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A New Nucleus?

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The season isn't over, but it's as close as it has been. And the Kings' varying levels of difficulty against the Spurs have highlighted numerous things about Sacramento's immediate and future strengths and weaknesses when it comes to competing for a title.

This team will obviously change this offseason. To what degree remains to be seen - one of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas are surely gone, Bonzi's status is a complete question mark, and the jury is still out on whether Ron Artest will stay in town or get moved for a quick profit.

At some point, the Brad Miller-Mike Bibby duo will be brought into dissolution discussions. The two combine to make a whole lot of money with very limited success, save the times a superstar (Webber, Artest) is also on the roster.

Frankly put, unless Jim Dolan is signing paychecks, monstrous salary will only stick through mediocre results for so long until another option is found. Since Miller and Bibby get the biggest payroll checks, their pink slips might be debated first.

So this begs the question: Who's your new nucleus?

I pick Miller, Shareef and Kevin Martin. It will be extremely difficult (impossible?) to find a point guard as good as Bibby. But if you can get a solid backup center and some role players/draft picks, why not check out the market? The same with Artest - you got him essentially dirt cheap, and you might be able to get a nice piece back at this point.

I don't know that Bibby and Miller are mutually exclusive, but I'm starting to get the sense they will be. My issue with moving Miller is that he makes everyone on the team better, literally - everyone on the squad except Jason Hart has better stats when on the floor with Miller. That could say something about the bench situation, but Reef has had a similar impact and he's been Brad's main backup since January.

There will be changes. It could be minor movement, like the Lakers last offseason. Or it could be a major shuffle, a la the Heat or Suns. We won't know until the hot stove cools off. But we sure can guess.

So who's your nucleus?