As heavily discussed in the FanShots (thanks, StevenG!), The Oregonian's John Canzano tweeted that the Kings "would talk" to the Blazers about a trade shipping Carl Landry to Portland for a first-round pick and cash. The Blazers have their own first-round pick for 2011, as well as that of the New Orleans Hornets, assuming Chris Paul's right arm doesn't fly off during a fast break and the Hornet slide into the deep lottery. Portland's pick should fall No. 13 to 20; New Orleans' pick should be No. 20-22. The Kings' recent picks in that general range (erring toward the higher end) have been Omri Casspi (No. 23), Quincy Douby (No. 19), Francisco Garcia (No. 23) and, back in 2004, Kevin Martin (No. 26). That's a very solid track record in that range. Zero All-Stars. One legit, constant starter. But it's still a solid track record.
The 2011 NBA Draft, however, is rather weak. And if the Kings are full-up in one general category, it's "nominal young players." Casspi, Jason Thompson, Donte Greene, Hassan Whiteside. The Kings have all five of those guys for at least one more season on the cheap. (Two more for Casspi; three for Whiteside, unless the team waives him sooner.) As we have seen in perfect clarity this year, one staff can only handle so much youth. One 48-minute game three or four times a week can only employ so much nominal youth. And I hope that when I say "nominal" I'm not being too harsh. I just mean that these are not potential stars. These are not Tyrekes and DeMarcuses.
What does a mid first-round pick mean to a team like this, a team choking on inexperience and potential? It means a lot less than it would to some other team just setting about the rebuilding path, some other team that has a vacancy that calls for upside and not production. But the Kings? The Kings need star power and production. Really, that's what separates the Tyrekes from the Omris, the DeMarcuses from the JTs: production, and the promise of production. How much can you invest in Donte when you don't know how much he'll ever produce? You can swing for the fences developing DeMarcus, hire his high school coach and give him starters' minutes on opening night. But not a guy like Hassan.
Back to Carl.
This is the trade market for him, given the Kings' situation. The Kings aren't taking salary unless it's a cheap young point guard (ha ha). That limits your options right off the bat. Landry's an unrestricted free agent come July. That limits the take you're going to get. He's a rental. So you're trading a productive rental, but don't want to take back salary? That's a recipe for offers like "a pick and some cash."
And there you have it: the Kings won't get more than a pick for Carl Landry in part because they don't want anything more. But they don't really need the pick. This is what the Kevin Martin trade comes down to: the Kings traded a near All-Star two-guard in his prime on a fair contract for ... cap space, and a superfluous, middling pick. Cap space and a lottery ticket for the next Kevin Martin. It's like winning $100 on a $1 lotto ticket, and immediately throwing the $100 back down on some quick picks. People do it, sure. But it's a bit silly, right?
The Paul Westphal era has had some remarkable failures, not all of them Paul's fault. Lord knows Kevin has some blame in his end in Sacramento; some folks around the team would say Kevin deserves the lion's share of blame. But it's a team failure nonetheless, and under Westphal's watch, that Martin and Tyreke's Kings didn't work out. Look at what that's caused. The forever patient Geoff Petrie went rash, sold low and got what looks to be extraordinarily low value for a fine player. That value looks so low because Landry hasn't replicated his production on a team starved for production. Blame who you want -- Kevin, Carl -- just like you blame Donte, and you blamed Spencer, and you blamed Quincy, and you'll blame Hassan and maybe even, Lord forbid, Tyreke and DeMarcus. But one of those ricochet bounces is bound to catch Westphal and Petrie.
Petrie wears kevlar in this town. That doesn't make it look too good for Westphal once April rolls around, does it?
In the meantime, let's stack up a few more mid first-round picks. Another lottery tickets' bound to hit one of these days, right?