Analysts Love Kings' Chuck Hayes Deal, Mixed On Marcus Thornton

The early reviews of the Sacramento Kings' first two moves of NBA free agency are in. Zach Lowe of SI.com loves the Chuck Hayes signing:

Hayes, once a zero on offense, actually morphed last year into a capable cutter, nifty finisher (with both hands!) and smart passer, and that unselfishness will help Sacto's crummy offense flow a bit better. And you know he'll battle defensively in the post, where he held opponents to just 37 percent shooting last season (per Synergy Sports), one of the best marks in the league. He's strong, forces guys out of position and challenges shots. Hayes is also a capable pick-and-roll defender who plays the percentages like you'd expect a Daryl Morey/Houston Rockets type to do.

He considers the Marcus Thornton contract a little steep, but notes that it shouldn't be a killer in any way:

These aren't blow you away, franchise-changing deals for the Kings, but they are decent value deals for a team that had to spend by rule. You can move a $5 million or $8 million contract in a pinch if you need to. Such is the NBA.

ESPN's John Hollinger has a slightly different take, especially regarding Thornton.

Here's Hollinger on Hayes:

I loves me some Chuck Hayes, and I think he might help the Kings rediscover that it takes more than wild gunning and cherry-picking to win basketball games. This deal doesn't make sense for most teams, but I can understand Sacramento taking the plunge because a) it is waaaaay under the cap, b) it almost HAS to overpay players to get them to come to Sacto and c) the Kings need more guys like this who don't need the ball to be effective.

You might want to skip his review of the Thornton deal, though.

Thornton is a pretty good player who scores a lot of points, so the Kings are going to be able to sell people that this was a good deal.

It's not.

The key here is that Thornton was a restricted free agent, meaning Sacramento had the right to match any offer. Because of that fact, nobody else was coming hard after Thornton, and the Kings had all the leverage. But just like they did with Beno Udrih and Francisco Garcia previously, the Kings rushed into a needlessly generous deal and now have taken on a lot more risk than necessary.

He goes on to call it "fairly insane."

I understand Hollinger's core point: teams often relinquish their leverage when dealing with restricted free agents by bidding against themselves. It happens everywhere, as teams offer extra seasons that they have no reason to offer, and higher starting points than anyone is going to offer. By signing your own restricted free agent, you also usually give bigger annual raises than a player could get with another team. (Thornton's deal likely has 7.5 percent annual raises; if he'd signed an offer sheet with another team, the max raise would be 4.5 percent.)

But there are compelling reasons to reach a deal with your own restricted free agent before he lobbies for offer sheets.

1. Goodwill. Thornton came to Sacramento on Thursday under the impression he could sign a deal and practice by Saturday. Replying to that commitment with a, "So, thinking about signing any offer sheets yet?" is kinda ugly. This is a business, I know. But keeping your employees in good spirits is just good sense. The Kings haven't always been great at that, but Geoff Petrie has always been straight with the team's free agents.

2. Controlling the contract. This is a new reason some teams have given for signing their own RFAS -- to avoid gnarly looking contract with big signing bonuses or other oddities. If your RFA signs an offer sheet, you cede control of what that contract looks like. With the Kings looking to meet the minimum payroll but potentially preserve cap space for MYSTERY BIG NAME PLAYER, there's value in structuring the deal in the most beneficial way to the team.

3. It's all quibbling in the end. Thornton's deal is $31-33 million over four years. What would the Kings have saved by letting him ink on offer sheet ... $4 million over four years? Sure, that's real money. But it's not real impactful money, in the grand scheme. It's barely a veteran's minimum worth of trouble. I understand Hollinger's argument perfectly when you're talking about a Rudy Gay (Grizzlies signed him to an $80 million deal when he might not have gotten $65 million on the market), but at this dollar level, it's really pocket change you're dealing with.

When I first saw the Thornton contract at five years, $40 million, I got a little nervous. That fifth year is a big commitment given the youth and uncertainty of the team around him, and that fifth year was exactly what Hollinger is talking about: competing against yourself. But after dropping that fifth year, I have no problem with the Kings locking up Thornton before the market sets his value. If he ends up drastically overpaid, it'll be a short-term problem, and it'll be because Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette have made his presence superfluous.

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