FanPost

The Anatomy of a Fleece

He took the money and ran. For once, he executed efficiently.

Jason Thompson is not Hassaan Whiteside. He is not JJ Hickson.

He’s no dummy either, he just tends to play like one out of the low post.

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Executing a left-handed flip an approximate 5 times in 66 games does not constitute a new and potent go-to move. It constitutes 10 points.

'Smart' and 'JT' are not two words I would think to include in the same sentence, but JT was…ahem, smart.

Of course when you have but one viable option, it is hard to make a foolish decision.

Jason Thompson, 26 years old, former 12th pick of the 2008 NBA draft, who still refers to himself as The Kid, capitalized upon a personal and professional bias of his GM, to sign a $26,012,500 dollar guaranteed contract.

Congrats, kid.

JT will receive $5.84 million per year over the next 4 years, or $23,362,500 total. If the Kings are as generous and misguided in the summer of 2016 as they were in the summer of 2012, JT will pocket $6.04 million per year over the next 5 years, or $30,187,250 total.

(The 5th year is a team option, with $2.65 million of the $6.825 million guaranteed).

That is a lot of loot for a 6’11’ heavy-footed athlete who can barely block a shot (only 44 in 64 games), draw a charge (only 9 in 64 games), rebound outside his immediate vicinity, comprehend the principle of defensive verticality, has never won anything, and has the grace and balance of Oprah on roller skates after three shots of Jagermeister.

If Geoff Petrie doesn’t regret the contract yet, he’s fooling himself.

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One week after competing against no one, paying more than 29 NBA teams were willing to gift, Luis Scola became available to the highest bidder.

Even the most passionate of JT supporters, if there are any left after four seasons and 296 games of uninspired, foul prone drudgery, replete with ref-barking and clutch play avoidance, has to admit that Scola is the far superior player.

A young 32 year old with low mileage (5 years of NBA play), who doesn’t rely on athleticism to do paint damage, Scola could have been a Vlade Divac-type acquisition for a team lacking veteran presence of any significance.

Career averages of 14 points and 7 boards on 51% shooting on playoff teams, Scola is savvy, smart and poised. He’s everything JT is not, at less of a cost. Scola likely has three productive seasons left.

The Suns will pay him a bargain basement salary of $4.5 million dollars for the next 3 years.

Had the Kings not jumped the gun on JT, and shot themselves in the foot, committing dollars that could have been put to better use, Scola would be a King. I think the Kings would have loved to add Scola, but the ink on JT’s contract was already dry.

While I cannot completely fault Petrie for his lack of foresight regarding the amnesty of Scola, I do take exception to a team bidding against Casper the Friendly Ghost for the rights to mediocrity.

No one else in the NBA wanted JT. That’s not harsh. That’s fact.

If another team did want JT, they kept it a secret for weeks leading up to, and during free agency in July, a near impossibility in an era of twitter, self-promotion and shameless effort at media manipulation by player agents.

Maybe all other 29 teams will be proven mistaken in their estimation of JT’s value and lack thereof, and the Kings will be validated as shrewd in their extended commitment.

And maybe Travis Outlaw will be crowned NBA three-point champion at the 2013 All-Star weekend.

Sarcasm aside, perhaps JT’s sweetheart of a deal is not that ridiculous after all, relative to what comparable young bigs received this off-season.

Let’s take a looksee, shall we?

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Omer Asik (Age: 26), picked after JT in the 2008 draft (36th pick) will get $8.37 million per year over 3 years to play for the Rockets. Asik averaged a whopping 3 points in 13 minutes in two years. He will earn 30% more than JT through 2015.

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JaVale McGee (Age: 24), picked after JT in 2008 draft, will make $11 million per year over 4 years. A terrible post defender with a two cent head, allegedly, McGee will earn 80% more than JT through 2016.

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Serge Ibaka (Age: 22), who somehow was able to photo-shop my abs onto the above picture, was picked after JT in 2008 draft (24th pick). Ibaka is the best shot blocker in NBA, and will receive $12.25 million per year for 4 years.

Ibaka (I-BLOCK-A) will receive 100% more dollars than JT to deliver 1000% more defense.

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Spencer Hawes (Age: 24), picked one year before JT (10th pick in 2007), yet younger and more skilled, will make $6.5 million per year for next two years. Spencer will get $2.2 million more than JT over next two years, without the security of guaranteed money three and four years from today.

Spencer is counting on his ability to improve his game, and command serious dough in the summer of 2014. By contrast, JT swapped his prime years for modest financial security (by NBA standards), implicitly confessing he’s not going to get much better.

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Ryan Anderson (Age: 24), hometown kid, picked after JT in the 2008 draft (21st pick), will receive $8.5 million dollars per year over the next 4 years to play aside #1 overall pick Anthony Davis in New Orleans. (Note to self: Set DVR to Hornets games).

A classic stretch power forward, with legit 6’10" size, MIP award winner, and one of the best three point shooter in the NBA, Anderson will get $2.5 million more per year than JT.

It pains me to the depth of my core, and rips at the fabric of my purple and black heart, or maybe its just indigestion, to ponder that for less than the cost of JT and Travis Outlaw (desperate, wasteful spending a year ago by Petrie, even at $3 million per year over 4 seasons), the Kings could have secured a budding star, a Sacramento native, and an ideal front court pairing with DeMarcus.

Anderson would have brought finesse and skill to complement the bruising nature of Cousins, T-Rob and Sumo Hayes.

Instead, The hometown kid is a Hornet. JT is back, and the fans have erupted in an uncontrollable frenzy…

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Oops, my bad. I mistook the sound of a cricket for yelps of exuberance.

Anyways, what may we logically conclude regarding all of these dollars, cents, and lack of sense among NBA front offices resolved to secure front court contenders, pretenders and offenders?

(1) Unrealized potential is rewarded (JT, McGee).

(2) Semi-realized potential is rewarded (McGee as shot blocker and dunker, Asik as paint defender, Spencer in overall play, early last season, pre-injury).

(3) Realized potential is handsomely rewarded (Ibaka, Anderson).

(4) Mediocrity pays. (JT, Spencer, McGee, Asik.)

Yet hitching your wagon to mediocrity does not help you win. It helps you, at best, to lose respectably.

Ultimately, it gets a GM fired.

The more mediocre talent you have on your roster (Hayes, Outlaw, Salmons, JT), the more of a burden you place upon your best players (Isaiah, Thornton, Cousins) to compensate for lesser skilled teammates.

And that’s the rub on Jason Thompson. He’s a hustle player who’s hustle does not translate into production.

Of centers and power forwards who play 20 minutes or more per game, JT ranks 63rd out of 80 players, or bottom 25 percentile, in defensive plays (blocked shots, steals and charges taken).

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This statistic is meaningful, especially for non-scorers, because an ability to make defensive plays results in change of possession. His inability to make defensive plays is not the result of lack of effort. JT tries hard. Rather, it is a function of below average agility, anticipation and reaction time.

JT’s almost always one half of step slow, to block a shot, to make a steal, to step in front of defender, to finish at the rim. Add it up over the course of four seasons, and it contributes to a lot of losses.

Offensively, Kings director of personnel Jerry Reynolds said recently that JT is a player that does not need the ball to be effective.

JR is an astute observer, and a respected veteran of the NBA game. I like Jerry, but this is just a polite way of saying Jason has no post game.

In addition to negligible posts skills, JT’s face-up jumper is unreliable to average. Though he showed improvement in the second half of last season, when JT puts the ball on the floor, he’s highly prone to being stripped by drop-down defenders, to committing an offensive foul, or to traveling.

JT has tunnel vision when he looks to make his move, lacking a counter move to the resistance of a defender. He is unable to finish strong in traffic, unable to control the ball with one hand, and unable to draw contact and finish with any degree of skill.

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JT projects as the 4th, but mainly 5th scoring option, whenever he’s on the court. The only player on the roster with less of an offensive repertoire is Sumo Hayes.

An inability to score reliably from anywhere, besides unguarded and under the hoop, and an inability to make opponents pay for ignoring you, means opposing teams can hide their worst defender, or best help defender, and cheat towards the Kings’ best scorers, making life more of a challenge for Thornton, Tyreke and DeMarcus.

Granted, this is a grim and sober portrayal of a player eager to prove worthy of a new 4 year (or 5 year) deal, and not akin to my generally optimistic outlook.

Is all hope lost, JT fans? Well….no!

A new season is three weeks away. This is a time of hope, when all NBA teams are undefeated, when playoff visions and irrational optimism abounds, until the first 20 point thumping.

There is hope for Jason Thompson too, if he accepts a role suited to his skill set.

Last season, JT came into camp last season in improved shape. I noted his leaner physique and capacity to play a modest, but effective back-up role. He subsequently beat out a woefully disappointing JJ Hickson, and an injury-plagued Sumo Hayes.

JT didn’t help the team win any games, but he looked like an all-star compared to the dead weight on the Kings bench, including Whiteside, Hayes and the aforementioned Hickson, who was so bad the Kings waived him, despite owing a future first rounder, and to the relief of both parties, so he could latch onto to another team to try to earn new deal.

JT shot a career high 53% FGs on put backs, uncontested layups and dunks, and an occasional lefty flip that sent Sactown Royalty into hysterics. He used his size and hustle to make himself available to catch and finish around the basket, exploiting the disregard opponents showed him.

By seasons end, and into the early offseason, JT was last man standing. He was not an appealing option. He was the best option, surprisingly, with the crash and burn 2011-12 chronicles of Sumo, JJ and Whiteside. Free agents were not eager to sign. Cost was prohibitive (Anderson). The timing was wrong (Scola). The Kings needed size and warm bodies.

The anatomy of a fleece was set. JT made out like a bandit. Congrats again, kid.

JT did benefit under the tutelage of Kings big man consultant, former standout pro Clifford Ray. There was a palpable difference in JT’s willingness to read defenses and play like a living and breathing intelligent player. As opposed to rushing with mindless aggression, assaulting his way into the paint without rhyme or reason, JT surveyed the floor and reacted accordingly.

Boom, baby!

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Will we see more of this in 2012-13 from JT?

Possibly. Don't blink. ;)

Ultimately, a humble ceiling has been set. Modest improvement is reasonable to expect. Almost 300 games of lessons and adversity should pay off with more than angst and inconsistency. $30 million dollars should afford the Kings more than half-hearted layups when forceful dunks are an explosive jump away.

But let’s not kid ourselves.

JT cannot compete against the likes of David Lee, Paul Mislap, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin.

He's not a starting caliber PF. He’s not good enough. Period.

Jason Thompson can do significant damage, however, against back-up centers, 10 to 20 minutes per game, by hustling down the floor, boxing out, securing inside position against the lightweights who balance out NBA rosters. He can keep the starting PF position warm until T-Rob is ready, circa 15-20 games into the new campaign.

Bring it on, Kwame Brown, Bismack Biyombo, and Hammed Haddadi!

JT just got paid. He’s flush with cash, and ready to flush a two hand slam in your grill.

What you gonna do, Andris Biedriens, when the Kid runs wild on you?

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(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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