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Restricted Free Agents and Your Sacramento Kings

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One of the areas that the Kings may be able to exploit to improve themselves is going after restricted free agents from other teams. There is a big unknown when it comes to this opportunity, and it all revolves around the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current agreement expires June 30, 2011, and no one knows if/when the new agreement will be reached and what that will mean for future salaries and team payroll constraints.

For the purpose of our exercise, let’s keep the unknown simple. Let’s say that no matter what agreement is reached, the salary cap and luxury tax will be similar to the one that existed this year, if for no other reason than to allow teams an opportunity to transition to whatever the new agreement ultimately mandates. In other words, the meat of the new CBA would really go into effect more in 2012-13, with 2011-12 having some transition components. This would mean (in rounded numbers) a minimum payroll of $44m, a salary cap of $58m, and a luxury tax threshold of $70m. Now, my uneducated guess is that the cap will come down at least a little initially, and the luxury tax threshold may come down several million dollars. I also think that there will be an amnesty clause for teams, whereby they can jettison a fat contract – they will still have to pay the player 100 cents on the dollar, but they will be able to wipe the contract and its cap and tax liabilities off their books. Again, this is a blind arse guess on my part.

Depending on the new financial landscape, there could be a few restricted free agents that simply become too expensive for their current teams. These RFA’s are all due a qualifying offer from their current team, and these guys can shop themselves for the best contract. Their current team may then match the offer or decline the opportunity, or they can negotiate a sign and trade so that they do not walk away completely empty-handed.

I reviewed the list of RFA’s and chose my 12 favorite players. I did this prior to investigating how they fit the payroll of their current teams. In other words, I am sort of pulling the data as I list each player, so a few of these guys could prove to be flat unavailable. However, I did not omit any players that I felt were above Mid Level Exception money. This is an important factor, because almost any team could offer MLE money, the new CBA notwithstanding. For the Kings to take advantage of the market place, they have to be able to offer over and above what most others could offer. Therefore RFA’s like Goran Dragic, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Yi Jianlian are not listed, as I do not view them as guys that will be offered in excess of MLE money. In other words, the Kings ability to pay over the MLE is their smallest ring of competition from other teams. It is on this platform that they hold the greatest market advantage. So without further delay or disclaimer…

Arron Afflalo, SG, 6-5, 215, age 25, 4 years NBA – After spending his first two years in Detroit, Afflalo has begun to establish himself as the starting 2 guard for the Denver Nuggets. Afflalo only averages about 8-9 shots a game for the Nugs, but over 40% of those shots come from beyond the arc, where he has converted at an almost 43% rate during his time in the mile high city. This translated to a 58% effective field goal percentage and a 62% true shooting percentage this past season. He is not a volume shooter, but he will take (and make!) when the defense leaves him open. He does not really create on his own, he is not a bad ball handler, and he is a plus defender.

Afflalo could be a good fit with the Kings, provided that Tyreke Evans becomes a more willing and capable distributor of the ball. A "small" lineup of Evans, Thornton and Afflalo could spread the floor nicely on offense, and still be capable on defense. Of course, the addition of Afflao would mean far less minutes for Beno Udrih, unless the Kings decided to go small a lot at the expense of Garcia/Casspi/Greene. Additionally, Afflalo only works if Evans can prove that he can run the offense. Otherwise, Udrih would still be a needed piece of the Kings backcourt and there just wouldn’t be enough minutes to go around.

The Nuggets currently are sitting on $41.7m in salary for next year, but that is for eight players and does not include RFA’s Afflalo and Wilson Chandler. $11.6m of the $41.7m belongs to Nené, who may or may not opt out. Amnesty candidate on this roster would be Al Harrington, who is due $6.3m and $6.7m over the next two years before entering into two non-guaranteed years.

I think that Denver will retain Afflalo (and Chandler, as noted later in this post). The only way they lose either guy is through a sign and trade where they get something in return. For example, a $1.3m Omri Casspi for Afflalo might appeal to the Nuggets if they need to spend the money on Nené and/or a replacement for free agent Kenyon Martin. But as mentioned above, that deal only works for the Kings if Afflalo is going to see serious minutes, and that probably means some movement in the Kings current backcourt.

Aaron Brooks, G, 6-0, 195, age 26, 4 years NBA – Note that I list Brooks as a guard and not a point guard. He has the body of a point guard, he kind of dribbles like a point guard, but that’s where the similarities end. He is a smaller version of Tyreke Evans when it comes to shots vs. assists. Brooks has had one good season in the NBA, and that was back in 2009-10, when he averaged almost 20 points a game and shot almost 40% from 3 point range. But since then, he has averaged less than 11 ppg, and his 3 point percentage has dropped to about 31%. His injuries have been a great contributor to his regression, and I think that a good team that is looking for a sixth man pace changer off the bench might do well to invest MLE money in Brooks – that would be a little pricey, but for a good team, why not?

I don’t like Brooks for the Kings. If healthy, he would bring a speed element, but other than that he really provides nothing that the Kings don’t already possess. He would have to regain his 2009-10 form for him to be a plus, and a defensive presence he is not. In fact, I hesitated in even listing him, but I think that there will be some market interest for him, and I know that some StR members like him a lot.

Phoenix is at $66.6m for 11 players (not including Brooks), but that includes $18.3m for Vince Carter, which is only guaranteed for $4m. I have to think that Phoenix will buy Carter out, which will lower their number to $52.3m. $5.3m is a player option belonging to Mickael Pietrus. And Steve Nash is in the final year of his contract at $11.7m. Phoenix can probably work the numbers to retain Brooks if they want, but I don’t know whether or not Brooks is even a secondary priority for them.

Wilson Chandler, SF, 6-8, 225, age 24, 4 years NBA – Chandler is probably a better offensive player than any of the Kings current small forwards. He has a decent mid-range game, and he has improved from beyond the arc every year, though he is not currently as effective as Garcia or Casspi. But he is more consistent than Garcia/Casspi/Greene and more developed than Casspi or Greene. The question is would a $6-8m per year investment in Chandler make the Kings appreciably better?

Copying from the Afflalo portion of the post: "The Nuggets currently are sitting on $41.7m in salary for next year, but that is for eight players and does not include RFA’s Afflalo and Chandler. $11.6m of the $41.7m belongs to Nené, who may or may not opt out. Amnesty candidate on this roster would be Al Harrington, who is due $6.3m and $6.7m over the next two years before entering into two non-guaranteed years."

As with Afflalo, I think that Denver retains Chandler, though moving him would enable them to move Danilo Gallinari to small forward, and I think that ‘Nilo is seen as the new ‘Melo In Denver (and I mean that in the good way). Would Denver choose not to spend the money on Chandler? They’d probably move him for Jason Thompson, but I wouldn’t do that deal if I were the Kings. Would you like Chandler (and his new salary) better than anyone that you could draft at #7 this year? Again, too rich for my blood.

Marc Gasol, C, 7-1, 265, age 26, 3 years NBA – The player most likely to become an all star on this list, in my opinion. Three years into his NBA career, with averages of 12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.4bpg, and 2.2apg, and he’s still getting better. His elbow "jumper" is getting better; his passing is improving each year. When it comes to NBA centers, there are not many that I would take over Gasol right now (Howard, Noah, Horford if you insist that he is a center, Bynum if you can get a guarantee that his head is on straight, maybe Nené).

There are those that think Gasol would be a poor fit for the Kings, based on the belief that the Kings front line would have trouble defending smaller front lines. Pish posh (note - pish posh is a statement of opinion and not statistical fact. Local and state taxes are not included. Your mileage may vary). That same smaller front line would have to contend with Cousins and Gasol. You can draw at least some similarities between Cousins and Zach Randolph (though I think that Cousins will be an infinitely better defensive player than Randolph), and Zach and Marc do alright together. I liken Gasol and Cousins to Webber and Divac (though no one will ever replicate the passing acumen of C-Webb and Vlade). Whichever player draws the smaller opponent can dig in down low, while the other guy draws the opposing big man out to the high post. And I think that these guys have the length and width to at least slow things down in the lane on defense.

My bet is that it will take $8-10m per year to re-sign Dalembert, perhaps for up to five years. Gasol is better than Dalembert, so why not throw some bank at him? Horford and Noah each got 5 years / $60m. That sounds about right. For a $2-4 million more a year, you could be driving a mint condition Marc Gasol! Of course Memphis will have something to say about this…

The Grizz might have issues. They just extended Zach Randolph to a four year, $71m contract ($66m guaranteed). Year-to-year breakdown has not been published yet, but let’s guess $17m for next year. That would bring Memphis to $55m for 10 players, not including Gasol or Hamed Haddadi. They can retain Gasol as long as the new CBA is similar to the existing, or if there is a "grace period" under the new agreement. Otherwise, they could be in trouble. The likely scenario is that Memphis sends O.J. Mayo and his $5.6m contract packing, even if they have to throw in a draft pick to get it done (O.J. could be this year’s Michael Beasley!). So the Grizz likely figure out a way to retain Gasol, Randolph, Gay and Conley, parting with Mayo. And Mayo could spark a whole conversation on his own as it pertains to whether or not he would fit with the Kings, but this is an RFA post. That said, the post-post thread is all yours…

Jeff Green, F, 6-9, 235, age 24, 4 years NBA – Green played a lot of power forward while in Oklahoma City, but he started logging time behind Paul Pierce. For the Kings, he would be mostly a 3, and a 4 when the team needs to go smaller up front. He’s not really a deep threat, but his mid-range game is decent (probably behind Chandler in this respect). Not a bad defender but not an assassin either. He is a good all around player, probably superior overall to anyone currently playing small forward for the Kings. Again, like Chandler, the question is whether the upgrade is worth the investment.

Boston is at nearly $66m for next year, and that is for only 7 players (not including Green). Two of those seven have player options (Ray Allen @ $10m and Shaq at $1.3m). Boston is a primary example (and probable reason) as to why I think that there will be a transition to the new CBA. Otherwise, there is no way that they can afford to match virtually any offer on Green. The fact that they were going to have to pay Kendrick Perkins was a contributing factor to the trade that brought Green to Boston in the first place. Depending on how the new CBA breaks down, Green could be in play.

Jonas Jerebko, PF, 6-10, 230, age 24, 2 years NBA (1 injured) – Jerebko had a very nice rookie season two years ago, averaging about 9 points and 6 boards a game for the Pistons. He injured his Achilles prior to the beginning of last season and missed the entire year. Word is that he is mending well and should be completely recovered for the upcoming season. Jerebko can mix it up inside, but he also has shown a little bit of perimeter touch.

I can’t see the Pistons letting Jerebko getting away, and given his injury and only one year of true NBA experience, an MLE-level contract might be a little too rich. The Pistons have 10 guys under $47m worth of contract (not including RFA’s Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey and DaJuan Summers), and they may be moving Hamilton and his $12.5m 2011-12 contract (he is also under contract in 2012-13, though only $9m of that is guaranteed). And Jerebko only really works for the Kings if Jason Thompson is headed elsewhere. A $3m JT > Jerebko.

DeAndre Jordan, C, 6-11, 265, age 22, 3 years NBA – OK, so take a kid that is at one time projected to go in the upper reaches of his draft. But questions about his motor and maturity drop him into the 2nd round, where he is ultimately selected 35th. He doesn’t do much over his first couple of years, but over the last couple of months of his 3rd season he averages 8 and 8 and blocks a couple of shots a game (he even eclipses 50% from the free throw line over that period – a first for him!). If you’re the Sacramento Kings and this is Hassan Whiteside, no worries, as you have options on the kid through his 4th year. But if you’re the Clippers, you must now decide whether or not you want to pony up for DeAndre Jordan. Jordan showed some glimpses of his talent down the stretch last year. Was it maturation finally realized or someone playing for his next contract?

The Clippers have the room to keep Jordan. Not including him, they have 10 guys under about $45m worth of contract, and Chris Kaman is entering the last year of his contract, due $12.7m. The question is how much it will cost the Clippers to retain Jordan. Big men are still (and always) at a premium in the league, and it only takes one team to offer Jordan a deal that the Clippers would deem as too rich for Donald Sterling’s vampire blood. Could teams like Toronto see Jordan as the answer to their interior needs? Could the Dubs see Jordan as a viable yin to David Lee’s yang? As far as the Kings are concerned? I’d rather spend the money on Dalembert, even if it meant spending a couple million more per year. That said, I don’t think that the Clips will let him get away, as Jordan should benefit greatly from the arrival of Kyrie Irving…oops, scratch that.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, SF, 230, age 24, 3 years NBA – You want a guy that will rebound well from the small forward position and has the potential to be an elite lockdown defender (he’s already pretty good)? Mbah a Moute is your guy. You want a guy that will score prolifically from the 3 spot and stretch the defense? Luc is not your guy. So the question begs, what will the Kings ultimately need from the 3 spot? With the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton, the small forward position on the Kings became the 4th or 5th offensive weapon. This, in effect is why Omri Casspi disappeared from sight down the stretch last season. Omri averaged almost 30 minutes a night the two months prior to Thornton’s arrival. His minutes dropped to closer to 20 minutes a night after Thornton’s arrival, and the DNP-CD’s really started stacking up once Evans returned. Simply, with the arrival of Thornton, the emergence of Cousins and the return of Evans, the role of the 3 on offense had changed from defense stretcher to last option (especially as Dalembert and Thompson improved their offensive games down the stretch). And Casspi has not done well in the role of 4th-5th option.

If the Kings begin to look at the 3 spot as a position for a Kobe/KD/etc. stopper, Mbah a Moute could fit like a glove. You’d have to bite down hard when offering a 5 year, $35m contract to a career 6.7/5.6 guy, but crazier things have happened, right? The Bucks are at 10 players (not including Mbah a Moute and fellow RFA Chris Douglas-Roberts) and $50.6m. They can likely afford to retain Mbah a Moute. But would the Kings make Mbah a Moute an offer that Milwaukee would have to refuse (or at least consider a sign and trade for Donté Greene)?

Greg Oden, C, 7-0, 285, age 23, 3 years NBA (82 games total) – Let’s get right down to the meat and potatoes here. The Blazers already have about $16m invested in Oden, not including medical expenses. The qualifying offer for him this year is $8.8m. There is no way that the Blazers let Oden get away if they even have a shred of hope that he is going to be a player in this league. If they think that he’s done, they don’t make a QO. Otherwise, they do what it takes to retain him.

I still think that Oden could become an all star in the league if he could ever get and stay healthy, but that’s a lot like saying that the Kings could have a couple of championship banners had C-Webb not blown out his knee. I suppose the difference is that one is foresight conjecture and the other is hindsight conjecture, but the important thing is that it is all conjecture, which means I am operating comfortably within my element.

All of this being said, the Blazers are a bit of a payroll mess right now. They are at around $74m for next year (not including Oden or fellow RFA Patty Mills). Damaged Brandon Roy is now Portland’s C-Webb, due $15m next year and almost $69m over the remaining four years of his contract. Marcus Camby is an expiring $12.9m contract, as is Andre Miller and his partially guaranteed $7.8m. The new CBA is critical to Portland determining how it is going to move forward. If amnesty is an option, Roy likely lands in that category. But one way or the other, Portland will figure out a way to retain Oden if he is worth retaining. And if Portland determines that he is not worth retaining, then he is not worth having, and any other team that throws any tangible money at him will probably get burned. I can’t imagine Oden ever wearing a Kings uniform, no more than I could have ever imagined Ralph Sampson wearing a Kings uniform…uh-oh.

Rodney Stuckey, G, 6-5, 205, age 25, 4 years NBA – You’ve seen Rodney Stuckey play. You’ve seen him play a lot. Or at least you’ve seen his style. Stuckey is somewhat similar to Tyreke Evans. He is a scoring "point guard" that is rather ineffective from 3 point range (29% last year, 27% career). He can have a tendency to put his head down and plow towards the basket. He plays hard, but not always smart. Of course, Stuckey is a few years older and has 150 more NBA games under his belt than Evans, so while one wonders what changes might come to Evans’ game, one also has to wonder if Stuckey is going to develop much beyond his current level.

From the Jerebko portion of the post: "The Pistons have 10 guys under $47m worth of contract (not including RFA’s Jerebko, Stuckey and DaJuan Summers), and they may be moving Hamilton and his $12.5m 2011-12 contract (he is also under contract in 2012-13, though only $9m of that is guaranteed)." I’m not sure if Detroit wants to keep Stuckey or not, but I don’t think that he is a fit for this current Kings team.

Nick Young, SG, 6-7, 210, age 25, 4 years NBA – I keep thinking Kevin Martin when I watch Young. He has good length for a 2 guard, he can shoot and shoot from distance (38% career), and he’s starting to learn how to drive and get to the line. His defense is nothing to write home about, but he has the potential to be a 20+ ppg scorer (17.4 last year.

The Wizards have cap space, as they are committed for under $40m in contract next year for 7 guys. They have a boatload of QO’s, but the only ones of note are Young and Yi Jianlian. I don’t see them letting Young get away. And that’s OK. Young would have been on my short list before we obtained Marcus Thornton, but not so much now.

Thaddeus Young, F, 6-8, 220, age 22, 4 years NBA – 22 years old? 22? Good grief, what is the remaining ceiling on this guy? Young has basically been a 13 and 5 for the Sixers, playing some at the 3 but more at the 4. I think that he is better suited to play small forward, his 3 point shooting notwithstanding (34-35% before Doug Collins, a non-factor since Doug Collins). I think that he is a plus defender, and aside from being a marked improvement at the 3 for the Kings, he could fill in at the 4 if/when the Kings want to go smaller up front. He doesn't need to shoot a lot to make a contribution, which as I mentioned earlier could be important on the KIngs' new frontier.

Philly has 9 guys under about $54m worth of contract, not including Young or fellow RFA Spencer Hawes (be sure and include your offers for Spencer in the thread!). The Sixers could have a little trouble re-signing Young and filling out their roster. And there is the truth that if they let Hawes go, they will need to spend some money on bigs. All of this is moot if Philly deals Andre Iguodala ($13.5m next year, $44m over 3 years). They could also try to move Andres Nocioni’s "expiring" $6.7m deal (there is a team option for $7.5m the following year, but unless chapu4you becomes an NBA GM that is not likely to happen). If you’re the Kings and you can’t get the Sixers to come to the table on Iggy, maybe you make a run at Young.

As for our RFA’s, negotiate in good faith with Marcus Thornton, and if an opposing NBA team offers him $1-2 million over the MLE, match it. I don’t see anyone offering Darnell Jackson his $1.1m QO, so make him an offer and try to keep him around, but don’t lose sleep if someone else tries to snag him.

_

As I said, there is still a lot that remains to be known as it pertains to the new CBA and how it will impact each team. But these appear to be the best of the restricted free agents, their actual availability to be determined. Do you see anybody that you like? Anybody that scares the crap out of you? Anybody that I left off the list? After the poll, thread it up! And thanks for reading all the way through this, if indeed you did. This was a bit long for my taste, but I hope that it was worth your time.