money, provided the "catch" is appropriate. Portland has options last year with Raef LaFrentz, but decided against mixing up the midseason crew too much. Geoff Petrie will have no such qualms (in large part because no one expects the Kings to contend, really). The Kings have options with the new Theo Ratliff, and we'll definitely see them play out on the rumor pages.