The Internet is chock-full of hot takes revolving around Vlade Divac’s decision to trade away the Kings future for one year of Rajon Rondo (hopefully you can read the sarcasm in my fingers), but I found his strategy in regards to the Kings depth nearly as interesting.
If we are to assume the regular rotation involves some combination of Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, and DeMarcus Cousins, then we are also to assume Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Seth Curry, and Duje Dukan will be on the outside of the rotation looking in when camp opens, providing the team with depth and injury replacement when needed.
The expected regular rotation is anything but reliable. Rajon Rondo is still a question mark despite my support for his signing. To say we know the Kings will get 82 good games out of him would be irresponsible. Collison missed 37 games last season. Cousins missed 23 games. Casspi missed 15 games, but probably would have benefited from sitting out more, and dealt with a nagging knee injury for most of the year. Belinelli missed 20 games last season with a reoccurring groin injury. Caron Butler is old. Willie Cauley-Stein is unproven, and Rudy Gay isn’t necessarily conditioned for as many minutes at power forward as he may have to play this season depending on how effective, or ineffective Cauley-Stein is as a rookie.
This doesn’t necessarily make the Kings any more or less injury prone than other teams; it just means that something, or multiple things, will happen to one or more rotation players. It happens every season to every team, and that unavoidable fact does make Divac’s depth signings a bit head scratching.
And I don’t mean head scratching in the sense that I disagree with them necessarily, I just mean head scratching in the sense that he’s clearly taking a different approach to end-of-the-bench players than we’ve seen in years past.
In 2013-14, the depth crew included guys like Jimmer Fredette, Aaron Gray, Hamady N’Diaye, Chuck Hayes, Travis Outlaw, and other players of that ilk. I wouldn’t consider any of them good, but they all had NBA experience. Some of them had proven NBA skills. Some of them were veterans.
2014-15 was a particularly injury plagued season. Ryan Hollins, Reggie Evans, Ray McCallum, Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas and Eric Moreland all spent enough time out of the regular rotation to be considered ‘depth’ pieces. Again, I wouldn’t call that crew ‘good’ but in most cases, you knew what you were getting.
Heading into next season, we do know what Quincy Acy is. That is a valuable depth piece. We would have known what Andrea Bargnani was, but he decided to sign elsewhere. We would have known what Luc Richard Mbah A Moute was, but his failed physical put the kibosh on that move. Andre Miller was a depth option the Kings let go. Reggie Evans is still available, but nothing seems imminent there.
There are probably a dozen or so decent options in the free agent pool that can be had at minimum, or near minimum dollars, but instead, for now, Vlade Divac has opted for James Anderson, Seth Curry, and Duje Dukan. That’s different. That’s not necessarily normal for a team trying to push for the playoffs next season. That’s not necessarily what an organization that went ‘all in’ would do with the end of their bench.
In order to pry Seth Curry away from other organizations after the hot summer he had, Divac probably had to offer him a guaranteed contract. That, I can understand.
The guaranteed contracts for both James Anderson and Duje Dukan are a little strange. And in this case, strange doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it just means strange.
Duje Dukan was probably the Kings’ second best player in Vegas during summer league. I was expecting a training camp invite for Dukan, but he was awarded with at least one guaranteed year in Sacramento.
The James Anderson signing that took NBA insider’s weeks to get the exact contract details of is still the most ‘huh-worthy’ signing this offseason. I still cannot figure out why that contract required guaranteeing, but here we are.
Does any of this matter? Is there a reason why the Kings went young and unproven for their depth? Probably not and maybe.
The reason why it probably doesn’t matter from a basketball standpoint is because if worse came to absolute worst, you can always find guys like Aaron Gray, or Andre Miller, or Ryan Hollins, or Reggie Evans either on the trade block or in the free agent pool. If you need to waive someone like Anderson, or Dukan in order to bring in veteran depth, you can do that. It isn’t ideal, but it can be done, and Divac’s decision to go this youthful route won’t be the reason the Kings win or lose next season.
I think Divac’s approach is a little more interesting if you look at it from a future draft considerations standpoint. In 2014-15, the Kings didn’t have a second round pick, and sort of signed Eric Moreland with that in mind.
The Kings will likely be without their first or second round draft pick in 2016. They will have a San Antonio Spurs second rounder that will probably be in the high 50’s.
It seems like Divac is using Anderson, Curry, and Dukan as development projects because of how weak the Kings draft pick situation is going to be over the next few years. It’s a low risk gamble for a team that will likely be without first round draft picks to develop in two of the next three drafts. Admittedly, James Anderson is harder to plug into that theory than Curry or Dukan, after all, Anderson is two years older than DeMarcus Cousins (have I mentioned how I can’t wrap my head around that signing yet?).
In all of these players’ cases, there is a certain element of uncertainty coupled with a little hint of untapped potential. Anderson was, at one point, a first round draft pick of the Spurs. We know Vlade Divac and Greg Popovich talk. Just saying. Curry has been a fringe NBA player for a couple of seasons now, but was never given consistent playing time. Dukan is an undrafted rookie who only averaged 4.7 points per game as a senior at Wisconsin. I can’t even begin to predict what he can or can’t do at the next level.
If you wanted to give Vlade Divac supreme credit, you could say that these players represent the fact that Divac knows exactly where his team is right now, and what its future looks like. You could look at these signings as an acknowledgment that young talent is going to be hard to come by for this organization moving forward, and that taking a flier on guys like Curry, Anderson, and Dukan is exactly what the Kings are going to have to do in order to supplement all of the young talent they will be missing out on in upcoming drafts.