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Chasing Knicks: David Lee and Nate Robinson in Sacramento

The Kings have, in the past, reportedly had interest in both David Lee and Nate Robinson, current restricted free agents of the New York Knicks. For Lee, the rumors came when Ron Artest first made the mill. A trade sending Artest to New York, it was reported, would require Lee to Sacramento in return. The Knicks never bit (not Isiah Thomas or Donnie Walsh), and Artest ended up bringing back Donté Greene, Bobby Jackson and the pick which became Omri Casspi.

Nate's connection to Sacramento is more recent: a deadline day 2009 rumor that the Kings offered Kenny Thomas in exchange for Robinson and Jared Jeffries, a player with a ruddy contract which extends in 2011. Shockingly, the Knicks did not bite, despite an apparent bloodthrist for contracts expiring in 2010, which Thomas' does. Clearly, by agreeing to exchange K-9's expiring contract for Jeffries' cantankerous deal, the Kings wanted Nate.

Yet, here we are, with Lee and Robinson clearly available. Lee nor Robinson has been rumored to be near signing an offer sheet -- Lee is reportedly in talks with Portland, a team which needs to spend the money Hedo Turkoglu passed up. I can't imagine, however, the Blazers will consider offering Lee what he wants, which would be a contract soaking up all $9.5 million Portland has available under the cap for next season. Nate hasn't been rumored heavily anywhere, really.

Will the Kings get involved this week? More importantly, should they?

I have been a Lee fan for quite a while. He's an incredible rebounder, one of the best in the league. He scores efficiently, basically because he rarely shoots except when it's wide open near the rim. (He did add a short jumper to his arsenal last season, to good effect.) He's not known as a good defender -- he blocks no shots, grabs no steals and is said to be bad on the pick-and-roll. Basically, his entire defensive contribution comes on defensive rebounds. His entire offensive contribution comes on putbacks and finishes. He does those things very, very well. Sacramento thirsts for those attributes -- especially defensive rebounding. The only real question you'd ask when approaching a Lee partnership is how a Lee-Hawes-Thompson frontcourt would be organized.

I'd probably condone starting Lee with Spencer Hawes, and bringing Jason Thompson off the bench at both positions. But I also think Thompson is too good to be a bench player on this team, and if he gets much better you'd be paying Lee a lot of dough to be a third big man. Maybe that's a good problem to have -- it'd mean Thompson and Hawes are good enough to be good players on good teams. It's a tricky balance for a rebuilding team. And you'd be relying on nascent, extant but still altogether meager post defense skills from Hawes, while letting Thompson's strong and developing defense fill in against lesser opponents off the bench. Lee as a sixth man at more than $6 million per year -- that does not excite me. Hawes coming off the bench -- that does not excite me.

Robinson is a firecracker scorer ... and that's about it. Like other top firecracker scorers, Nate doesn't turn the ball over much. He just scores. He rebounds a bit, too, roughly on par with Kevin Martin. He's probably a worse defender than Lee, but Robinson is clearly a bench player, and defense isn't as much of a concern (for better or worse) for second-unit players. In his first two seasons, Robinson shot the three extraordinarily well -- 39%. But he has tailed off as his attempts have increased, and he's at roughly 33% over the last two years. As such, his efficiency has never been tremendous, and that's what (in my opinion) you want from a bench scorer: efficient shooting in bulk. Robinson shoots in bulk alright (his 25% usage rate would have been second-highest on the Kings last season) but his efficiency is inferior to that of Francisco Garcia.

And there's the real problem with N8 The Gr8: we already have Garcia under contract. For five more years. At $5 million plus per season. Garcia doesn't shoot nearly as frequently as Robinson, but he does so more efficiently and is seen as a boon to the locker room. While Francisco's 2008-09 numbers in total don't look fantastic, the post-ASW figures are very very strong. Remember that Garcia's injury left him both rusty and out-of-sorts for December and January, and take a look: after the All-Star break, Garcia ran up 14.7 points in 36 minutes, on .464/.481 shooting and with 39 steals and 34 blocks in only 28 games.

Remember that Rashad McCants was a member of Garcia's unit a good deal of time, and also Andres Nocioni while Garcia filled in for injured Kevin Martin. Garcia can score more, and he had a higher usage rate in 2007-08. But the defensive contributions and (again, silly I know) the locker room impact really make Garcia a valuable member of the roster.

I wouldn't want Robinson to push Garcia out of position, frankly because Garcia is better for this team (and perhaps for any time). The Kings, in other words, don't need what Nate is selling. It's a different situation than with Lee, where while the Kings do need what Lee is selling, Lee is likely to cost too much given his potential role. Robinson is just extraneous, extra onions on a Chicago dog smothered in onions and onion sauce on a onion roll.

Of course, as I write this, it comes to my attention the New York Post reports the Kings are one of the teams who have inquired about Robinson's price. As I do not believe the Knicks would be willing to take back Beno Udrih or Andres Nocioni in a sign-and-trade, I am not entirely excited by the potentially spurious development.