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Sacramento Kings All-Time Top 10: The Small Forwards

Let’s get small!

Ronald Martinez

The third segment of our five-part, award-missing series takes a look at small forward (sorry Jason Thompson, but we already listed you at power forward).

A quick reminder about the criteria used here:

1.     50 game minimum. I was going to go with 75, but that's really just over a season when you consider the average number of games missed to injury. 50 is enough to make your mark (as the lists will prove).

2.     Overall contribution. A look at the numbers.

3.     Contribution beyond the box score. See Pollard, Scot for one example.

4.     Subjectivity rules. And as it is my list, it is my subjectivity that reigns supreme. Save your subjectivity for the thread.

5.     The selection of Joe Kleine cannot be argued...ever.

6.     Neither Team Donté or Team Omri are going to like this list.

7.     There is a maximum of one fish allowed per small forward list.


On the cutting room floor: Greene, Casspi, Andres Nocioni, Travis Outlaw and Billy Owens. And awaaaaay we go!!!

10 - John Salmons

Recapping, our #10 guys so far are Joe Kleine, Kenny Thomas and John Salmons. If this keeps up, we may have found a team to put up against the Sixers.

Let's get the first thing out of the way. I would personally chart Salmons as more of a shooting guard than a small forward. But he easily logged more time at small forward than shooting guard for the Kings. That was always part of the problem when it came to Salmons - the Kings regularly miscast him out of need (the lesser of other evils, if you will).

While Salmons served as sort of a microcosm of the Kings ills, he was himself a decent basketball player, at least during his first stay here. Geoff Petrie spirited Salmons away from Toronto at the eleventh hour back in 2006, signing him to what wound up being a four year, $19.7m deal. All jokes aside, Salmons delivered a nice return on investment on that contract, so much so that he was eventually used as sweetener in the jettisoning of Brad Miller's contract.

Salmons' best season was 2008-09. Before he was traded, he averaged 18 ppg and added 4 boards, almost 4 assists and a steal in 53 games.

John Salmons 2.0 was another story. Returning under ugly circumstances (the Kings swapped down three slots in the draft and dealt Beno Udrih), Salmons was a shadow of his former self.

Overall, Salmons played 353 games as a King, averaging almost 11 ppg and right in the 4 range for boards and assists, along with almost a steal per game.

9 - Walt Williams The Wizard! And somewhere a young Tom Ziller has a Walt Williams poster in his bedroom, eschewing Farrah Fawcett.

Williams arrived in Sacramento in 1992, yet another #7 draft pick. The University of Maryland product had a solid rookie season, averaging 17 and 4.5 and adding 3 assists and a steal per game.

His sophomore season was not as kind, as a prolonged shooting slump impacted his numbers and playing time. He rebounded in his third season, arguably his best as a King. In 77 games (starting all of them), Williams put up numbers similar to his rookie season, though with better efficiency. Williams got off to a nice start in 1995, reducing his shot attempts but improving his field goal percentage, his 3-point percentage, and his assist numbers. In a surprise trade, Williams was dealt along with Ty Corbin for Billy Owens and Kevin Gamble in mid-season.

For his Kings career, Williams was a 15 and 4 man, adding 3 assists and a steal (his per 36 would have had him at 18, 5, 4 and 1).

As an aside, Williams was a regular among the Old Sacramento party scene at that time. If we were making a list for affable, elbow-bending Kings, Walt Williams would be on the short list.

8 - Hedo Turkoglu Funny how one guy can change things for another guy. When Geoff Petrie drafted Peja Stojakovic (when most Kings fans were hoping for John Wallace), the boos at the draft party were very audible (a young Greg Wissinger did not attend). Thanks to Peja, the selection of Hedo was met with ebullient cries of "In Petrie we trust!"

Turkoglu's numbers pale in comparison to John Salmons and Walt Williams. In three seasons for the Kings he averaged about 8 and 3 at 20 minutes a game. But he was a solid bench performer for a great Kings team, and he was a favorite of teammates, especially Chris Webber. And he knew how to earn minutes in Rick Adelman's world and system (note to all Gerald Wallace apologists).

Traded along with Scot Pollard for Brad Miller after three seasons, Turkoglu has gone on to play a total of 14(!) NBA seasons, earning just under $90m along the way. Well done, Hedo. And welcome to the small forward list!

7 - Rodney McCray In today's NBA McCray just might be a stretch 4. Though only 6-7 and 220, McCray was crafty and versatile, and could work inside or out (though definitely not a 3-point should be noted that the 3-point shot was not really in vogue for anyone during most of McCray's career, much less front court players). Arriving in 1988 along with Jim Petersen for Otis Thorpe, McCray spent two seasons with the Kings, averaging 15 and 8 and chipping in a robust 4.5 assists. He was selfless on teams that were fractured and under-talented. He played hard at both ends of the floor, played hurt, never ducked a defensive assignment, and did everything that he could to give you your money's worth every night.

The man that did Louisville proud was traded to Dallas in 1990 along with a couple of 2nd round picks that never amounted to anything for Bill Wennington and the draft picks that became Travis Mays and Duane Causwell. McCray would retire a couple of years later and after ten seasons. His best numbers were put up as a King, but his last NBA season saw him capture an NBA championship as a member of the Chicago Bulls.

6 - Corliss Williamson The Big Nasty!

Williamson could be easily argued as a power forward, but it was the addition of small forward Peja Stojakovic that made Williamson dispensable, so I'm putting him on this list. Also his numbers don't do his time here justice.

Williamson was projected to be a top four draft pick in 1994, but he decided to return to the University of Arkansas for one more season. Despite playing reasonably well his junior season, he slipped to #13 and the Kings in 1995. But there was no melancholy on Williamson's part, as he expressed gratitude for the Kings selecting him and exuberance over the prospect of coming to Sacramento, which was a first for a Kings draft pick.

Williamson's big season was his third for the Kings. He averaged almost 18 points and almost 6 boards a night, adding roughly 3 assists. He also proved to be the first teammate to Mitch Richmond to be willing to take a big shot with the game on the line. He poured in 40 on 23 shots versus Detroit that season.

Corliss was the one player that was with the Kings through the transitions. He joined the Kings in time for their first playoff run in 10 years (though he played sparingly that year), remained with the team as it regressed and then regenerated, playing with Webber and Divac for two seasons. Corliss' role was ever-changing, but his demeanor was not, remaining the same positive, hard-working professional throughout.

Williamson was traded to Toronto in 2000 for Doug Christie. If the blog had existed back then, I would have said that I understood the trade (what with the ascendance of Stojakovic), but I would have opined that we did not receive enough in return. Dammit, Geoff Petrie. You were really good back then!

Corliss returned to the Kings as part of the trade that sent a hobbled Chris Webber out. For the next two and a half seasons, Williamson would again be faced with changing roles and inconsistent playing time. He would rack a few DNP-CDs, and then he would come off the bench and look like a guy that had been playing in the core rotation for weeks.

Williamson's final totals in Sacramento came in and around 11 and 4 over 466 games (but a per 36 of 17 and 6). In between stops in Sacramento, he won 6th man of the year and an NBA title in Detroit. Corliss regularly battles Bobby Jackson for my absolute favorite Sacramento King of all time.

5 - Rudy Gay 55 games as a King? Just snuck in there, Rudy.

Gay's numbers are undeniable: 20 and 6 (OK, 5.5), adding 3 assists and better than a steal. Efficiently achieved, as well.

The thing is, it's a relatively small sample size. Probably large enough to vault him over the complementary contributors already listed here, but not large enough to get him past the next four. He might climb another rung after this season, but it will take a re-signing and an additional season or two to get him into the top 3.

4 - Eddie Johnson One of the purest volume shooters in Kings history, behind perhaps only Peja Stojakovic.

Johnson was another Kansas City emigrant, having played four seasons their before coming to Sacramento. Johnson missed only one game in his two seasons in Sacramento, serving largely as a 6th man charged with providing scoring off the bench. And score he did, at a clip of almost 19 ppg, adding almost 5 boards and 3 assists. And remember, he put up these scoring numbers when the 3-point shot was persona non grata in the NBA. Johnson shot about 47% from the field, mostly from the perimeter. As a member of the 85-86 team, he played on the last playoff-bound Kings team until 1995-96.

Johnson was dealt to Phoenix in 1987 for Ed Pinckney and a 2nd round pick that would become Fennis Dembo (this is my attempt to capture every internet surfer that types in "Fennis Dembo" today). He (Johnson, not Fennis Dembo) would play a total of 17(!!!) seasons in the NBA, from 1981 to a three-game stint with Houston in 1999.

3 - Lionel Simmons The L Train's career can be broken down into three parts:

The rookie that got a lot of shots blocked.

The player that learned from being blocked a lot as a rookie and developed a lot of nice post moves, becoming a rather effective low post player.

The knee-ravaged pro that got a lot of shots blocked.

Simmons came to the Kings in the "great" draft of 1990, drafted 7th (what else?) out of LaSalle. Simmons was very good during his first four seasons, and pretty sturdy, too. He averaged about 17 and 8, playing in 92% of the games. Simmons suffered a famous bout of "Nintendo-itis," but it was the damage to his knees that destroyed him as a player, and he averaged roughly 5 and 3 over his next (and last) three seasons, missing scores of games and seeing his minutes severely limited. That said, his four good seasons were the best compilation seen by a small forward up to that point in Sacramento. Simmons wound up averaging almost 13 and 6 for the Kings (with a per 36 of 16 and 8), the only NBA team that he would play for.

2 - Ron Artest Ron-Ron. Dan-Dan. Rodney McCrazy. And the man that single-handedly delayed the rebuilding of a franchise.

Ron Artest was acquired in early 2006 for soon-to-be free agent Peja Stojakovic.  The Kings had apparently determined that they were not going to pay what was likely to be a high market rate to re-sign Peja (the New Orleans/OKC Hornets ultimately signed him to a five year, $63.2m deal), so they dealt him and the rebuild was supposedly begun. The Kings dropped their first two games with Artest, and stood on the outside of the playoff hunt with an 18-26 record. But then, inexplicably, and primarily because of Artest (with help from Bonzi Wells, incumbents Brad Miller and Mike Bibby and youngster Kevin Martin), the Kings went 26-12 down the stretch, making the playoffs and giving the San Antonio Spurs a pretty good scare before succumbing in six games.

Artest's power ball numbers: 19 and 6, with almost 4 assists and better than 2 steals per game. One of the most ferocious defenders to ever don a Kings uniform. A lightning rod.

But the fit was not quite right. Artest wanted to be the face of the franchise, and while he was good, he wasn't that good. He was ultimately dealt in 2008 along with Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing, Jr, (P-Ew!) to Houston for Bobby Jackson, Donté Greene, and the pick that would become Omri Casspi, as the Kings began the demolition of their roster in earnest.

1 - Peja Stojakovic You were expecting Derrick Williams?

All-time leader in games played as a Sacramento King with 518. Leads the Kings in 3-point field goals with 1,070 (Mitch Richmond is 2nd with 993, followed by Mike Bibby with 775 and Francisco Garcia with 475). 3rd in free throws made (behind Richmond and...Kevin Martin). Three-time all-star. MVP candidate in 2003-04. And the greatest shooter in Sacramento Kings history.

Drafted 14th in the 1996 draft, Stojakovic made his NBA debut in 1998. He became a full-time starter two seasons later. For his Kings career, Peja averaged 18 and 5, but he clocked in at closer to 21 and 6 during his halcyon run between 2000 and 2005. I don't believe that he deserves to have his jersey retired, but I wouldn't protest it, either. He is the greatest Sacramento King not currently in the rafters at Sleep Train Arena. And he was a privilege to watch.


Three down, two to go. I'll be back on Tuesday with the shooting guards. Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!