The mailbag’s full, so it’s time to answer your questions!
From BloodyNate via the comments: I’ve been noticing a lot of fans of other teams coming to STR and r/Kings with compliments for the team, and many have also mentioned how good the writing is here on STR. On that note: what other basketball blogs and sites do you all enjoy specifically because of the quality of the writing? They can be specific to the Kings, centered around other teams, or covering the entire league.
Also, who are your must-watch teams right now, and for which teams do you most enjoy the broadcasters/general production value?
Tim: Within the SB Nation NBA network of sites, I always enjoy reading the folks over at Liberty Ballers and CelticsBlog. They both write and act like big-time media outlets, which they are in their respective communities. Outside of SB Nation, The Ringer and The Athletic both provide excellent coverage from two very different perspectives. If you’re looking for a more stats-centric site that includes analysis alongside those numbers, Cleaning The Glass is a wonderful resource. As far as other teams go, my wife is 8 1⁄2 months pregnant and I have a 2 1⁄2 year old son , so there’s very little time for non-Kings basketball in my household. Off-hand, the Bucks and Blazers are two of the more fun teams in the NBA right now.
Will: Nate I’m going to have to cop out on this one too a bit. I don’t have any babies on my docket but I am working two jobs, going to school and attempting to write for StR, so most of the media I consume is on lunch breaks, or in my car driving between here and my eventual demise. I also try not to stay too loyal to websites as much as I try to follow the content creators that they hire and fire on a whim. I’ll consume anything by Jon Bois, Tom Ziller, Seerat Sohi and really, really enjoy Seth Rosenthal. Those all just happen to be SBNation writers currently. To be honest, StR and the writers do a great job of setting up discussion for commenters here, and some of my very favorite sports minds show up in the comments section here. That’s corny, but completely true. Just watch, you’ll have a list of 25 great sportswriters that Tim and I didn’t mention at all and I’ll be nodding my head with approval to all of them.
I’m with Tim in enjoying the Bucks play and this is going to sound sacrilegious to say, but for the sheer spectacle of the damn thing, I enjoy watching the Warriors play. They’re a 2k team come to life, and if they flame out this season, it’ll be all the more reason to enjoy.
From Haidan via the comments: Is there any chance the Kings can pick up Khris Middleton? He seems like a perfect fit.
Tim: We had quite a few comments regarding either a trade for a small forward or picking one up this summer in free agency, so Will and I will try to address all of those similar concerns in one attempt. Khris Middleton is the dream free agent for Sacramento, and therefore, I must eliminate him from actual consideration. At least 10 teams can find their way to max contract space (and Middleton will receive a max contract), and another couple of organizations could clear their way to that amount of room. Even if Sacramento does pretty well this season, I don’t think Middleton will have any reason to give the Kings serious consideration. If I had to put money specifically on his situation, I would predict he stays in Milwaukee.
Other realistic free agent small forward options: Tobias Harris near-max to max contract (4 years, $145 million), Bojan Bogdanovic (UFA), Stanley Johnson (RFA), Kelly Oubre (RFA) Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (RFA), Mario Hezonja, and a few other options. Of all of those, Tobias Harris is my easy favorite, followed by Bogdanovic and Oubre. This will be the summer of spending, as everyone has space and half of the league is a free agent, so expect high dollar amounts for even subpar players.
On the trade front, Otto Porter Jr. is the one quality wing who’s probably available for a fairly low trade price. If Washington decides to blow it up, and that is the correct decision, a package of Willie Cauley-Stein and salary filler may be enough to pry the 25-year old small forward from the Wizards. He is mildly overpaid, but Otto has been a productive, two-way player for the majority of his career, an asset the Kings have been missing for too many years.
Will: Khris Middleton IS a perfect fit. I think you’re absolutely right in your evaluation. I also think we have absolutely no chance of stealing him from the Milwaukee Bucks, short of breaking federal laws. Tim put a lot of thought into this answer, so I will let it stand as the official “long story long” answer. But, I will say who I don’t want because I owe you all words. Tobias Harris is probably more of a four with this team, but I wouldn’t be mad. Bojan Bogdanovic is currently the best three point shooter in the league and the sheer absurdity of having 100% of the leagues Bogdanovics’ means I’m absolutely in. Stanley Johnson is a no, Kelly Oubre is a hell no, Hollis-Jefferson would be a low-key positive for me, and Mario Hezonja is destined to be a King at some point anyways, so yeah him too. Oh and I’m an Otto Porter believer, and as I’ve said before, I’d send Willie out for him today, sight unseen.
From airmaxpg via the comments: On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned are you about each of the following?
1.) Vlade as lead decision-maker.
2.) The SF situation.
3.) Brandon Williams is still with the team.
4.) De’Aaron Fox’s durability over the course of an 80-game season.
5.) Grant and Doug as broadcast team.
1.) Vlade as lead decision-maker. 5/10 - I was at a 10/10 prior to the season, so this is a major compliment to the Vladefather.
2.) The SF situation. 10/10 - Iman Shumpert has been much better than expected, but Justin Jackson is still in the rotation. Until that issue is resolved, I’ll remain at a 10/10.
3.) Brandon Williams is still with the team. 15/10 – This dude just needs to go.
4.) De’Aaron Fox’s durability over the course of an 80-game season. 3/10 - De’Aaron gets knocked around quite a bit, but hasn’t suffered for it yet this season.
5.) Grant and Doug as broadcast team. 1/10 - Grant is great in his role as a broadcaster. Doug shares some wonderful points when he’s analyzing the game from a defender’s perspective, but goes way off the rails (at least for me) when he tries to become too much of a character. That being said, he’s continued to improve throughout the year.
1.) Vlade as lead decision-maker: 6/10 - I don’t think he’s a great decision maker. I don’t think he’s a bad one either. I’m just tired of hearing my radio and twitter feed scream about apologizing to Vlade for pointing out his own mediocrity. So I’m indifferent, for now.
2.) The SF situation:
“Do not stare at my stats and weep
I am not there. I do not tweet.
I am a thousand whistles that blow.
I am the stat sheets filled with zeroes.
I am the fans’ screams of disheartened pain.
I am unable to make threes rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift depressing rush
Of angry tweets about a playoff fight.
I am the softest position that plays each night.
Do not stare at my stats and cry;
I am not there. Play four on five.”
(3/10, can’t be concerned with something that’s currently dead)
3.) Brandon Williams is still with the team: 7/10 - At this point I think it’s still early enough that there’s still probably some internal searching going on for who the source of all this drama to come out was. I said it on the podcast with Tony Xypteras last week that my prediction was that nothing would happen until the end of the season anyways. But, if what the common assumptions are about Williams and Joerger etc. are true? He’s poison and will only leach further into the organization and eventually into the club house. This was the architect behind removing the training staff that got Harry Giles into a position to be a healthy NBA player. This was the guy who is rumored to have fought tooth and nail for Bagley over Rookie of the Year runaway, Luka Doncic. This is another leak in an organization with a history of management leaks since Vivek came on board. It won’t get better until the problem is eliminated or isolated. So far, we haven’t heard a thing about that.
4.) De’Aaron Fox’s durability over the course of an 80-game season: this season 6/10, subsequent seasons 3/10 - If a big injury is going to happen, I think it’ll be the season where he’s truly playing at the top end of NBA pace for the first time. Fatigue is the root cause of so many injuries in the league and Fox’s transition from high school to college to NBA to top of the NBA in pace has been rather quick. If at the end of the season he’s truly dragging himself around the floor, that’s the only reason I’d start worrying about it.
5.) Grant and Doug as broadcast team: 2/10 - Grant is still one of the more fair play by play guys in the NBA, he calls it like he sees it and whoever is sitting with him does the same. Doug has quickly improved in his first real season of doing this full-time but my lord when he screws up, he gets me cringing like lemon juice on a papercut. Any time someone rips off a big dunk, Doug is there squeezing words from the core of his being and out of his mouth like he’s have an issue that involves either an ambulance or an enema. The nicknames and other stuff will come with time, but that guttural, unsettling climactic groaning rattles my soul.
From smoothsactown: So, what’s the long term plan for Bagley? I’ve seen him take over for both Bjelica and Willie, who play considerably different roles in the offense. Are we trying to have him replicate Good Willie’s rim running, or Bjelica’s overall skillset?
Will: I think we’re seeing Jazz Band Kings 1.0 this season. Obviously, they’re in a development year that’s taken an odd turn over the first 20 games, but I think this year will still turn out to be one of honing the experiment a bit. Kings management has got to kick the tires on Willie before offering a big payday. Harry Giles has to prove that his knees aren’t made of plastique. As we get closer to Jazz Band 2.0, I think we’ll see Marvin assume the role of the center, and if Giles is healthy, he’ll end up being the complimentary four. Marvin will do what Willie never could on a consistent basis; bust his ass from rim to rim, every time down the court, and convert at a high rate. Obviously Bjelica will be around for awhile and will provide plenty of space for Marv and Harry when with them, but I absolutely think Bagley is a replacement for Willie and Willie alone.
Tim: I think Marvin Bagley is definitely a center, which means he’ll eventually overtake Willie Cauley-Stein’s role, whether that’s later this year or next season. As far as skillset goes, Bagley’s top-end ceiling is some combination of those two players. Bjelica is a sniper from deeper who can also handle the ball a bit, and MB3 has shown flashes of competency in both of those areas. He may never been an excellent shooter from beyond the arc, but our lottery pick should be able to knock down a couple of triples per game. On the other hand, Bagley can also act as the athletic pick-and-roll threat with De’Aaron Fox, and can use his second-jump as a threat on both ends of the floor.
From Rob Hessing via the comments: Let’s suppose that this team fails to make the playoffs, and that all of the marquee free agents land somewhere else in the off-season (currently there are 13-14 teams projected to have enough room to offer 22-23 max contracts). What are your thoughts as it pertains to this front office and this team for 2020-21?
Will: Rob, I think what you’re describing there is the most likely scenario that plays out with the Kings. As hyped up and excited as the fanbase is, I still think Sacramento is a long ways from being a destination city for NBA superstars, even with the talented core we have. My thoughts if this comes to pass is that it will be time for Vlade to reassign himself as an executive advisor or something and give someone else the chance at completing the roster he built. Is that scary as hell? Oh sure. Look at what Tom Thibedeau did to the young talent in Minny? That team should be Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, Lauri Markkenen and Karl-Anthony Towns or pretty damn close to it. But, for the sake of the Kings and the development of a championship level team, I’d welcome a new decision maker to the organization. *Knocks furiously on wood*
Tim: Like Will, I think this is a pretty likely scenario. 17 teams are going to combine for at least $611 million in cap space this summer, so we’re probably going to see similar spending to 2016. If that’s the case, we can probably cross the top 20 – 30 free agents off of the list, meaning no possible stars are headed Sacramento’s way. Another thought: how many veterans are really going to want to get in shape enough to run with these young Kings for 82 nights per year? Vlade Divac should keep his job if the Kings win more than 32 or 33 games, but getting him some more help for the day-to-day operations wouldn’t be a bad idea. Maybe we could even hire someone who won’t constantly try to make power moves?
From Klam via the comments: Given that a lot of the Kings’ wins/losses will depend on how effective Fox is playing, do you think there is a player that could potentially step up to carry the team to a win if Fox has an off-night (or has an injury)?
Will: To a singular win? Absolutely. Bogi could do it in his sleep. Buddy could get hot and go off like we haven’t seen before from him. Willie Cauley-Stein could see his fallen comrade and get motivated enough to block two shots and bring the whole damn house down. I think if we’re talking an extended period of time though, the second Fox is removed from the equation, this whole team changes. He’s the identity of the Kings now. He’s the engine, the brakes and most of the cup holders. Without him, this team just ... cease to be what they are.
Tim: Buddy Hield can absolutely do that. He’s becoming one of the best shooters in the league, and has shown additional scoring instincts this season. Bogdan Bogdanovic has already taken over individual quarters in his short time back on the floor, so he’s another possibility. That’s probably the totality of the list for right now, but I expect to add Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles to that group sometime next season.