I was remiss in discussing Toney Douglas and will briefly say that he has the physical tools to be a decent back up on this team as his per 36 min stats with the Kings last season support. Small sample size alert but the results below are consistent with the numbers he has accrued previously in his brief stint in Houston and New York.
22 GM, 43% FG, 38.9% 3P, 4.6 RB, 5.6 AST, 3.0 STL, 0.1 BLK, 2.4 TOV, 4.0 PF, 12.9 PTS
His percentages offensively are respectable and his comfort rolling off screens to catch and shoot coupled with his pull up jumper are assets in short supply on this team. His assists per possession and per minute are solid but his real value on this team is on the other side of the court. Although his height is an average 6’2", his length 6'6" is better than all other guards not named Tyreke. He has great lateral quickness and strength, plays aggressive defense albeit is a bit foul prone. Coming over late in the season, Toney had little opportunity to showcase his talents given the current log jam at guard along with Smart’s lack of focus on defense. All said, he is probably the second best individual defender next to Tyreke and can back-up both guard positions.
With IT and Tyreke starting and Jimmer and Toney coming off the bench lets shift focus to the primary objective of this post: Assessing the small forward position. Between Donte Green, Omri Casspi, JJ Hickson, Francisco Garcia, John Salmons and Tyreke Evans there have been too many hybrid and/or inexperienced players on this team. Missing a legit small forward arguably has been an equal factor in the losing record the last few seasons. After the break we will take a look at the talent pool on this team, the top small forwards across the NBA and then talk about the options for the Kings to make this team stronger.
There is little need to delve as deeply into the Kings roster at the small forward position because there is nobody on STR that believes we have a starter on the current roster. Although some would argue Tyreke could, I believe he is a much better 2 -- his natural position -—or a 1--his adapted position--than platooning at the 3 by default because he is the best all-around defender on the team. I will briefly summarize the current small forwards on the Kings to set up the conclusion that we only need 1 of these three on the roster to serve as a back-up. This will segue way into some analysis as to the player the Kings should look to pick up this off season.
Travis Outlaw - 6’9" H, 210 lbs, 6’11" WS
Per 36: 38 GP 41.8 FG% 28.0 3P% 1.4 OR 3.6 DR 4.9 TR 1.7 A 0.9 S 0.6 B 1.5 TO 2.8 F 16.2 PTS
Very athletic and sometimes a head scratcher, Travis performed well straight out of high school before being hampered with a foot injury in Portland. Bounced around with the Clippers, then New Jersey before being amnestied to the Kings and has toggled between PF and SF. A victim of playing in bad systems where he had little help in shot selection and was forced to find his own shot which he doesn’t do very well. Has all the physical tools to be a solid defender but needs coaching to develop those skills. Too old to be a project and not good enough to help right away.
James Johnson - 6’9" H, 245 lbs, 7’1" WS
Per 36: 54 GP 41.3 FG% .095 3P% 2.0 OR 3.9 DR 5.9 TR 2.4 A 1.7 S 2.1 B 2.8 TO 4.1 F 11.3 PTS
Above average length and size for position and a solid back up player with a decent mid-range game and willing passer. Has above average defensive skills that can slow more athletic SFs down in spurts. Really still raw and not overly athletic but has potential on D. Can backfill at the four when team plays a three guard rotation. JJ is the only one worth keeping as a back up as the Kings look elsewhere to find a starter at small forward.
It would be a complete fantasy to land an MVP like Lebron James or Kevin Durant though either would certainly solve most of what ails the Kings’ on court problems—leadership, MVP numbers, winning, playoffs, etc. Even securing a proven small forward currently under contract with another team would require assets to trade and the Kings possess only a few players with potential and mostly unproven talent. What remains in their quest for competitive relevance is either drafting a small forward or acquiring an unrestricted free agent. Let us first consider the draft as a plausible solution.
Many on STR like Otto Porter the sophomore from Georgetown. The 20 year old stands 6’9" with a 7’1.5" wingspan who appears to be a solid player ready to contribute right away in the NBA. He averaged 16.2 points, including an impressive 48% field goal percentage and 42.2% from three, with 7.5 boards and 1.8 steals. An efficient scorer and above average defender, Porter looks like he could grow into being a solid contributor in the NBA akin to Tayshaun Price, assuming he can add some weight. Given his production in the NCAA and overall potential, if he were to be available when the Kings pick seventh, I would be rather surprised if the Kings do not select him. More than likely he will be the Wizards’ third pick leaving the Kings to ponder should they make a play to move up perhaps using Travis Outlaw and the 7th pick would be a possible scenario that would allow a team to deal him to the Kings.
There are very few true small forwards in the first round and none seem worth too much analysis nor trying to make a moves for. Shabazz Mohammed an undersized 6'5" albeit sturdy player from UCLA is a solid scorer, but cannot pass and doesn’t seem to play defense. Sergev Karasev is a great passer with a high basketball IQ and polished shot, but doesn’t have the size nor the strength to defend his position at an NBA level yet. Finally Giannis Adetokunbo lacks experience playing basketball at an elite level and has not grown into his skinnier Kevin Durant body. Dario Saric whom I think has the highest ceiling and would love to pic up with the 2nd round pick has withdrawn from the draft.
While the draft is unlikely to provide the Kings a starting caliber small forward for the upcoming season there are quite a few options via free agency. Surprisingly there are a couple dozen players on the market and another half dozen hybrid players that play some 4 or some 2. Given the sample size, I filtered most of those types out as the Kings have proven a player that is 75% of what you need at two positions is 100% not the answer. I also eliminated any player that didn’t average 20 minutes a game, thinking, if you are not a starter on a better team we do not need you. This crossed off the journeyman since James Johnson checks that box, as well as developing players on a rookie contract since Tyler Honeycutt fits the bill there.
Those that did not make the cut include:
While a case could be made that a handful of the players listed above deserve consideration, there was too many other small forwards whom delivered greater and/or more efficient contributions last season. In alphabetical order here is the list:
Player Age| Team| Last Salary| Status
Al-Farouq Aminu, 22 NOP $8.3 UFA
Andrei Kirilenko 31 MIN $10.2 Player Option
Corey Brewer 26 DEN $3.2 UFA
Dorell Wright 27 PHI $4.1 UFA
Josh Smith 27 ATL $13.2 UFA
Kyle Korver 31 ATL $5.0 UFA
Martell Webster 26 WAS $1.8 UFA
Matt Barnes 32 LAC $1.2 UFA
Metta World Peace 33 LAL $7.7 Early Termination Option or Amnesty
Mike Dunleavy 32 MIL $3.8 UFA
Paul Pierce 35 BOS $15.3 PO
Shawn Marion 34 DAL $9.1 Early Termination Option
Stephen Jackson 34 SAS $10.1 UFA
When you look at the list above of some solid forwards currently available across their basic and advanced stats here was what they averaged last season:
Age | Sal | GP | MP | FG% | 3P% | FT% | ORB |DRB | TRB | AST | STL |BLK |TOV | PF | PTS
30.0 | $6.7 | 73.5| 28.4 | 44.6| 34.1| 75.5| 1.1| 4.1| 5.1 | 2.3 | 1.0 | 0.6| 1.5| 2.0| 11.6
MP | PER |TS% | eFG%|ORB% |DRB% |TRB% |USG% |ORtg |DRtg |OWS |DWS | WS | WS/48
2093 |14.9 |55.0|51.6 | 4.2 |16.1 |10.2 |19.2 |107.1|104.3| 2.3| 2.6| 4.8| 0.11
Since there are so many ways to compare players statistically I wanted a balanced and fair way to further filter this list down and compare the top half of this sample group. what good is it if a player shoots lights out but turns the ball over too much and can't rebound? Likewise, it is not enough that you can steal if your defensive win shares are non-existent. Being an elite player in one area but woeful in another is less preferred than a player who is above average in most categories.
In order to reconcile this I decided to come up with my own rating system. I wanted players that were more complete in their offensive and defensive productivity than the average in their respective sample group to rate highest so I decided to segregate a pared down set of advanced stats into both offensive and defensive categories and then aggregated them into an Offensive Elite Score (OES) and Defensive Elite Score (DES) in order to see how well each player performed against the averages as shown above. I omitted TRB and WS as these were already combined stats and left off WS/48 as it wasn’t unique to either side of the ball and finally Usage % because I didn’t want to penalize those who have a larger responsibility for initiating the offense in their respective offensive schemes. While ball hogs are a problem, being a facilitator for the offense is not and therefore Usage % is better leveraged when comparing players in the same system playing the same position. That said a lower usage would translate well for the Kings team whom already have a few ball dominant high usage players.
How I calculated the aggregate was to give a point for each statistical category the player was above the average and took away a point for each statistical category the player was below the average. The sum of all the offensive points were scored under OES and the same was done for the defensive points under DES. The higher the score, the better the player’s production and overall value on that side of the ball.
Finally I took the Sum from both of these aggregate totals to create a Combined Elite Score (CES). The net of this highlights whom the best or most multifaceted offensive, defensive and all around small forwards were statistically last season.
Amongst the 12 players within this filtered list the average OES was .3 with Stephen Jackson, AL-Farouq Aminu and Corey Brewer all -6 or worse with 16 points separating the top from the bottom. The players with positive OES scores are listed below:
PLAYER | PER| TS%| eFG%| AST%| TOV%| OWS| ORtg| ORB% OES
Shawn Marion 18.0 55.3 53.1 13.1 12.3 2.9 109 8.2 +8
Andrei Kirilenk 17.6 59.0 53.8 14.4 15.1 3.4 113 5.6 +6
Matt Barnes 15.5 56.6 54.4 9.2 11.0 3.5 113 6.5 +6
Dorell Wright 16.0 55.1 50.8 13.1 8.8 2.8 112 2.6 +4
Kyle Korver 13.9 63.7 61.8 9.9 9.9 4.0 119 1.2 +2
Martell Webster 13.9 60.1 55.1 10.7 11.1 3.9 115 2.7 +2
Mike Dunleavy 13.6 57.7 54.5 11.5 11.7 2.7 111 1.7 +2
Surprisingly Dorell Wright and Matt Barnes rank very well. Andrei was very strong too but Shawn Marion was the clear winner at +8--ranking above average in almost every key offensive statistical category.
On the defensive side 19 points separated the top from the bottom players within this sample size with probably little surprise that a few of the better offensive players scored low on the defensive side and vice versa. Stephen Jackson and Corey Brewer were by far the worst and the average DES was -1.08. There were fewer players with positive DES rankings over all:
Player | DRB%| STL%| BLK%| DRtg| DWS| DES
Josh Smith 21.3 1.8 3.9 101 4.5 +3
Matt Barnes 14.5 2.1 2.6 103 2.8 +3
Andrei Kirilenko 15.1 2.4 2.4 104 2.6 +2
Shawn Marion 20.6 1.9 1.8 104 2.5 +2
Al-Farouq Aminu 26.2 2.4 2.1 105 2.4 +1
Paul Pierce 19.7 1.7 0.9 102 3.7 +1
While Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Smith and Shawn Marion are known for being beasts on the boards, I was surprised at how tight this group was defensively and especially impressed with both Matt Barnes and Andrei Kirilenko who do not nab as many rebounds as the rest, but are solid defensively across all of these defensive categories.
When you total the players with a positive OES and DES they were: Shawn Marion +10
Matt Barnes +9
Andrei Kirilenko +8
Given what we have currently on the roster and what you now see is available via the draft and free agency (and assuming a trade is less than likely) what does the Kings next starting small forward need to have skills wise? I purposely did not pose the question early on in this post. While I do not recollect if this discussion has been made in the past, I know that some on STR are looking for a defensive stopper while others are looking for someone to knock down the long three at a high clip. Still others including me feel that to have a well rounded player that can be effective on both sides of the ball and play 30 plus minutes at small forward is key to the Kings’ future success. They have to contain and disrupt the best wings in the league while at the same time provide efficient production on the offensive side of the ball. While I miss the offensive abilities of Hedo Turkoglu and Peja Stojakovic, I really miss Doug Christie and Ron Artest who were consistently effective on both sides of the ball.
Picking a veteran small forward helps in another way as the Kings lack a veteran player who has won deep into the playoffs if not a NBA Championship and can still perform at a high level. While rebuilding you do not typically stock a team with players on their last contract for their career, never the less it would make a lot of sense to have at least one guy in his thirties who the younger players will likely respect, look to for leadership and benefit from playing with. To a certain extent you are going to overpay for their services but having one player that is overpaid who can still be productive while providing a strong presence in the locker room may be worth the extra money. In recent past the Kings have been resigned to calling veteran leadership as any player that have been in a losing culture longer and can remain professional. How many rings do you have was never a question asked when taking on bloated or expiring contracts. Now may be the right time to bring in a player who can bring the street cred to the team and play that leadership role.
When you look at the players who are capable offensively and defensively from this list it may be a surprise that the average age is 30. It begs the question why not fill the small forward role with a strong veteran who can fill the stats and provide leadership to the team very much the way Vlade did. The good news is landing someone to fill this void won’t require the same type of money that Kobe/LeBron/Dwight will command. While I have always liked Andrei, I would not have thought about Shawn nor Matt but these three seem to be the players we should go after first. Without researching what it would likely take to get one of these guys I will venture some guesses to initiate the dialogue but encourage feedback from the STR contingency.
Andrei Kirilenko – 4 Years / $49 M ($47 guaranteed, 2M in incentives; $12.5M X 2, $12M X 2)
Shawn Marion – 3 Years / $29M (last year is a team option; $10.5M, $9.5M, $9M)
Paul Pierce – 3 Years / $39M ($14M, $13M $12M)
Al Farouq Aminu – 5 years / $30M ( $5M, $5.5M, $6M, $6.5M, $7M)
Kyle Korver – 4 years $26M ( $7M, $6.5M X 2, $6M)
Dorell Wright – 4 years / $22M ($5.5M x 2, $5M X 2)
Matt Barnes – 4 years / $15M ($4.0M X 2, $3.75M, $3.25M)
Martell Webster – 5 years $17.5M ($3M, $3.25M, $3.5M, $3.75M, $4M)
Josh Smith – 5 years / $89M (last year is not guaranteed, $15M X 3, $14.5 M X 2, $15M)
There are a lot of options with some requiring more risk, but a solid small forward can be had and should have a big impact on the Kings turnaround next year.