Speed. Length. Shooting.
Speed to blow by a defender. Length to snag a ‘bound. Shooting to...well, y’know, put the ball in the hoop.
Speed creates space offensively. Length eliminates space defensively. Shooting creates separation on the scoreboard.
Winning teams possess superior amounts of these attributes, and the GMs of these winners mold their roster around the acquisition of these attributes.
Russell Westbrook = Speed
KD = Length
The Beard = Shooting
Rondo = Speed
KG = Length
Allen = Shooting
Wade and LeBron = All of the Above
As I sort through the prospects at the #5 draft spot for our Sacramento Kings, I am struggling to identify a prospect that would bring the necessary speed, length or shooting, or a combination thereof, to help to reverse the fortunes of a doormat franchise with dormant luck and dog meat owners.
That player may exist, however.
Before exploring the minutiae of wingspan and player comparisons, and whom the Kings should take at #5, it is appropriate to do a quick overview of the Kings recent travails.
To better define where this team needs to go, it may help to remind ourselves where they’ve been, regardless of the unmitigated horror.
The last time this team was decent was when a baby-faced shooting guard was launching jumpers from the hip, and the player formerly known as Ron Artest was bullying his way into the paint. That 2007-08 squad won 38 games. Salmons still had game, Cisco had yet to meet an exercise ball he didn't dominate, and Spencer Hawes was a cornerstone unavailable for summer league play.
Since then, the Kings have been the joke of the league.
They have lost 225 games over the past 4 seasons. That is a losing rate of 72%. In effect, the Kings have averaged more than 7 losses out of every 10 games over this time period.
For the non-stat geeks out there, that’s not very good, especially when you factor in the home-weighted and schedule-weighted advantage the nature of the league perpetually offers. In other words, it is hard not to win 25% of your games just by showing up, though don't tell that to the Bobcats.
Point differential underscores the King's lack of competitiveness, as measured by Simple Rating System (SRS), which includes strength of schedule variable in its computation.
Four Years of Yikes
Year W/L Differential SRS Rank
2011-12 22-44 -4.95 (25th of 30)
2010-11 24-58 -4.80 (25th of 30)
2009-10 25-57 -4.06 (25th of 30)
2008-09 17-66 -8.59 (30th of 30)
Total: 88-225 (72% Loss)
The Kings lose often. They lose big. They don’t defend their home court. They don’t defend at the basket or upon the perimeter. They don’t shoot well. Unselfish passing is a formidable task. Nurturing, meaningful coaching has been spotty to nonexistent, though Coach Smart shows promise.
Leadership is undefined. Personal responsibility is skirted. Losing is entrenched in the culture of the team.
This is not pessimism. This is not spin. These are the woeful realities over the past half of a decade.
These are your Sacramento Kings.
Incremental growth is not going to cut it. Slight improvement amounts to a hill of beans, since a 30 win season is statistically equivalent to a hill of beans.
Exponential growth is what this team needs, to go from perennial lottery participant to a formidable playoff opponent. While you can fairly contend that incremental growth individually can result in exponential improvement collectively, what this team really needs is a shot of LeBron.
The Kings need a figurative dose of headband-wearing, hairline-concealing bad ass, in the tangible form of superior length, shooting and speed, ultimately resulting in a competitive tipping point.
Once this competitive tipping point is reached, incompetence will be replaced competence. Indecisive shrugs will be replaced by unmistakable struts. Losing and frowns will be replaced with winning and smiles.
Since LeBron is busy leading his team to an NBA title, we turn to June 28th in the hopes of salvation. We turn to the 5th pick in search of a diamond amidst pretense and fool's gold.
A year ago at this time the Kings sat on approximately $18 million of cap space and a high pick. I suggested then that Geoff Petrie was in a position to acquire two impact players, whether via trade, free agency and draft selections. Such maneuvering would result in the aforementioned tipping point, and the winning could commence.
Sometimes the best laid plans go to waste, or the way of a Chuck Hayes signing.
Half-assed plans tend to chart similar path.
The Kings did get one of two impact players they needed, albeit from an unexpected source in the last pick of the draft. They got speed. They got Isaiah. There is a semblance of something successful taking shape, yet another impact player is required.
I am not sure if a 6’8" Thomas Robinson is that impact player.
A 6’11" athletic freak named Andre Drummond could be.
I cannot help but be enticed by almost 19 year old, 279 pound player with 7.5% body fat, down 22 pounds since his one season at U Conn came to underachieving conclusion. I am intrigued by a legitimate center with rare combination of length and lateral mobility, that is, an ability to intimidate and play help defense.
I am intrigued by the alley-oop potential that could immediately manifest between Drummond and IT. With an increasingly lean and fit DeMarcus possibly shifting full-time to PF, I am intrigued by Twin Tower prospects. I like the idea of adding muscle and length one inch taller than DeMarcus, an imposing specimen in his own right, along with a wing span and standing reach greater than Anthony Davis (by 0.75 inches and 1.5 inches, respectively), and a vertical jump that makes Cousins appear arthritic.
It is difficult not to be intrigued with a big man comparable in size and athleticism to Dwight Howard, yet patterning his own game after Kevin Durant. While you may interpret this as delusional and potentially unwilling to accept a defensive-oriented NBA role, I view it differently.
We want guys with a diverse array of skills, regardless of position. When DeMarcus came into the league, it was his ability to play away from the basket, his body balance, reaction time and hand-eye coordination that gave me confidence in his ability one day to dominate. Over time and through the adversity of an unforgiving league, talented players learn what they can and can't do.
Drummond will discover he is not K.D. soon enough. Until then, I want my center to be able to dribble a basketball without tripping over the foul line.
There are tall men who happen to play basketball. Darko, Kwame and Hasheem come to mind. Then there are basketball players who happen to be tall, including Amare, DeMarcus and Hakeem.
Deciding which group Andre Drummond belongs to will predicate his selection or bypassing on June 28th.
Personally I hope that Geoff projects Drummond into the latter group, and boldly makes him the newest Sacramento King.
There is an abundance of atypical big man skills on display above and below that preclude a future zombie-like, pay-check stealing bust. The dude is not a stiff. He can play a little, to more than a little, as evidenced by his body balance, ability to side step defenders, adjust mid-air to finish, block shots with his off-hand, make underhanded scoops, execute behind the back passes and pull-ups in transition.
Eat your heart out, Brad Miller.
Unfortunately, there is limited post moves, back to the basket footwork, rebounding instincts or shooting touch.
With conflicting evidence of worthiness and 29% FT shooting, I like to fall back on a fundamental components of basketball ability: reaction time and agility.
There is a saying among coaches that "first to the ball wins". This means the player who best reacts with anticipation, agility and force acquires possession, gains an edge, and fills the stat sheet consistently.
If there is a common element to NBA players who succeed, achieve stardom or role playing niche, they react superiorly than less accomplished peers.
Recent overachieving draftees including Kenneth Faried, Chase Buddinger, Ryan Anderson and Isaiah Thomas, for example, exceeded expectations relative to where they were picked because they didn't hesitate to assert themselves into the action.
Players who perpetually struggle, including Donte Greene, Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Anthony Randolph, the washed up bigs mentioned above, and numerous aging stars, don’t react as well to plays. And when they do they tend to lack optimal balance or position. They are a quarter to half of a step slow, mentally and physically. This inability to react is the difference between a made lay-up and a swatted one, a defensive stop or a surrender, a hustle play or an observed play, and ultimately between winning and losing.
It is impossible to forecast with 100% certainty how successful a collegiate player will be. But I do think it is 100% possible to avoid drafting the next Hasheem Thabeet. The secret lies in observing a players reaction time, in all circumstances on both ends of the court. When you take this perspective, you forecast whether a player has instincts for the game, or instincts for Xbox.
First to the ball wins.
Will Geoff Petrie deem Andre Drummond a 'first to the ball' type of player?
Will Geoff Petrie seek to add length to his recent draft acquisitions of speed (IT) and shooting (Jimmer)?
Seems like a nifty idea to me.