Free Agency Monday Mail Sac: Time to tank?, how do we build it?, analytics?, and how 'bout that draft?

When free agency isn't free. - Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

FREE AGENCY'S HERE! FREE AGENCY'S HERE!!!

Kicking off free agent week with a question from fccpw: "How do you think Kings will perform in this coming offseason and season. With all the hype on 2014 draft and free agency, will they tank to get a higher pick and shed the whole team salary as much as possible or will they just push on to get better season results?"

This franchise is about momentum right now, and there is no way that they will gut the roster and subject the fan base to another year of directionless basketball. You will see a team playing with a purpose this year, and you will see a franchise that is focused on improving every day, and not hoping to pull a rabbit out of its hat at the June 2014 draft.

The Kings have less than $25m in guaranteed contract for 2014 at this moment. This does not include any dollars for Evans, Cousins, Fredette, Patterson or Thomas. If Evans and Cousins are retained, the team really would have little cap room for marquis free agents. Now, there are ways around this. For example, the Kings could sign Igoudala and re-sign Evans this year, while amnestying John Salmons. I'm painting with a really broad brush here, but if the Kings did something like that they would go into next year with about $50m of guaranteed salary, and the could exceed the cap but stay below tax levels while re-signing Cousins. In other words, the franchise gains little by sitting on their hands this year.

The Kings would certainly want to obtain a little more flexibility by moving inflated contract (Thornton, Outlaw and Hayes, for example), but it would be difficult to achieve this without taking back contract in return. For example, would you trade Thornton's two years at $16.9m total for Gerald Wallace's three years at $33m total? I wouldn't. It also needs to be emphasized that none of these contracts are really hamstringing the Kings right now, and all of these contracts will be gone by the 2015 season.

And 1 - I know that everyone is salivating over Andrew Wiggins right now, and he sure does look at least a little bit like a potential generational talent. But everyone has to remember that Byron Mullens was a consensus #1 when he came out of high school, as was Gerald Wallace and Shabazz Muhammad. A lot can change in a year. Next year's draft has every appearance that it will be a very strong draft, but mortgaging a season before you've even gone to summer league? I'll leave that to Boston and Philly.

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From betweentheeyes: "This (past) week of the draft has brought another round of hope and reminded us to look towards a now brighter future. The consensus is that no stars are in this draft, however in the first 7 picks it seems reasonable to hope for a player of starter quality. My question is: The NBA elite teams are built on stars but there are exceptions (teams without All-Stars): in these last playoffs - Denver and Milwaukee come to mind. Where do you see this star-less Kings franchise going over the next two seasons? Can the Kings nab an All-Star FA or will they have to nurture one via the current roster, via trade, through the draft or a FA up-and-comer?"

The odds say that your best chances are developing what you have, then through the draft, and then via trade, and finally free agency. The simple truth is that you don't see all stars move often via free agency, and when they do, they are usually headed to big markets (or in the case of Miami, markets developed via player conspiracy). That said, the new CBA could change the landscape. At the end of the day, free agents want to get paid, then they want to win, then they want a big market. Chris Webber was a primary example of this phenomenon. He wanted all three things, but Sacramento was the only place that could offer him the most money and a chance to win. And here he stayed. Yes, LeBron, Wade and Bosh all forfeited a slice or two of bread off the loaf when they all migrated to Miami. But let's remember that they all signed six year deals at nearly $110 million each, so they still managed to get paid quite nicely while achieving their goals of playing for a winner, and in doing so they elevated the Miami market. My blind guess is that the new CBA will either lead to more free agents staying with their current team, or at the very least the list of available alternatives may shrink to the point where the smaller markets become more of an option. But as long as you have owners willing to spend more in luxury tax than some teams have in payroll (Lakers, Nets), shenanigans will continue to occur.

Now, I don't know that we'll see the Kings back in the top 5 of the draft anytime soon, so that door may be closing for a while. The current talent base could still be developed. Cousins, Evans, Fredette, Thomas, Patterson, McLemore and McCallum should all still improve as players. Heck, even Thompson and Thornton are only 26, so they could still climb a rung or two. I don't think that the current collection of players represents a playoff roster, but what you hope for is enough improvement to give you tangible assets, which may in turn lead to a trade that lands you superior talent. Either way, you're hoping for Cousins (for example) to become all-star caliber, as it will benefit the franchise whether he stays or is eventually traded. Of course, if he leaves as a free agent, you're hosed.

I think that the most important thing that the Kings need to obtain over the next year or two is value. They need assets that are in excess of the expense. A team like Indianapolis is a great example. While they have had to pay out to retain Granger and Hibbert, let's not forget that they drafted these guys with their 17th and 18th picks, respectively. Great value picks! Paul George at 10. Lance Stephenson at 40. Obtaining George Hill at 14...even though they traded the Kawhi Leonard pick for Hill, Hill at 14 is great value. San Antonio gets their value by scouring the international waters and by signing players that appear unspectacular on the surface but ultimately flourish in their specific roles in the Spurs system.

There is really no one way, and you probably have to assemble your roster via each one of the above-mentioned options in varying degrees.

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And from rojoking: "How far can/does the analytics road go? Does player health and training come in to play? Are there numbers available to tell us how the next generation player will train, improve aspects of weaknesses in their game? How to train to remain injury free, and recover quicker and more fully from the various physical setbacks that hurt teams and careers? Will we be able to turn guys like James Johnson into lights out shooters, Hassan Whiteside into injury free hard workers, change instincts like ball hoggery into, see the floor, make the ‘right play' instincts?"

I think the main thing that analytics provides is a much more focused statistical analysis as it pertains to how certain players will perform in specific systems and situations. For example, the basic statistic of 3-point field goal percentage is expanded into where these shots are taken on the floor, whether they are pull-ups, catch and shoots, coming off screens, etc. What is the player's conversion rate in the 4th quarter vs. the other three quarters? What is the conversion rate off the bench vs. as a starter? It is this type of information that can really help you zero in on the exact type of player that you are looking for, perhaps getting the exact guy that you need at a relative value price instead of signing a splashy free agent that really doesn't fit your specific needs.

Injuries are injuries, and I'm not sure how analytics would address that. Analytics aren't likely to make Steph Curry's ankles stronger, for example. And analytics won't really address how to improve a shooting stroke, and nothing is going to help a guy with a 10 cent head.

Advanced analytics is a player in todays (and tomorrow's NBA). But it won't replace coaching or the hard work that a player needs to put in to improve himself. It certainly won't make trainers and team physicians obsolete. But what advanced analytics can provide is a certain amount of value (there's that word again) within your capped payroll, and can create a much better symmetry throughout your roster, which in turn could minimize the impact felt when one of your key players does suffer an injury.

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Pick & Droll for a Monday: OK, we've all had an opportunity to catch our breath. How do you feel about the draft? I'd have a hard time being happier. Ben McLemore was 4th on my board and 3rd on the StR board, so what's not to love? I was fine with the Ray McCallum pick at 36, as he was on my list there. But I sure wouldn't have minded Jeff Withey, Mike Muscala, Erick Green or Nate Wolters. But as I noted in the threads, had you offered me McLemore and McCallum at the beginning of the evening, I would have happily taken it, though then I would have missed Bill Simmons melting down over his Celtics, which was a personal draft highlight. The only "disappointment" for me was us not getting in on all of those late 1st round draft trades. I sure wouldn't have minded taking a run at Gobert (he went 27th) or stashing Jean-Charles (he went 28th...to San Antonio, of course). But now I'm getting greedy.

Oh, and congratulations to esoteric NBA name for winning the draft contest, being one of four members to properly choose McLemore, and then earning the tie breaker by getting the 2nd and 3rd overall pick right. No one picked McCallum in the 2nd round, and no one saw Bennett getting picked 1st.

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Send your questions and topic ideas to asksactownroyalty@gmail.com. As always, the ensuing thread is 100% jackable.

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