Earlier today, members of Sactown Royalty
were surprised that Cousins was suspended found out that Keith Smart has a backbone, and the franchise has decided to sit Cousins indefinitely. While I applaud a bereft franchise for showing it has some principle, I feel that it signals the beginning of an end. What end, you say? Well, it could go one of two ways:
Scenario the First: DeMarcus Cousins runs Keith Smart out of town in Westphalian-fashion. We hire another bargain bin coach to steer the ship for the remaining sixty or so games, and call it a season. Things remain pretty much the same, Cousins gets suspended once more in 2013. The Kings settle with a 24-58 record.
Scenario the Second: The Kings make a stand behind coach Smart, and drain Cousins of any and all trade value that he may have by having him ride the pine. The Kings begin to plummet to unseen lows of terrible, while Tyreke continues to occasionally sit out with injury. Finally, under pressure of a historically bad season, Smart brings Cousins off the bench for several games to re-acclimate to the NBA game. Cousins shows rust, but seems quieter. We're all giddy with the prospect of him finally "getting it". Our hopes are momentarily dashed when he is suspended once more in 2013. The Kings ride Cousins re-entry towards a 28-54 record.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Those two records both suck. You're right. They do. Why? Because with or without Cousins, this team that we have assembled since 2006 is pretty much garbage. It is not very fun to hear, but it's the truth, and boy we've heard some harsh truths these past few years. At least in this case, this truth involves basketball. I hear some scattered shots from around Sactown Royalty that we should blow up the team and make away with what we can get in trades. I'll be honest, I'm seeing some validity to these talks. It's not that our team is such an unholy abomination of talentless players that its not even worth preserving, it's that those talents they do have do not fit together.
Let's take a look at all of our guards. Thomas, Brooks, Evans, Thornton, and Fredette. Five players of a fourteen player roster play the guard position. This is a pretty appropriate number, not Kahn-draft status, and gives enough players to spread minutes out far enough to keep everybody fresh. But what about the players' skill-sets? Well, out of them the purest point guard is definitely Thomas, who I think should be starting for the time being. Evans has been troubling, but when he is on the court, lately he has been putting up some great numbers. Plus, he started out the season as a good defender at shooting guard. He should definitely be starting when he feels healthy enough to. Now, the other three. This is where things get a little bit jammed up. The trio of Brooks, Thornton, and Fredette is what's getting to me. They are all predominant scorers, and undersized at that. They're all sub-par defenders, and that fact doesn't seem to be changing any time soon.
In the frontcourt, we have nine players to fill up three positions. This is once again, a pretty even spread of players that should yield appropriate minutes. It's not as bad here, but a lack of meshing together the pieces exists here, as well. Thompson, Robinson, Hayes, Cousins, Outlaw, Salmons, Johnson, Honeycutt, and Garcia all are listed as forwards or centers. One disclaimer, the small forward position isn't clashing as much as it is indeed an aforementioned unholy abomination. Moving onward to post players, we see Thompson and Robinson as our two main power forwards. I really like both of these guys, but Robinson sure is raw, still. Am I the hundredth person to confess that Thompson has become my favorite player on this entire team? Seriously. But in our power forwards, I feel like Robinson will at best bring to the table what Thompson already does, with more athleticism in the mix. Those two work pretty well together, but also seem to appear make each other redundant in the long run (If we're lucky).
Now, for center. Hayes and Cousins are both gifted passers, Cousins is of course very volatile, while Hayes is quite the antithesis of the young center. Hayes has under-performed his contract on the court, but he has brought a great presence into the locker room. Perhaps while Cousins is gone, that influence will have a chance to grow. Cousins and Hayes don't conflict with their talents on the court, but their attitude couldn't be any more different than their counterpart. Just as important as the on-court meshing of our players is the mental connection that can develop chemistry. Chemistry is kind of why we let teams suck for years on end, because if we break it apart after one or two bum seasons, we could just be starting ourselves over (just look at the Lakers).
Now that I've lined up the odd pieces, I'd like to begin knocking them down. I am beginning to see the idea of blowing this team up, once again, but I had to think about how we'd do it. Who stays? Who goes
onto have a successful career with a different team? In this, I took several factors into account, but as a fan I cannot possibly has the entire scope of situations dealing with attitude and chemistry among teammates, so I will do my best.
Isaiah is the best point guard we have, next. The Jimmer may seem like a worse version of Thornton, and you know what he probably is. However, I think that Fredette has begun to show us a lot more of what he can do. In the GB&U, Fredette's stats for the week were:
15.8 PPG, .462 FG%, .500 3P%, 2.0 RPG, 1.3APG, .8 STL
Now, here's the awesome part. He did this playing 19.6 minutes a game. Double his playing time, and you have a 30+ PPG average, packaged with some awesome efficiency. I remember reading something ridiculous like that he's the sixth most effective scorer per minute in the entire league. I'm not saying he could scorch the opposing team's starting unit for thirty every night, but the fact we have a player even approaching that number means he should stay for the time being.
Evans is by far the most complicated player among our guards, but he deserves to be on this squad for the long run, or as long as we can afford him. Evans measures pretty favorably among shooting guards, even in what we consider a slump for him. He is currently fourth in rebounds, sixth in blocks, eighth in steals and free-throw attempts, and 10th in field-goal percentage compared to all shooting guards in the league. He get's the nod by being a pretty good defender, and if he doesn't demand too much this off-season, you retain him without hesitation.
Who's on the Bubble: Marcus Thornton.
Fresh off from signing what was once a bargain deal for eight million per year, Thornton has had to deal with a lot of stuff. The situation with his mother may be inhibiting his play, but since last year his assists have been halved, and his scoring down five points a contest. He is getting fewer minutes a game; however, he hasn't capitalized like Fredette has off the bench. Seeing as Thornton costs five million more or so a year, the Kings wouldn't be harming themselves too much by trading him away. But, the hope still remains that he can one day develop into a Jason Terry type player. Thornton's longevity on this team should largely be measured with the progression of the Jimmer, as his skill-set matches those of Thornton's pretty well -- and if those skills can be had for much cheaper, then the team would be sensible to part ways with Thornton.
Blow them away: Aaron Brooks.
He seemed like a good acquisition, but Brooks hasn't been able to replicate his success from Houston ever since he returned from China. I think the only reason why Brooks is starting right now, is because Petrie wants him dealt; so Smart is boosting his stats so other GMs may want to take a look at him. He is a sub-par defender, who clashes with the scoring skills of Evans, Thornton, and Fredette. The shots that he takes should be given to other players, and developing Thomas is far more important than boosting Brooks for a Gooden/Brooks swap in February.
The Small Forwards:
Who to Keep: Tyler Honeycutt?
On the Bubble: Tyler Honeycutt?
I'll state the obvious. None of the forwards we have right now should be on this roster past their expired contracts. For all the talk that Salmons has been turning it around, he actually has been shooting the ball even worse this year than the year before, making a measly 39% of his attempts. His back-up, James Johnson has been even more disappointing, if you could believe it. In 17 minutes a game, he scores four points (remember Jimmer's 15.6 per 19?) on 37.8% shooting. Outlaw gets the boot because somehow he is even worse than the two other forwards ahead of him. Francisco is a tough one to let go, but his contract is expiring and unless he is brought back for the absolute minimum, I see no point in retaining his services past 2013. I cannot pass judgment on Honeycutt, yet. I think he could be decent, but nothing more than a bench player.
The Post Players:
I said it before, Thompson is my favorite player right now. He has been scary consistent in a season that has been anything but. So far, he has been putting up near career-high numbers sitting at 11 PPG and 8 RPG. As a starting power forward, I have no problem with him. Right now, his contract looks like a pittance to me. Unless... Enter Robinson. The athletic forward out of Kansas was a lucky pick for us (or was it?), but he still remains pretty unrefined. The reason I do not hesitate to keep him is the fact he hustles so much. He tries very hard, and even if he never lives up to his draft status, players who work hard and have good attitudes will always have a place on my favorite team, and in my heart. Besides, he is so young that moving him wouldn't make any sense. Chuck Hayes makes the list as well, because without Garcia this team will have no veteran leadership, and I like what Hayes brings to the table in that regard. He is a pretty gifted floor general for a center, and like Robinson he is a hard worker. Hayes will probably never be a starting-caliber center, but I do believe has a place on this squad. Speaking of starting centers...
On the Bubble: DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins' place with the team just got a whole lot less certain within my mind, your minds, as well as the Kings staff's mind. After his altercation with Smart, other players are even coming forward to proclaim Boogie a monster. Apparently, Cousins is now getting the ball during games because he's scared his teammates into complying. Seriously? That is some middle school rec-league kinda shit. I will not overlook his talent, but Cousins is one incident away from being blown away in any rebuild scenario.
Blow them Away: DeMarcus Cousins.
He's here twice. I know. If Petrie can milk his potential and get a deal involving a starting small forward back from any team, you have to take it at this point. This draft is filled with centers like Cody Zeller, Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Rudy Gorbert, and Isaiah Austin (all ranked in the Top 10 draft prospects by CBSsports.com). If I am the Kings, Zeller out of professional-factory Indiana is starting to look pretty good. If the Kings do decide to make a rebuilding effort this year, DeMarcus is the piece to trade so if there is any hope to create a team that is built on professionalism and hard work, not by mashing together pieces that may or may not fit and allowing them to run around on the hardwood for the next five years.
From here, we have for certain:
SG: Evans, Fredette
SF: Cash Considerations
PF: Thompson, Robinson
(Somewhere in here we'll also have a lottery pick. Whether that is a forward like Polythress or a center like Cody Zeller remains to be seen.)
Yikes, that's not much to work with. Unfortunately, there isn't much team-building to do through free agency, because our Malevolent King George the Developer has decided to cut off our resources. The plan of attack has to be trading off pieces, in hopes that we get some high-character players from contending teams that need boosts from players like Thornton, Salmons, and Brooks.
Cousins is the big question mark here, but right now I am in the "get rid of him" party. I would settle for a deal involving Avery Bradley, or perhaps Luol Deng from Chicago (At this point I'd take back Boozer too!). If he doesn't shape up quickly, this team is going nowhere. But, the most terrifying part is: even if he does decide to shape up by next month, this team is still going nowhere.
What to do?