FanPost

The Bounce of the Ping-Pong Ball


Let's not beat around the bush: The Sacramento Kings have been a struggling franchise since the 2005-2006 season, coming off a 4-2 series lost to the always title-contending San Antonio Spurs. Although once the role model for small market teams, the Kings have dropped off significantly each season since their last playoff berth. The plan for the past few years has been to rebuild through the draft rather than through trading or free agency, with the latter two primarily used for complimentary players. Now, this is no news to anyone following the NBA, and especially to Kings fans across the nation. While the Kings were expected to struggle during the rebuilding process, no one predicted it to last more than half a decade, with the last 4 seasons seeing no more than 25 wins at most (although they certainly had a chance to get to 30 last year had the lockout not occurred).

Now, the big question: Whose fault is it, and why has the rebuilding process taken so long? Why have we stagnated in terms of wins and losses while we are supposedly adding talent through the draft? Is it the blame on the owners for not spending? The GM for not drafting wiser and pulling the trigger on trades as well as big-name free agents? The coaching staff for not utilizing the players correctly and implementing a solid offensive and defensive scheme? The players for not producing and not improving? The fans for not filling the seats and supporting the players each night?

While all of those surely have been factors in contributing to the struggle of the franchise, there is one factor that many are overlooking that is the REAL reason for out struggles: LUCK. And the truth is, we have little to none of it (except when it comes to improbably buzzer beaters from half-court and from players who seemingly could not shoot to save their lives).

The current model of how-to-build-a-perennial-playoff-team-and-championship-contender-from-scratch is the OKC Thunder model, with consecutive drafts of Durant (2007), Westbrook (2008), Harden (2009), and Ibaka (drafted in 2008 but played first season in 2009-2010 with Harden). That is three consecutive years of straight-up drafting talent, getting one of the best scorers in the game (Durant) along with 2 very talented and athletic scorers (Westbrook and Harden) and one of the best defensive big men in the game (Ibaka). It took only 2 seasons of mediocrity after drafting Durant to vault the Thunder to a perennial playoff team and only 3 seasons until they became an annual threat for the NBA Championship trophy.

The stage seemed to be set perfectly for the Kings: two solid big men (Hawes and Thompson), a scorer in place (Kevin Martin), and the worst record in the NBA. All we need to do is start with the 2009 NBA draft, and in only a few years, they would be a continual playoff team in Sacramento. Now again, the question: Why didn't it work? Why are we still talking about rebuilding and next year? Why not "this year" and "how far can we go in the playoffs?"

Again, ladies and gentlemen, that luck factor comes into play. The Thunder vaulted from the fifth spot to second, but still got Kevin Durant thanks to the luck of having Oden in the draft; the Kings, on the other hand, fell from first to fourth, losing out on Blake Griffin. This is the first and most important reason why we are still where we are: the 2009 NBA Draft, where LUCK first screwed us over big-time in the rebuilding process. OKC was rewarded with Durant; why were we screwed over, dropping to literally the furthest possible spot? We should have had Griffin, the most athletic player in the league, and easily a 10+time all-star and multiple Olympic Team member. While Tyreke is no cruddy player at all, he is certainly not the top 10 talent that Blake Griffin is.

The next draft for OKC, the 2008 draft, was one full of All-Star talent throughout the first round, and a few top-15 NBA talents. Luck was again on their side, and to the extreme: while they did drop to the fourth pick from second, they STILL had the choice of picking between Kevin Love and Russel Westbrook. At fourth, they actually had a choice between two incredibly talented players to be the Robin to Kevin Durant's Batman! As for Serge Ibaka, we must give credit where credit is due: he was the 24th pick, and other teams had the chance to select him. Kudos to them for selecting him, willing to wait a year. But back to luck, luck, luck. A great draft for picking up great talent in the first few picks

For the Kings, they picked up Cousins as their second man to Tyreke. The jury is still out on him; I, like many, consider him to be one of the most talented big men in the NBA. We've seen the talent and reasons why he was seen as an elite prospect (this current four-game road trip in early January, posting 4 consecutive double doubles, three consecutive 20-10 games, one 30-20 game, and a triple double, all in the same trip) and why he dropped to fifth because of the red flags (numerous suspensions/incidents, attitude issues, not caring on the court, possibly a cancer in the locker room, etc.). We've gone as far as to say he's all but gone and needs to be gone after the suspension in December of 2012, only to say we were ridiculous to say so and that he can be a multiple NBA all-star in a matter of two weeks. Luck was not terribly against us this time, but we could have easily moved from 3rd to the first pick, getting the very talented John Wall. Again, LUCK: OKC gets to choose between Love and Westbrook, while we essentially choose between Monroe and Cousins (good big men, but no perennial All-Star talents).

Now, for the third player to complement Batman and Robin. OKC is slotted fourth, but moves up to third, which would turn out to be huge. They come away with the chance to draft either Harden, Tyreke, or Rubio, and with a firm PG already in place in Westbrook and two players who already score and need the ball (Durant and Westbrook), Tyreke would not be a great option. Enter James Harden, the perfect combination of scoring, passing, ball-handling, and overall glue-guy. The absolute dream pick for them; he meshes fantastically with Durant and Westbrook, both with his game and personality, and with his abilities off the bench, lead them to a 50 win season, fourth in the west. Where would they be with Tyreke? Nobody knows, but Harden was literally the ideal fit for them. Could not have been more perfect. The jury has decided on this one: LUCK was definitively on the OKC side.

As for the Kings and their third complement player. Tyreke had a injury-riddled season and trade rumors were already flying, while Cousins looked to have a tough time adapting to the NBA game. Talented, sure, but both are below-the-rim players, and in this league, athleticism wins championships (or fantastic defense, of course). Some LUCK is really needed in this 2011 draft. Who would have guessed? We don't get any, and instead of securing the fifth pick or higher, we drop two spots to the 7th pick, in a draft already seen as very weak. Fantastic. We miss out on having the PG of the future and one of the best PG's in the league (one that can shoot, pass, and plain and simply do it all) and even a solid-looking big man in Kanter, Valanciunas, or Tristian Thompson. Instead, we are left between players like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Knight, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker. We famously chose to drop down to 10th to get Jimmer along with Salmons (to secure our SF spot). Jimmer looks to be no better than a great sixth-man, spark-plug scoring option off the bench, which is fine, but not what you expect with the 10th pick. Leonard could have filled in our SF position nicely, but we DESPERATELY needed a PG (and still probably need a starting one, as I see IT as great off the bench, considering how he also works very well with Jimmer). I was always a fan of Salmons, and while he was dreadful in his first year back, he picked up his form again, and is now performing great as the starting SF this year. Our real steal was Isaiah Thomas, who showed that he can easily be a great backup PG (to pair nicely with Jimmer, as said). So, here comes the LUCK factor: it shot us in the gut in this draft. Little talent to choose from, yet the small glimmer of hope we had was destroyed.

Now: LET'S RECAP! (VIEW CHART BELOW)

Who is really to blame? LUCK. Our coaches and GM can only work with what is available to us, albeit the M*loofs are not helping in the free-agent department. OKC, the model team, cannot be copied if we do not get the chance to do so. We should have had Blake Griffin. He would have attracted fans, attention, free-agents, accolades, and so on. Next season we could have had Rubio (would be arguably better than Nash/Stoudemire on pick-n-roll), and so on. Yes, we could be and should be doing better now. But the real reason why we are struggling? LUCK. And we have none of it.

DRAFT

OKC PLAYER

KINGS PLAYER
MOVED UP OR DOWN IN DRAFT?
MANY GOOD PLAYERS TO CHOOSE FROM?
SUPERSTAR TALENT?
ALL-STAR TALENT?
DEFENSIVE FORCE?
PLAYER LOST OUT ON / SHOULD HAVE HAD:
SCALE 1-10: HOW MUCH LUCK?

First Major Draft

Kevin Durant
Tyreke Evans

Kings-DOWN

OKC-UP

Kings: NO

OKC: NO

Kings: NO

OKC: YES

Kings: MAYBE

OKC: YES

Kings: Maybe

OKC: NO

Kings: Blake Griffin

OKC: none

Kings: 2 (somebody was there)

OKC: 10 (Jumped up, Durant Available at 2)

Draft for "Robin"

Rusell Westbrook
DeMarcus Cousins

Kings-DOWN

OKC-DOWN

Kings: NO

OKC: YES

Kings: NO

OKC: NO


Kings: MAYBE

OKC: YES

Kings: NO

OKC: PROBABLY

Kings: John Wall

OKC: Kevin Love (chose not to have him)

Kings: 5 (Jury out on Cousins)

OKC: 9 (Strong Draft, Choice of Love or Westbrook After dropping to fourth)

Draft for 3rd Complement

James Harden
Jimmer Fredette

----


Kings: NO

OKC: YES

Kings: NO

OKC: NO

Kings: MAYBE

OKC: YES

Kings: NO

OKC: NO

Kings: Kyrie Irving

OKC: None

Kings: 1 (Terrible Draft Talent, Dropped)

OKC: 9 (Talented top 10, got perfect complement)

Sleeper Pick

Serge Ibaka
Isaiah Thomas

----

-----

Kings: NO

OKC: NO

Kings: NO

OKC: NO

Kings: NO

OKC: YES

-----

Kings: 9 (IT a steal at #60)

OKC: 9 (Defensive Force at #24)

Big Trade

Kendrick Perkins
John Salmons

-----

----

Kings: NO

OKC: Yes

Kings: NO

OKC: NO

Kings: NO

OKC: YES

Kings: EVERYONE

OKC: None

Kings: 4 (terrible first seasons, good now)

OKC: 7.5 (Gave up Jeff Green, but get defensive force)









(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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