Over the next five days, we'll talk a look at some of the top NBA free agent options for the Sacramento Kings in the alternate universe in which the Kings have owners both willing and able to pay for free agents. Free agency begins July 1, three days after the NBA Draft.
It's no secret that Ryan Anderson pretty much has Most Favored Nation status in Sacramento. The El Dorado Hills product and former Cal Bear has always had fans in the Capitol region, but as his game has grown that's become even stronger. He won the league's Most Improved Player award for the 2011-12 season; truth be told, he had been this good the season prior, but was given more minutes once Brandon Bass was traded to the Boston Celtics.
Anderson is the archetype stretch four: a big man who can stroke three-pointers like a wing. In Stan Van Gundy's Dwight Howard-centric offense, Anderson ended up attempting (422) and making more threes (166) than anyone else in the NBA this season. That's a .393 clip -- No. 3 among the 17 players who attempted more than five threes a game last season. (Marcus Thornton was in that club. His .345 clip was No. 15 on the list. Thornton was actually one of the four players, Anderson included, who attempted more than six treys per game.)
The typical problem with the featured stretch four is defense and rebounding. Sure enough: Anderson is considered a poor defender and his defensive rebounding numbers aren't great. Those need to account for Howard, of course, and were better before he was traded to Orlando. But he's a downgrade on Jason Thompson in that department, and most assuredly on defense as well. He's basically the opposite of Chuck Hayes, a defensive specialist and "glue guy" who has little offensive power.
The Kings spent good money on Hayes ($21 million over four years) last offseason. Will they again invest in a power forward, but in the opposite direction?
The thinking is that Anderson would be a great offensive fit for DeMarcus Cousins (who could use a counterbalance) and Tyreke Evans (whose shooting woes are lessened in impact when there's a shooting PF on the floor, and whose passing will look much stronger when he has someone to hit shots off the drive-and-kick). But there's no getting around the defensive limitations and the fact that the Kings' biggest weakness is defensive. If you land Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the NBA draft (against all hope) can you pick up Anderson thinking that Evans and MKG can turn around the D? If it's Harrison Barnes at No. 5, do you have to avoid Anderson at all costs? Does the front office even care that much about the defense at this point? (The Hayes signing would indicate "yes.")
The bigger question is whether the Magic allow Anderson to escape. There won't be any (or much) institutional bond there as Orlando is recruiting a new general manager and a new coach, and expects to trade Dwight Howard. Changes isn't conducive to retention, but Anderson is highly valued all around the league, and surely too in Orlando. As a restricted free agent, you are almost forced to overpay to steal him away because the Magic will be able to match any signed offer sheet. So not only does Anderson leave open huge questions about Sacramento's defense, but he may not even be possible to acquire. So while the idea sounds lovely, it seems impractical.