Mail Sac Friday, and Steve asks: "I was wondering who the Kings should target as a perimeter defender and an off the bench scorer for next season? I see these as two issues going forward."
Well, there are a couple of ways to look at this. If Rudy Gay stays, the Kings have minimal money to offer for such necessities via free agency, even if Isaiah Thomas winds up going elsewhere (which means that money would also have to be spent on a new point guard). So a guy like Thabo Sefolosha could wind up being too expensive for the Kings limited wiggle room. C.J Miles could be a nice super 6th man, but again, he will probably be too expensive. Same goes for Rodney Stuckey.
If Gay opts out and leaves, the Kings have a bit more money to spend in the market place - somewhere in the neighborhood of $12m (rough estimate, pookey - rough estimate) before re-signing Thomas. But if that occurs, filling the small forward position becomes more critical than picking up a perimeter defender or a bench scorer. I don't see Derrick Williams filling the void at small forward, as his most effective moments have come at power forward and not on the wing. Free agent candidates would include Danny Granger, Trevor Ariza, Marvin Williams, Al Farouq-Aminu, You could also determine to throw a lot of money at Gordon Hayward and see if Utah matches. Indiana would be less likely to match on Evan Turner if they wind up retaining Lance Stephenson. Luol Deng is probably going to be a bit more than the Kings can/will want to spend.
It seems that via free agency, opportunity to adequately fill these needs only occurs if Gay and Thomas leave and the Kings replace both players with budget options. For example, could Gay and Thomas leave and be replaced by Ariza, D.J. Augustin, Sefolosha or Miles? It seems a few million too fat to me, at least. Would it be better? Hard to say. Could the Kings make it happen? It would be a longshot.
I don't see any players in the draft that can come in and make that kind of impact, certainly not as an immediate perimeter defender. I could envision Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins becoming core rotation scorers, whether it would be as a starter or a bench guy, but I'm hard pressed to envision any rookie being a consistent bench scorer.
That leaves trades. Would Atlanta prefer Jason Thompson or an expiring (for all intents and purposes) Williams for Kyle Korver? Would the Kings want to take on Korver at three years and $17m? Could Jared Dudley and Darren Collison (via sign and trade) be had from the Clippers? If the Kings fall out of the top 7 or so of the draft, would you do a draft day trade of that pick for Iman Shumpert (I wouldn't)? Would you package the pick and any one of the bench bigs (Landry, Thompson or Williams) on draft day for Arron Afflalo (I would...not so sure that Orlando would)?
The Kings still have more needs than they have working cap room, and they really don't have a wealth of assets at any position that they can trade out of. The draft will bring limited relief at best. While hope springs eternal for improvement next season, it may be 2015-16 before the Kings can address many of their needs.
Rantdumb thoughts: A year ago yesterday the Kings defeated the Chicago Bulls 121-79 at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings starting lineup was Jason Thompson, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas. DeMarcus Cousins did not play (this came on the heels of Cousins' dust-up and ejection with Mike Dunleavy a couple of nights earlier - Cousins was not suspended for this game, and there were some initial reports that he had a "sore leg," but the box score wound up reading "DNP-CD). Most fun part of reading the box score: The Kings (excluding John Salmons) shot 59% from the field...Salmons was 2-10. Good times.
Thompson, Thomas, Cousins and Travis Outlaw are the only players on the roster for that game that are still on the roster a year later. The coach is gone, as is the coaching staff. The GM is gone. The owners are gone. So much change.
A few nights later, the Kings lost to the Lakers in LA, 113-102. Kobe Bryant sat, but the Kings had no answer for Antawn Jamison and Metta World Peace. Cousins sat out that game as well, this time it being listed as a left quad contusion.
So much has changed in just that year, yet so much remains unchanged. A new owner, GM, coach, and a roster that has seen Patrick Patterson, Salmons, Evans, Chuck Hayes, Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas, Marcus Thornton, James Johnson and Jimmer Fredette leave, Greivis Vasquez, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (and in a roundabout way, Robin Lopez) pass through, and Quincy Acy, Reggie Evans, Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, Orlando Johnson, Carl Landry, Ray McCallum, Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, and perhaps even Royce White and Jason Terry arrive. That's 24 guys, and I may have missed one or two. And with all of that change, if the Kings can win five of its last seventeen games, they will finish with the exact same record as last year. So the legitimate question is, has this franchise made any progress?
I say yes, though the steps forward have been small and it's not as though the new regime has not had its missteps.
Letting Tyreke Evans walk was new ownership's decision that Evans was not worth 4/$44m. I would have paid him. Early returns show the front office being a lot smarter than me. That they engineered a sign and trade that netted them Greivis Vasquez and a couple of 2nd round picks was a bonus...though I would have preferred Robin Lopez over the Carl Landry signing (we'll get to that one in a minute). This one is very early to call, but I'll give the front office the credit for coming up with a valuation on Evans and sticking to their guns. Not a win necessarily, but a hat tip.
I'll call the Cousins early extension a win. It simply removed an elephant from the room for the Kings. The risk was wrapped around if Cousins backslid once he signed the deal. But he did not. He would easily be a max (2nd contract) player on the open market this season. The Kings did themselves no harm by extending Cousins, and he can still be easily moved if the organization ever made the determination to go in that direction. This was not a major win, by any means, but still a win.
The draft is simply too early to call. McLemore has been a bit of a hot mess, but none of the rookies have people saying "future all-star!" McCallum has shown more promise as an early 2nd round pick than either Hassan Whiteside or Tyler Honeycutt, to name two recent early 2nd round Kings picks. Too early to call this one a loss, but McLemore has to be at least a little bit of a concern right now.
The Carl Landry signing. Of all of the moves, this is the one that I really don't understand. Four years and $26m for a bench big, and one that does not particularly jibe well with your newly minted franchise cornerstone. I like Top Hat, but he has a long way to go to turn this loss into a win for the front office.
Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who was obtained for (give or take) the draft picks that we received for Robin Lopez. OK, I'd rather have Lopez instead of Williams too, dammit! The Williams deal is the exact kind of deal that this franchise needs to make - low risk with the potential of high reward. I don't see it happening in this case, though. I think that Williams may someday round into a capable core rotation player, but the meter is running on his current contract and he will be hard pressed to make good on his $6.3m deal next year before becoming a free agent. When it's all said and done, I think that this is going to be a non-deal. Same for Orlando Johnson. No harm in a pair of ten day contracts, but that will also likely wind up being a non-deal.
The Rudy Gay trade. Love it. Really, no downside. If Gay stays next year the Kings are better than had they retained the services of Chuck Hayes plus whatever they could have gained via free agency, as most of the existing cap room would be eaten up by Isaiah Thomas' new contract or his replacement. And if Gay leaves, nothing was really lost and a little more net cap room is gained. This was a big deal by NBA standards, and a good one for the Kings (and the Raptors, for that matter). Oh, and Quincy Acy for less than $1m next year doesn't hurt, either.
Marcus Thornton for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans. Small win here. Breaking a larger expiring into smaller pieces gives you more flexibility, and Reggie Evans is at least fair value at $1.7m next year. It will be interesting to see if Jason Terry comes back or determines to hang them up. This is not a franchise changer, but it is a minor positive step.
Releasing Jimmer Fredette. I suppose that this sends a message that the franchise will do the right thing for players, but the NBA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. The benevolence bestowed upon Fredette can be easily forgotten. If this is the establishing of a pattern for the organization, it will be a positive overall. But it's something that has to be re-established over and over and over again.
Royce White. Like Derrick Williams, these are the kind of low risk, high reward chances that the Kings must take (and it is low risk, right up to the moment that they invest big dollars in White). This one is way too early to call. But as it pertains to his decision to wear the #35? JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE!!!!!!!!!!
Add it all up and I have one nice win (the Gay trade), one bad loss (the Landry signing), and a lot of other deals that add up to a slight incremental positive. I would say that progress has been made, whether or not it shows up in the win column at the moment.
And 1 - Coach Michael Malone has not been perfect this year, but as a rookie head coach I give him high marks and praise for having this team ready to play hard throughout the season, in spite of the rampant roster turnover. Malone and his staff has had to adjust on the fly all season, and they have still put a team on the floor that is exciting and compelling (and infuriating and frustrating). More than any player on the current roster, Malone has earned his time next year in the Sacramento Kings locker room.
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