Vlade Divac addressed the media after Thurdsay night's draft, and while there is plenty about his post-draft presser worth talking about, I’m going to focus on the part where he said something along the lines of ‘we’re all set with the big guys, now we have to focus on the small guys’.
The Kings need guards. In fact, the Kings’ gaping hole at both guard positions in one of the more legitimate reasons why so many people are upset with their draft last night. If they didn’t have such obvious, glaring needs, taking a gamble on two high-potential big men isn’t the worst outcome. Both George Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere are intriguing prospects, and because I do expect the Kings to address their guard issues this summer, I’m less pessimistic of their draft this year.
It’s important to remember that Vlade Divac actually maneuvered free agency quite well last summer. Bizarre 76ers trade aside, Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli were both good signings, neither of which I thought Divac could pull off. Yes, Rajon Rondo more or less fell in Divac’s lap, but if the Kings can secure a meeting with their top targets, assuming they are in that second tier, (Mike Conley isn’t coming here unless Dave Joerger knows something we don’t) Divac is a pretty good salesman. Caron Butler was another free agent Divac lured to Sacramento last summer that he probably had no business luring. To further my point, Divac just traded Belinelli, after a horrendous season, for a first round pick, which is enough evidence to suggest that Divac is targeting the right players, players other teams believe in even if they don’t work out here. Kosta Koufos still has value despite his awkward first season in Sacramento, because he is a valuable player.
I’m not suggesting that the Kings are a free agent destination, but the notion that they can’t get anyone of value is just false. There are enough free agent and trade options to make this roster work, although I’ve banked on ‘this doesn’t fit now, but they can fix it’ in the past and they’ve failed repeatedly to fix it. It’s a different staff now, but I can understand the lack of faith. I am certainly not confident that the roster will look balanced when training camp opens, just merely point out that it can be done in a fairly realistic manner.
So, who is available this summer? Both Phoenix and Minnesota probably need to trade a guard. I had more faith that either Brandon Knight or Eric Bledsoe would be in Sacramento before last night. Considering the Kings already made a deal with Phoenix that didn’t include either of those guys has me concerned that the Knight, or Bledsoe ship has sailed. We’ll see.
Ricky Rubio is an option, albeit one I am less excited about for every criticism of Ricky Rubio you’ve ever heard. He just can’t score, and with how teams are playing in 2016, I don’t know if your lead guard can be that inefficient as a scorer, but he’s available, and he's worth pursuing.
Patrick Beverley is another available option. Everyone love’s Beverley's defensive ability, but I am concerned about his capabilities as a true point guard considering how much time James Harden spends with the ball in his hands. Is Beverly a starting point guard on a team that actually needs their point guard to play like a point guard? I don’t know, but the Kings wanted Beverly last summer, and he certainly fits Joerger’s style.
The free agency point guard pool is not good. If Darren Collison’s future with the Kings wasn’t so sketchy due to his legal issues, I’d be comfortable placing him in the starting lineup next season. It’s entirely possible that the Kings end up going this route, but we just don’t know. The uncertainty is frustrating. Rajon Rondo is an obvious option, although all of my Ricky Rubio concerns transfer over to Rondo tenfold. Rondo is actually a better shooter and scorer than Rubio, a far worse defender, and completely impossible to get a read on. I’m less-down on Rondo as most here seem to be, but I understand the concern with signing him long-term, and would prefer a better option.
Matthew Dellavedova, Jeremy Lin, Tyler Johnson, Mario Chalmers, Ish Smith, and Austin Rivers are a few of the 2rd, 3rd, and 4th tier free agent point guards worth looking at. Chalmers has a history with Joerger in Memphis, the Kings have explored trading for Johnson in the past, Lin and Dellavedova are sort of proven commodities at this point (you can argue that what they’ve proved isn’t all that great) and Austin Rivers is better than his reputation suggests, particularly defensively, but yes, all of these options have warts.
To circle back around to the draft for a moment, for those still very upset, the point guards available at #13 would have very similar, potentially worse coupled with a side dish of ‘not ready to contribute right away’ warts. Point guard was always going to be a position the Kings were going to have a hard time addressing after Kris Dunn was selected. Vlade Divac even admitted that they tried trading up to get him.
Point guard is a problem.
I’m more confident in the Kings’ ability to find a solid shooting guard in free agency, and Malachi Richardson, a Syracuse shooting guard the Kings selected with the 22nd pick they traded Marco Belinelli for, could conceivably contribute to some extent in year one. He certainly has the confidence to do it.
The Kings also selected Isaiah Cousins with the 59th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He is a shooting guard, and a lot of scouts who watch more college basketball than I do really like him. Do I think he’ll have an impact on the Kings this season? Unlikely, but he is a guard, so I’m mentioning him here.
Seth Curry is a restricted free agent, and most reports suggest that the Kings want him back. You could have placed him up in the point guard pool, but I’m more comfortable with him as an off guard. He can do both.
In free agency, Kent Bazemore, Courtney Lee, Eric Gordon, Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, and Luol Deng round out some of the shooting guards I think are worth targeting.
Bazemore and Crabbe will cost the most, but the Kings have money to spend, and while Ryan Anderson has been reserving a huge chunk of the Kings’ cap space since the season ended, you have to wonder if that is still in play after the draft last night. I wouldn’t hesitate to offer either Bazemore of Crabbe 10+ million this summer, and I wouldn’t be shocked if either makes closer to $15 million.
Lee, Gordon, Turner, and Deng are all decent veteran options. Lee has history with Joerger in Memphis (and the Kings already seem to be honing in on him), Gordon is an injury risk, but he’s a tough player who can theoretically defend and shoot when healthy. Turner was really good in Boston over the last couple of years, and his ability to handle and pass from the off guard makes him a valuable, versatile guard that can plug in wherever you need him. Deng isn’t the player he used to be, but he’s still a couple of seasons away from complete ineffectiveness. Another theoretical three-and-D guy, with a little splash of veteran savvy the Kings desperately need.
Outside of the players mentioned here, it still feels like a trade is brewing that could make all of this irrelevant. Ben McLemore is definitely on the block, Rudy Gay is seemingly on the block, and Kosta Koufos is redundant on this roster after the draft.
The Kings have options.