Nineteen players broke camp with the Sacramento Kings in Natomas today. Twelve of them have fully guaranteed contracts for the 2010-11 season, including free agent signings Antoine Wright and Pooh Jeter. Geoff Petrie, talking to reporters on media day, said the team will carry 13 or maybe 14 players into the regular season.
That leaves, for the seven non-guaranteed players, one or two spots. Luther Head, Donald Sloan, Marcus Landry, J.R. Giddens, Joe Crawford, Darnell Jackson, Connor Atchley: one or two spots are open. Fight for it.
Who has the pole position?
TOP CONTENDER: LUTHER HEAD
Barring injury, I have a feeling Head gets the spot. This franchise is all about the youth movement right now -- three of the team's past five draft picks (Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside) were under the age of 20 on draft day. (Omri Casspi has just turned 21.) Head's a bit older than the core, closing in on his 28th birthday.
But with Luther, there's a real sense of promise, even after he flamed out the last couple years. He is, as folks as commented, the offensive avatar of Wright, a shooter who needs to be protected on defense but can certainly contribute in a small role.
While all the wing contenders have untapped talent, Head seems the most NBA-ready. That's easy to say, of course -- he's the one with legit NBA experience. But the management and coaching staff is all about winning games, and I get the sense Head can help you in that goal from Day 1, and through Game 82.
DARK HORSES: MARCUS LANDRY & DONALD SLOAN
Don't think the Landry invite is simply nepotism. I mean, you think Petrie follows Twitter? And Top Hat is not the type of fellow to go to the GM's office and stump for his little brother. That Marcus played for the '09 Summer League Kings helps prove the point; the franchise is obviously interested in Bowler Hat for his basketball talent, not just his bloodline.
Sloan was disappointing in Vegas, and he admitted as much both then and at media day. He knows he had a golden opportunity, and it didn't really work out. But unlike other Vegas Kings who didn't quite make an impact (Sylven Landesberg, particularly), Sloan's still here. He said he'll bring toughness to camp, and we know Paul Westphal loves toughness. I think the franchise likes what they see in him, and while the Jeter signing doesn't make point guard skills as vital for the 13th/14th man, his backcourt versatility can help.
(Of course, Petrie is the type who thinks Francisco Garcia and Quincy Douby can play point guard. So perhaps that remains a plus in Head's corner; Head argued that he can play the point at times, all collected data argues otherwise.)
NOT QUITE THE RIGHT FIT: J.R. GIDDENS
Giddens might be the most promising non-guaranteed player in camp. But Head's a better shooter, Landry is likely the better defender, Sloan's the better playmaker. The Kings don't need another versatile but average wing. They need specialists. Specificially shooting specialists. Giddens needs to beat out Head specifically if he's going to get the spot, because I don't think the Kings can justify carrying both.
BACK TO THE D-LEAGUE: JOE CRAWFORD
Crawford is a good prospect, but Landry beats him in size and familiarity. <sad trombone> He'll be in the NBA this season, though.
NUMBERS CRUNCH: CONNOR ATCHLEY & DARNELL JACKSON
Jackson might be the most pro-ready non-guaranteed player outside of Head, but if the Kings needed a sixth big, they would have kept Jon Brockman. Ditto for Atchley, who I'm under the impression was told he was in town for practice only.