A couple rumors about new owners have been flashing around the Twitterspace, and I think that once a new owner is installed (Seattlite or no) they will want to make it clear that they are committed to this team through the best means they can: by spending oodles and oodles of money. But they cannot spend their >$0 dollars on just anybody, no the player that the Kings ownership lands will need to address a need on the court. Right now, the Kings are sitting pretty (depending on DeMarcus' mood) at the center position, and the guard position filled by Tyreke Evans (which guard slot? We'll never know.); making those two spots the only areas where this team does not need drastic improvement to become competitive. As you all know as well as I, the small forward position is and has been the greatest need for this team for the last five or so years. The NBA trade market has been flooded by rumors of a certain Grizzly, by the name of Rudy Gay that has been up for sale for quite some time. His value is lower than is has been in quite some time, so perhaps it is the opportune time to strike?
There are quite a few reasons out there to trade for Rudy Gay, let's be honest for a moment. The Kings have had a dearth of talent at the small forward position pretty much since The Player Formerly Known as Ron Artest made his exit from Sacramento. His replacements include the always cordial John Salmons, Andre Nocioni, Omri Casspi, Donte Greene, Travis Outlaw, Tyler Honeycutt, Francisco Garcia, and Tyreke Evans. Barring the last name listed and the Fish, none of these players will likely ever receive an NBA contract ever again.
But what about that damned contract of Rudy's? During the summer of 2010 AKA the summer of LeBron, Rudy Gay was supposed to meet with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but cancelled the meeting upon being offered a five-year $82 million offer from the Grizzlies. He and his agent quickly accepted, and returned to the team that drafted him. Besides serving as an example to the rest of the league that small-market teams are forced to overpay for their players, the Memphis Grizzlies also set another message to the league: "We believe in Rudy Gay". Today, I set out to find out how Chris Wallace and the Gang justified Rudy's gigantic contract.
The Class of 2006 is not one that many remember, only a few good players came out of it: so what was the market price on restricted free agents?
- LaMarcus Aldridge signed a five-year $65 million extension.
- Brandon Roy signed a five-year $80 million extension.
- Andre Bargnani signed a five-year $65 million extension.
These players are considered the premiere talents from this draft, and Rudy Gay's contract even exceeded rising star Brandon Roy's extension. I get sad every time I think about Roy's career, because at this point he was putting up some excellent numbers and had a bright future ahead of him. According to Basketball Reference, Roy played a total of 274 games out of 328 in four years, versus the much more durable Gay who clocked in at 327 games. At the end of each of their fourth years (the years before they received their extensions), Roy and Gay stood as such:
Career: 20.2 PPG, 5.0 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 46.7% FG, 35.4% 3PG, 79.7% FT
2009/2010 Regular Season: 21.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.7 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 47.3% FG, 33.0% 3PT, 78.0% FT
Career: 17.4 PPG, 1.7 APG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 45.4% FG, 34.6% 3PG, 76.0% FT
2009/2010 Regular Season: 19.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 46.6% FG, 32.7% 3PT, 75.2% FT
*Bold items represent rises from career averages.
Wow, durability means a lot in the minds of GM's, go figure? Gay's only advantage here is his rebounding and shot-altering ability, which can be attributed to him weighing more, and being three inches or so taller than Roy. So, Roy's market setting price of $80 million suddenly makes a little bit more sense for Chris Wallace and Co to retain their budding star for just two million more.
Going further, looking at their most recent years prior to extension, I can actually see where Wallace is believing he's getting a bargain. Roy's position calls for more distributing skills, and a bit more of a perimeter game, but as a slasher Gay has shown that he excels at his position. In his contract year, he exceeded his career averages in just about every category outside his perimeter game, establishing himself as a premiere small forward in the league. Even better, he has played in 96% of all possible games on the Grizzlies' schedule since he was drafted, versus the significantly worse 83% from Roy. Two million suddenly seems like a paltry sum of difference. From this perspective, Rudy has played up to his newly minted contract, to this point. Unfortunately, this is where the similar career trajectories of Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay come to a screeching halt, much to Roy's misfortune. Now, another comparison subject had to be found in order to complete my research. Enter: Danny Granger.
I don't know why, but Danny Granger and Rudy Gay have been tied together in my mind for quite some time. Maybe its because I've wanted to trade for them both for a long time... Who knows? But when I could no longer follow Roy's tragic tale, I shifted to Danny Granger. Following his third year in the league, Granger tendered a five-year $60 million extension with the Indiana Pacers. Wait, what? $60 million? What did Danny Granger do to earn such a measly sum (as opposed to Rudy Gay). To the stats!
Career: 13.6 PPG, 1.6 APG, 5.2 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 45.6% FG, 36.9% 3PT, 81.1% FT
2007/2008 Regular Season: 19.6 PPG, 2.1 APG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 44.6% FG, 40.4% 3PT, 85.2% FT
*Bold items represent a rise from career averages.
Wow, what a difference a year makes for some players. Danny Granger put together his best year to date, and he earned himself $60 million over the next five years. Now it seems Chris Wallace should have come closer to these numbers when negotiating with Gay. Granger was a budding star in Indiana, and he was durable all the way as apposed to Brandon Roy's checkered injury history that got him an $80 million contract. Remember Rudy Gay's numbers before he received $82 million from Memphis?
19.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 46.6% FG, 32.7% 3PT, 75.2% FT 16.2 PER
Now watch what happens when they are placed next to Danny Granger's numbers.
19.6 PPG, 2.1 APG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 44.6% FG, 40.4% 3PT, 85.2% FT 16.7 PER
Identical scoring, and very approximate numbers down the line outside of Granger's clearly superior perimeter shooting game that gave him the edge in efficiency over Gay. Yet, Granger received over twenty million less than his 2006 alumni counterpart.
Of course the next question is, did Granger live up to his contract? Well, he ended up missing fifteen games the year he signed his extension, and then twenty more the following year. Durability is now a question with Granger, who missed quite a hefty amount of time on the court, but while he was on the court he was a consistent borderline all-star caliber racking up 22.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.5 APG from his contract extension to prior to this season. His best season saw him score over 25 points a game, while shooting above 40% from the three, and nearly 90% at the free-throw line.
But what about Rudy Gay? He takes his $82 million, then what? Well he plays like Rudy Gay does play; pretty damn well. Unfortunately, a season where Gay's numbers all shot upward returned to earth when he experienced a left shoulder subluxation, which would later be operated on.
Now, I am no doctor, so I looked up what doctors say about shoulder subluxations, and found myself a lot more worried for Rudy Gay's future. In an interview with Dime Magazine, Bal Raj, one of the leading orthopedic surgeons in the world, was asked about Rudy Gay's injury that sidelined him in the classic Memphis/Oklahoma City series in 2011. During the exchange, the doctor goes into detail into the steps of trying to recreate the balance in a person's shoulder, which Gay had lost. As opposed to baseball, these subluxations are much more acute in both strength and pain, as more dynamic actions lead to a basketball player getting these issues, versus a baseball player's overuse leading to wear and tear.
Unfortunately, complications arise from surgical procedures, according to Raj: "What happens frequently is we can recreate perfection, so once we stabilize it, it may cause stiffness in the shoulder. So that is one possible and probably side effect. As you know as an athlete if you've got limits (if it's not all the way back) you're certainly not going to function a the level you did before."
Ruh-Roh. This injury is chronic. Luckily for Gay, it isn't enough to sideline him for any extended period, as he returns to play all but one game during the lockout shortened season but his play seemed inconsistent. He'd play very well in spurts, but much like the rest of the team he would play terribly during other stretches. Then this year of course, his stats are still there, but the efficiency in which he garners those numbers has plummeted in the 2012/2013 season. There is a bit to speculate on, his role with the team in question, his shoulder may be bothering him, who knows? All I know is that his production has been on the downturn ever since his shoulder was injured. Maybe its false causality, but I can't be sure. All I know is, I don't want to spend over $34 million to find out.
Danny Granger, on the other hand remained very durable after a shaky first two years, missing seven games total. This year? He's been sidelined with a knee injury the entire season. His particular diagnosis is Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper's knee. It is a fairly common injury in basketball and volleyball; however, Granger reached Stage 4 tendinitis (a complete tear in the knee), which is where surgery is then required. According to surgeon predictions, he ought to be back in action in time for the Pacers' match-up with the Philadelphia 76er's on February 6th. In the mean time, Indiana has had Lance Stephenson anchor the backcourt while Paul George fills in for Granger. What's interesting is that George is playing the best basketball of his career at his natural position, while Stephenson struggles. The Pacers' frontcourt trio is very strong right now, despite Hibbert's struggles, but their backcourt continues to have issues with a lack of talent. Enter your Sacramento Kings.
I am certain the Sacramento Kings have the most depth at the guard position. Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, and John Salmons sometimes all play the shooting guard position, the weakest part of Indiana's currently assembled team. As Granger's return date draws nearer, if I am the Kings I am not looking at Rudy Gay; I am looking right at the Pacers' for their inclination to make a deal. Indiana is leading the Central Division right now, and is third in the playoff race in the East. Clearly, Danny Granger's absence has not totally destroyed this team. The small forward spot for them can continue to be filled rather well by Paul George, who is averaging almost 17 points and 7 rebounds a game at the moment, while also chipping in nearly four assists per game.
Now, who do I deal for Danny Granger? Well, not Tyreke to be entirely honest I think that Evans' value is worth more than Granger's at the moment, especially with this injury. Which is precisely why I think its the perfect time to make a grab for him. Granger's stock isn't exorbitantly high at the moment, so why not reach out to Indiana with an offer of Marcus Thornton, Francisco Garcia, and Aaron Brooks for Danny Granger? Well I tried in the trade machine and it didn't work, so I had the Pacers throw Mike Plumlee in to balance the salaries, and voile! The trade worked.
In this deal, the Kings receive a starting, near all-star caliber small forward while dealing a position of strength and an expiring deal in order to do it. Talent-wise, the Kings will be getting back the better part of this deal, and Granger fills in a need that the Kings have desperately needed for years, now. His perimeter shooting is better than anybody on this roster, and he instantly becomes a killer third option on a playoff squad. Plumlee doesn't really interest me, but eh what the hell? SBNation's Mike Prada dug up this nugget on Danny Granger's impact on offense:
"Last year, the Pacers scored nearly 109 points per 100 possessions with Granger inthe game and just under 101 points per 100 possessions with him out of the contest, according to Basketball Value. To put it in slightly different terms, the Pacers were as good as the San Antonio Spurs offensively with Granger last year and as bad as the Sacramento Kings with him on the bench."
I will take the sad truth to make my case that Danny Granger would be a perfect fit in the Kings' offense, and would be a perfect cog in the years going forward. Oh, and even if Granger is an absolute failure to us, his $13.6 million contract expires after next season, giving us a massive expiring to work with under new ownership (I'm assuming its going to be Sacramento-based).
The Pacers do this deal to shore up depth at the guard position, as well as generate more salary space in the offseason following David West's contract expiration. Marcus Thornton is in a down year, sure; however, we all know that he can perform very well as a volume scorer, giving the Pacers an X-factor going into the playoffs, instead of a glaring weakspot at the shooting guard position. Aaron Brooks provides a suitable third point guard to D.J Augustin and George Hill, and Francisco Garcia is a positive influence on any team, a pretty good haul for a guy who hasn't played at all this year.
During seasons prior to this one, I was on the Rudy Gay bandwagon in full-force. I thought he would be perfect for the Kings; however, after examining the evidence above I do believe the Danny Granger would be a much more suitable target for the Kings. He may have a so-so injury history, but I think he plays for his dollar much better than Rudy Gay has and presents a not-so-risky experiment for new ownership to get their hands on.