Should Kings Lock In Jason Thompson Right Now?

Our friend James Ham has a lovely, detailed exposition on Jason Thompson's status with the Kings over at Cowbell Kingdom. As a 2008 first-round pick, Thompson is currently eligible for an early Bird extension that would kick in for the 2012-13 season. The deadline is January 25 (Wednesday). If an agreement isn't reached, Thompson becomes a restricted free agent on July 1. The Kings can offer up to five years, but teams have just one five-year early Bird extension to offer per collective bargaining agreement. Using that on Thompson would prevent the Kings from using it on Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmer Fredette or the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. So Thompson isn't getting five years. The extension could be for three or four seasons, and it can include a team or player option.

James broke down Thompson's place in the Kings' future and his performance as a No. 12 pick. My angle is more looking at what will work best for the Kings. How should they approach this decision? These are the questions that inform the answer to that.

Are you looking to trade JT this season? If the Kings are looking for guard help or another wing and have been or will be dangling Thompson, you simply don't extend Thompson right now. That complicates matters entirely too much. While pending restricted free agent status is worse than if Thompson were a year away from RFA, it's better than holding a long-term contract.

What has the league's interest level in JT been? Even if you decide that you won't look to trade Thompson by the March 15 deadline, the team has surely been approached with trade offers. (This assumes that Geoff Petrie picks up his phone, which I guess we can no longer assume.) When teams discuss the Kings' assets, what do they say about Thompson? Surely there's some smokescreening going on, and the information will always be imperfect. But through this market activity -- again, assuming the Kings are active at all -- the team can determine the league's general sentiment about Thompson, and as such make an educated guess about his potential offers as an RFA.

Where does the team want to make another splash? We have no clue as fans and observers where the Kings want to spend their cap space, which they still have plenty of for 2012. If it's in the backcourt or on the wing, it would make sense to lock up a solid rotation big for a fair value contract south of what Chuck Hayes makes. If Petrie intends to chase a star big man, Thompson's value can only go down, so signing a long-term mortgage on him now wouldn't make sense.

There seems to be no chance Thompson signs an extension by Wednesday, and as the team continues to sort out its future, that's probably for the best. As a fan, I hope they are able to keep JT in July. He's a solid player, and if you lose him, you'll have to replace him, probably at a higher price tag, if the team ever makes it back to playoff contention.

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