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The Royal Mailbag: Answering your questions

You asked, we answered!

United States Postal Service Reports Lost Of 2.3 Billion, As Its Delivering Fewer Packages Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

From SMF-PDX Connection via the comments: Do you think we’ll be seeing any leaks in the media bout the team or front office, and if so, when?

Tim: We’ve already seen some very player-specific leaks emerge over the last couple of months when things have gone poorly for this team. The first was the rumor that the Kings were already regretting Harrison Barnes’ contract during the Buddy Hield negotiations (which I don’t believe to be true), followed by Sam Amick telling 1140 KHTK that agents for some of the players thought the Bagley injury could in fact be a good thing for the offense and unlock the team’s pace with less ball dumping in the post. We’re two weeks into the season, folks.

To actually answer the question, the further the Kings fall behind in the standings, the more rumors, backstabbings, and outright lies we’ll see spread about the team. Brandon Williams may be gone, but Joe Dumars (Did you forget he was with the front office? I sure did.) has an extremely sordid history of leaking things to the media, specifically to Adrian Wojnarowski. Here’s an excerpt from Kevin Draper’s piece in 2014:

In 2010, the NBA fined Dumars $500,000 for leaking multiple confidential league memos to Wojnarowski, according to multiple sources. This matches the third largest publicly known fine the league has ever handed down. The NBA decided that too many memos were making it into the media, so they conducted a sting operation over several months. They would change a few words or numbers in different team’s copies of otherwise identical memos, so that when the memos leaked they could spot the small differences and trace them back to the leaker.

That may have been nine years ago, but if blame starts getting thrown around, it’s entirely possible that our executive returns to his old ways.

Outside of the front office, we’ve witnessed the willingness of the family members and agents of Kings players to make their opinion known through certain sources, as well as minority owners continuously leaking information to members of the local media. Winning will cure a lot of faults within all of these factions, but if the Kings continue to falter, don’t be shocked if things turn ugly in the background.

Will: I absolutely think that as the season wears on, we’ll see more and more leaks about the Kings. Now whether those are true or not, is another question. We’ve already seen stuff about the Barnes contract and Bogi being unhappy in his role with the team and it sounds like a lot of bullshit. The Kings have long been an easy target for this stuff and, well, rightfully so. You run a 14 year circus and see if clowns don’t start showing up. What’s a more fun question in all of this is: predict what the next leak is going to be. Vlade Divac forgot Harry Giles had to be in the same “Pay Them Money” pile as Marv and Fox? Harrison Barnes regrets signing his contract this summer?? That Sacramento Giraffe guy is a trained instigator paid by a Kings minority own to help sow seeds of discord and rile up the fanbase to justify a coup in the ownership group??? Oh. Oh no, you ain’t ready for that one.

From 1951 via the comments: You have a time machine, but you can only go back and change one FO move in the Vivek-era Kings. Which do you change?

- The Malone firing.

- The Vlade hire.

- The Philly trade.

- The 2016 Draft trade (over just taking Sabonis).

- The 2017 Draft trade (over just taking Mitchell).

- Selecting Bagley over Luka.

- Firing Joerger

- Hiring Walton

Tim: Oh boy, I see 1951 is trying to get us yelled at no matter what we choose. My initial instinct is to remove Vlade from the equation, as most of these decisions can be laid at his feet, but I’m also not confident that Vivek would make a different, right hire, or that the new candidate would draft De’Aaron Fox. Instead, I’ll reverse the singular decision to draft Bagley over Doncic. That’s a franchise-altering choice that will hurt for the next 15 years or so. Sure, I guess we can say that we don’t definitely know that Luka is better than Marvin, but one of those players is averaging 26.7 points (8th in the NBA), 10.3 rebounds (15th in the NBA), and 9.5 assists (3rd in the NBA), and one of those players isn’t. I’ll take the future (and possibly current) MVP candidate. Talent wins in this league.

Will: Tim took mine, but he takes the time to throw all this together, so I’ll give it to him. Past skipping the obvious generational talent right in front of you for a “better fit” for a scheme that has yet to actually appear I think the obvious answer in my mind is the firing of Mike Malone. To set this up, the Kings are coming off of seeing two of their players winning a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup, Rudy Gay had just been signed to an extension and the Kings got out to a 5-1 start before a case of viral meningitis took Cousins out for a good period of time. The night the Kings fired Malone, they were 11-13.

Am I crazy enough to think the Kings would have made the playoffs that season? Absolutely not. That viral meningitis sapped Boogie of some of his strength and I doubt he’d have had much in the tank down the home stretch. But, Malone was the perfect coach for the Kings in any situation they decided to get themselves into. His first year in Denver, Malone coached 11 guys with 3 years of experience or less to 33 wins or less on the backs of Danilo Galinari, Will Barton and Emmanuel Mudiay being their three best contributors, so if your thought was “well they were going to trade DeMarcus and he wouldn’t have fit”, I really think that isn’t the case. Malone has had success in both pushing the pace and slowing it down: they had 40 wins and the 9th seed in the Western Conference when they were 7th in the league in pace, and were the 2nd seed last season despite being 27th in pace. He’s done that with a plodding big man who can shoot and pass the rock, so if the Kings instead stuck with DeMarcus AND Malone, I really do think that a playoff berth in the coming season wouldn’t have been out of the question. Obviously there’s a bunch of other factors: the GM’s not being smart enough to pick and cultivate the talent to surround DMC and Gay, two torn achilles that may or may not have happened... We’ve spent sometime away from this situation so many, many factors have piled up since then. But the Kings dun goofed on that one and we all know it.

From SahanSah via the comments: If Sacramento sustains success with Nemanja and Holmes in the starting lineup, what should Walton do when Marvin is ready to return?

Tim: You have to start Marvin Bagley. Just the optics alone of bringing a second-year number two pick off of the bench would be awful, and Marvin being kept out of the starting lineup is part of the reason Dave Joerger is on a fully paid vacation right now. But this is where things get tricky.

If Walton pairs Bagley with Bjelica, the Kings keep their floor spacing, while Nemanja’s high basketball intelligence can keep the ball moving in the half-court. However, Marvin probably isn’t ready for the role of full-time rim protector, and he’s shown a difficulty in holding off bulky centers both on the glass and in the paint in the past. The starters would also lose the vertical threat of Richaun Holmes in the pick-and-roll, an element they clearly missed with Dewayne Dedmon in the lineup, as well as Richaun’s constant energy, something the team lacks whenever Holmes heads to the bench.

Keeping Holmes next to Bagley would bring two high energy runners into the group, and would allow Sacramento to continuously push the ball in transition, but the spacing for De’Aaron Fox would be questionable at best. As much as we want Marvin to develop into a three-point shooting threat, he’s shown no clear evidence that he can fulfill that role today. And please, please don’t quote the 38% three-point percentage after the All-Star break last season as a contradictory example. It’s an encouraging number, no doubt, but it’s also a self-selected, small sample size. Outside of that timeframe, Bagley made only 13/56 attempts (23%). To this point in his career, it’s fair to say that Marvin can’t provide a reliable threat from beyond the arc. That’s an issue when De’Aaron Fox needs to be surrounded by shooters to perform at his highest level.

The final option is to swap out both big men. Dedmon and Bagley were the projected starters heading into the season, and on paper they make the most sense. Unfortunately, Dedmon hasn’t been able to connect from deep (he’s 3/18 on the year as I type this answer), and if he’s not knocking down shots from the outside, his utility is severely limited. This is one of the issue’s with Bagley’s game, as he’s not a plug-and-play type contributor. He’s a specialty guy.

If the decision had to be made today, I would experiment with Bagley and Holmes as the starter, hope that Marvin can knock down a couple of three-point shots, and see how things work from there. In the end, you can’t not start Bagley. It’s just not feasible.

Will: I wouldn’t mind bringing Bagley off the bench for a few games to get his feet underneath him and to not entirely kill the flow that the Kings have started to develop. It’s obvious that the Kings are still learning the new system that is being implemented and as they’ve gotten further into the season there’s at least a semblance of cohesion. Marvin should probably spend a couple of games watching this new starting groups movement as well as beat up on the bench to get any lack of confidence out of him. After that, you’ve got to start him and hope that he’s not too much of a monkey wrench in the machine.

From dspott via the comments: In three years, who is the best team: Denver, Dallas, Sacramento, New Orleans, Atlanta, or Phoenix?

Tim: I’ll take the Dallas Mavericks. They look sharp right now, Luka Doncic will be just 23-years old in the timeframe mentioned above, and Kristaps Porzingis will also be in the midst of his prime at 27-years old. I might adjust this answer if I was confident in the health of Zion Williamson, but I can’t put that faith in him right now. Ranking the teams outright: Dallas, Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix, Sacramento, Atlanta.

It’s also fair to say that the destiny of these franchises is impossible to predict in three years, and I’ll certainly be proven wrong by the time 2022 rolls around.

Will: I think this is going to be a virtual toss up between Denver and Dallas, but seeing as how I just spent a lot of time reminiscing about Mike Malone, it’s definite going to be Denver. Nikola Jokic will be in the midst of HIS prime at 27, Jamal Murray will be 25, Gary Harris will be 28. I think the Nuggets have a better history of drafting and have done a good job of finding role players out of thin air so I think that they’re going to have a better supporting cast than Luka and Zinger. The real difference maker will be if either of the Michael Porter Jr. or Bol Bol gambles pay off even slightly. If they’re NBA players, Denver could have a really nice decade or more of playoff appearances. The two teams in that group that directly benefited from the Kings thinking they were smarter than they were are going to dominate the Western Conference in the next three years. Cool Cool Cool.

From Wonderchild via the comments: It seems the Kings are focusing on defense first and assuming the offense will come later. With this roster, do you think that is a sustainable approach to long-term winning?

Tim: I’m not entirely certain that the Kings are focusing on defense. Luke Walton definitely promoted that concept in interviews during the offseason, but Sacramento’s performance speaks otherwise thus far. They were better against Utah and New York over the last two games, but simply looking at points per game is a little deceiving. The Kings managed to “hold” the Jazz to 101 points in their win last Friday night, but the Jazz are only averaging 100 points per game this season. The Knicks are a similar story, as the Kings only allowed them to score 92 points, while their season average is 99.6. It’s better, but I’m not convinced it’s good.

From a building perspective, this roster employs several plus-defenders. We’ve seen what De’Aaron Fox can do when he’s focused, although he too often drifts on that end of the floor, and Marvin Bagley showed flashes of shot-blocking ability last year. From the coterie of role players on the team, Harrison Barnes is one of the more underrated wing stoppers in the league, Cory Joseph is a top-tier point guard defender, and Richaun Holmes rated as one of the better paint protectors in the league with the Suns. The Kings have the personnel; it’s mostly a matter of will and design.

Will: I think the theory of focusing on defense and getting the offense where you can is, as a concept, sustainable to winning if you have the right pieces. But those specific pieces aren’t really available to the Kings and definitely aren’t currently on the Kings roster. I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of Ben Wallace, Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gobert types that allow you to just shut down whole aspects of an opponents game plan and get a little reckless in the passing lanes or play up tight on their men. If De’Aaron Fox was a defensive focused guard, he could morph himself into someone in that mold but... I don’t think I necessarily want him to. If Harry Giles was given fresh knees, my bet would be that he could be a KG style player, but alas. With this roster, the answer is unequivocably hell no.

From Murf via the comments: Will the Kings trade Bogi? If they do, would you consider putting in Giles into a deal that would make a trade more attractive?

Tim: I would not be shocked to see Bogdan Bogdanovic in another team’s uniform by the trade deadline. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he re-signed with the Kings next July. As far as a Bogdanovic trade is concerned in this moment, I’m not sure if there are many other players whose current value is so incredibly low compared to their potential value. For whatever reason, Bogi has completely lost his shooting touch since his white-hot FIBA performance. He’s shooting just 30% from deep, and even more horrifying, he’s made only 33% of his two-point field goals. That trend is even evident in his free throws, as he’s hitting 60% of those compared to the two previous season of 84% and 83%. Something is seriously wrong. (Caveat: I responded to this question before Bogi’s breakout performances against the Raptors and Hawks)

The moment the Kings declined Harry Giles’ rookie option, they also destroyed the vast majority of his attractiveness in a transaction. Whatever team acquires Giles can only offer him a deal in the $4 million range, the same deal that Vlade Divac declined, which means if they trade for Harry and he performs at a high level, they’ll likely be outpriced in free agency. If he doesn’t play well and he doesn’t earn more than that amount in the open market, he obviously wouldn’t have been worth the trade in the first place. His only real value is as an expiring contract, but low-dollar, one-year deals are incredibly common in the league. In fact, the Kings have three of those players on the roster at this moment: Giles, Swanigan, and Ferrell.

Combining Bogdanovic and Giles right now would return very little value for this front office.

Will: The only way I see Sacramento moving Bogi at the deadline is if they’re somehow within striking distance of a playoff spot and Bogi has continued to struggle throughout the season. Maybe the Kings see a Bogi situation else where in the league and they decide to flop disappointments. That being said, the Kings aren’t going to be thaaat near the playoffs at the deadline and if they are I’m guessing a Bogi resurgence has something to do with that. Right now, trading him would be rather worthless in terms of return; it would be far better to keep him, sign him for a nice discount this summer and hope he works whatever is wrong out in the next off-season. Also Murf, if you ever decide to throw my grown son in as some lowly trade chip again, I swear. I SWEAR!!!!