We have had quite a discussion on StR these last few weeks with nearly all of it centering on the massive disappointment that the Kings have been thus far in 2010. From the infamous WestphalGate to the mysterious who-dun-it PlaybookGate to finally defeated acceptance of a shitty team...Gate, we have been treated to a roller coaster ride with more unexpected twists likely to come. So amidst all of the smoke and blood of artillery fire being constantly lobbed around this site, I took a moment to step back and reflect on the Kings and how this ship might be potentially recovered from the depths of the unforgiving sea. Unfortunately, the conclusions are not pretty.
How do teams get better? Luckily for us there is a definitive answer to this question. There are three ways for a team to positively or negatively impact its future: the draft, through a trade, or by the improvement of players already under contract. I am not an expert in the NCAA nor will I ever claim to be. I just look at some stats, maybe a few mock drafts, and then ultimately just listen to what dalt99 says is the truth. I will not assess the Kings chances of improving through the draft, even though it looks like the Kings will again be in the high lottery. Instead, I will focus my attention to the upcoming free agency period and analyze what is available versus what the Kings might potentially need. Without further ado, he is a list of the top available unrestricted free agents for the 2011-12 season.
Carmelo Anthony (ETO)
Nene Hilario (ETO)
Your reaction is likely the same as mine Vern... ewwwww!! There are not a lot of game changers available after ‘Melo with possibly Nene thrown into that category. Both of these players have early-termination options and can defer to 2012. Carmelo Anthony is not coming to Sacramento. Nene is highly unlikely to be coming to Sacramento either, although I suppose it is at least possible if we throw tons of money at him and max him up. Is Nene a max player? Hell to the no, but that is what it will take to get a player of this caliber to Sac. Pay attention, this will be a common theme. Those two players aside, you begin to analyze what types of players and positions that the Kings need for improvement. Generally speaking, the Kings desperately need shooting from the guard position. They also need ball handling from the guard position. Dependent upon what is done with Dalembert and Landry, bigs might be needed as well. SF is the only position we have a depth of talent at, but it is undeveloped talent at best with Casspi and Greene's potential a bit unknown.
The players from this list that I would take a look at are Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Caron Butler, JR Smith, and Mo Williams. Yao is too injury prone and risky to consider signing and unfortunately he is done being a force in this league (which is sad as he is incredibly talented and a really nice guy). Of the other players I listed above, I don't really love any of them. They all address some weakness of the Kings, but will either command more than they are worth or bring defensive problems that the Kings do not need, they have enough already. JR Smith is intriguing as a player as he encompasses many of the guard qualities that the Kings need. IMO, the Kings need a better ball handler at the other guard position than JR will offer, but his streaky yet dangerous shooting might make up for these deficiencies. My thoughts from watching his game are that he is capable on D when he wants to be (which isn't very often) and will gamble to get some steals so that he can throw down one of his athletic crowd-pleasing dunks. Unfortunately, my impression of him is that he is also a douchebag and perhaps a bit of a disruption to the locker room. He will want a chunk of change as well to come to Sac and I do not want to give it to him. Therefore, Mr. Smith will not be coming to Sacramento.
Jamal Crawford is a much better ball handler than JR but not quite as good a shooter (although a little more consistent). Jamal is a prolific scorer at times, and this is a quality needed next to Reke. Evans desperately needs someone to relieve the pressure on him and a guard that can initiate the offense that is also a threat to score would do just that. Unfortunately, Crawford is Benoesque on defense and we have discovered that this does not bode well for the Kings. Add to that Jamal's gargantuan salary to come to Sac and we have another thanks.... but no thanks on our hands. Rinse and repeat for Mo Williams. Caron Butler presents an interesting situation. He has size and shooting, plays decent defense when motivated and presents a mismatch for the opponent. He is also a chucker and plays almost exclusively on the perimeter. He's getting older and likely not worth any contract that he will want. Caron Butler would come to Sac for the right price and it hurts my soul to say it, but this is the type of "impact" FA that the Kings can sign. God help us.
Shane Battier does not solve any of Sacramento's positional needs. He is a defensive minded SF/PF who can hit the spot three and swing the ball when needed. He is also a consummate team player and leader who, I think, can have nothing but a net positive impact on any team that he plays for. I like Shane and so should you. I'd give him an offer and see if he bites. His veteran leadership is just what the doctored ordered for this youthful squad regardless of his positional depth on the Kings.
Other than Battier, the player I like most from this list is Jason Richardson. He is above all a scorer and would relieve the pressure from Tyreke. He is not the most gifted passer but is capable of playing some D. The question becomes, which is the best type of player to put next to Tyreke? Is it another scoring guard who can shoot not named Kevin Martin (in this case J-Rich) or is it a more traditional PG or combo guard with handles? We know that a player like Beno works well with Reke on offense. If you can get a player who has a similar skill set to the Yeti but plays a bit of defense I believe we have our solution. J-Rich, while talented and a player I like, does not fit this bill. That's the rub, we know that skilled players can flounder when paired next to Reke so we have to find the right compliment. I'd like to think that Richardson is talented enough to do well with the Kings but you really never know. Couple that with his high salary and it seems as if he might not fit after all.
So there you have it, your 2011 NBA free agent class. Not very exciting for the Kings is it? The only player I would aggressively pursue would be Shane Battier and I would overpay to get him. If you really wanted to spend some money and get a quality player into a Kings uniform, then you could offer a deal to Jason Richardson and hope the gamble pays off. The Kings will suck this year, we know this. Barring a huge draft score, a trade, or massive coming of age of the entire squad, we will not be much better next year either. Of course, we all expect the big jump to happen at some point with our current players as we have enough talent to be competitive again. The realization of this potential is another thing altogether.
Continuing this novella, what about the 2012-13 class of unrestricted free agents? Again, the story isn't all too bright here either, but it is slightly improved from 2011-12. Also, keep in mind that we now have to decide whether to keep or dump both Donté Greene and Jason Thompson, a decision which has no answers at this point in their respective careers. Onto the list...
This FA class is full of aging stars. Terry, Jamison, Camby, Carter, Nash, Billups, Miller and Duncan are all on the downside of their careers for sure. Perhaps some of these wily vets will still have some gas left in the tank, but not for our team. If any of these guys take on one more contract, it will be a-la current powerhouses Boston or Miami as role players trying to win a ring. The only names (besides ‘Melo and Nene) I am interested in are Pietrius, Kaman, West, and Felton. Raymond Felton might be just what the doctor ordered for this team. And then again maybe not, but I wouldn't mind giving it a try...you? He shoots the rock well from 2 and 3, passes with ease, and is certainly not a defensive black hole. I say sign him up. On the other end of the positional spectrum, Chris Kaman is a very good center in a league without any good centers. He always kills the Kings and might be a nice piece alongside (or backing up) DeMarcus in the future. David West would also look great beside Cousins, but he will take mucho moolah to be had. Is he worth our hard earned capital? Probably not.
There you have it again, the sobering truth. There are not many answers out there in the free agent market. Any hope for the future is going to have to come through timely trades and internal improvement. I still have hope for the current incarnation of the Kings, but something has got to change. The offense is atrocious and I'm positive that the Tyreke-Left, Tyreke-Right, and Tyreke-clank-off-the rim plays have been exhausted from the playbook. So either Westphal is incapable of creating a coherent offensive scheme (probably not the case) or the players are so bad that this is all that really works. I truly hope that the Kings Organization figures it out quickly, as reinforcements are not arriving anytime soon.