Hey there, Geoff! Why the long face? Did you get the 5th pick in the 2010 NBA draft, even though you had the 3rd best shot at getting the first pick overall? I see. Bummer. Well, you’re within your rights to be disappointed with the outcome of the NBA draft lottery, but you better not succumb to the pits of despair – after all, you know better than anyone that bad lottery luck can still translate into new franchise cornerstones.
Then again, not every draft works out as well as 2009 did for your Kings. And though the past season was encouraging from a “We finally have some young pieces to build around! We’re going somewhere!” standpoint, you still have a lot of work to do. Getting Samuel Dalembert from the Philadelphia 76ers was a good start – there’s that defensive big man you’ve been craving – but you still lack an elite wing player, have a logjam at small forward, and in general, don’t have the talent needed to compete at a high NBA level. All that work and more can be done on draft night, that rare blend of luck, gut feelings, and the ability to juggle multiple scenarios for your benefit.
What scenarios? Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. Conveniently laid out before you are the many, many ways you could go on draft night, ranging from “franchise altering” to “coaching Florida International”.
The Conventional Way
This is the conservative, yet usually common approach. You use your draft pick on the best player available, then use your cap space to bring in free agents. However, even here, there are many ways to go.
As far as the draft goes, sticking to this philosophy should be fairly simple. The 2010 draft has a funny build – it has a consensus top pick (John Wall), an almost consensus #2 and #3 (Evan Turner, then Derrick Favors), and two more guys who round up a pretty consensus top 5 (DeMarcus Cousins and Wesley Johnson). Since, whadaya know, the Kings have the 5th pick, the thinking here is to allow teams 1 through 4 to deal with the headache of having to actually choose who they take, and then snatch the remaining guy. As of today, it seems that guy would be either Cousins, who fills in a nice frontcourt rotation with the newly acquired Dalembert, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, or Johnson, who will probably share the swingman positions with Donte Greene/Omri Casspi.
You are then left with ample cap space to use during free agency. Assuming no top free agent feels like tagging along to the Sacramento rebuilding project, the conventional route says to nab some cheap, young, and talented free agents, who could grow with the teams existing core.
Interestingly, the best fits at shooting guard – Sacramento’s most burning need after bringing in Dalembert – are all restricted free agents: Golden State’s Anthony Morrow, a knock down shooter that would thrive next to Tyreke’s drive and kick game; J.J. Reddick, who possesses a similarly deadly stroke to go with the much improved play making and defensive abilities he displayed for Orlando these playoffs; and Ronnie Brewer, who has shown glimpses of becoming a defensive stopper/offensive slasher for the Utah Jazz before slipping this year, ultimately being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and injuring his knee one game in; Chris Douglas-Roberts showed a knack for scoring from the wing, but has fallen out of favor in New Jersey and may not get his option picked up; and maybe even Wes Matthews will be available after a very good rookie season for Utah, though he probably wants to stay in Salt Lake City.
You are then left with a plethora of intriguing rotation players. Amir Johnson is a pogo stick who led the NBA in field goal percentage, but seems to lack basic basketball smarts. Dorell Wright is a good defender, and has improved his 3 point range last year. Travis Outlaw was Portland’s second best clutch option before being hit with the double whammy of injury and a trade to the Clippers. BOTH Collins twins could be available. And you know as much as I do that you want to see Jason Williams back in Sacramento.
All in all, though, one can clearly see that the conventional way is unlikely to land the Kings an immediate star. However, as far as long rebuilding processes, this is a good way to add young pieces, gun for another lottery pick next year, and preserve some of that cap space.
Drafting By Need
There are problems with picking the best guy available. As stated, the most likely reward in this case would be either DeMarcus Cousins or Wesley Johnson. However, both of these players have huge concerns. While Cousins has the potential to be an NBA superstar and the best player in this draft, he also seems to be a total nutjob, the kind of player who only figures stuff out on his 3rd or 4th team, destroying chemistry on every squad he goes through before that. For references, ask the Miami Heat if they regret picking Michael Beasley in 2008.
Johnson, on the other hand, will already be 23 years old by the time next season starts, raising questions as to how much he can still improve. Going through his college resume, one also sees a glaring hole in the 2008-2009 season – he sat it out after transferring from Iowa State to Syracuse. While his lone season with the Orange was a huge success, you must ask yourself why a player so talented feels the need to forego a season so he can switch teams, and why his one year with Syracuse was his only truly dominant college campaign. And, of course, the biggest problem – how does Johnson fit with Sacramento’s existing roster? Versatile and athletic as Johnson is, at 6’8”, he’s not a natural fit at shooting guard, and plugging him at the 3 could prove redundant with Omri Casspi and Donte Greene on board.
The thinking here is avoiding those problems by taking someone who might not have as much potential as Johnson or Cousins, but is safer. Want to finalize your new frontcourt rotation, hopefully fixing those defensive concerns once and for all? There are big men a plenty in the mid-to-late lottery range – Cole Aldrich, Ekpe Udoh, Greg Monroe and Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton and Hassan Whiteside are all potential lottery picks – of varying defensive prowess. Monroe in particular seems to have caught the eye of the Kings front office, with a polished offensive game that has drawn comparisons to the still beloved Vlade Divac.
There is no shortage of athletic wings either, with Al-Farouq Aminu (a Josh Smith-ian, mega athletic 3/4 tweener) and Xavier Henry (an NBA ready scorer) leading the pack, and Gordon Hayward, Luke Babbit, Avery Bradley and Paul George getting plenty of love as well. Any of these could concievably turn out great for the Kings.
Of course, any of them could be a bust too. Picking by need is always dangerous – as we all remember, it was Portland’s reason for passing on the greatest player of all time. So if you go down this road, choose wisely.
Even if you draft by need and hit the jackpot, one must always strive to maximize the value of his picks. And if you can get your player both at number 5 or at number 10, the obvious choice here is to take him in the spot where you pay him less money, and try to get another asset – be it a pick or a player.
The Warriors are picking 6th, and have reportedly been looking at moving up, but I doubt they give up anything substantial for one spot. However, acquiring a solid backup big man in Ronny Turiaf, or a scoring swingman in Kelenna Azubuike or Reggie Williams could be something to look into.
Zach and PistonPowered’s Dan Feldman have already discussed a potential trade with the Detroit Piston, where the Kings get the 7th pick and Tayshaun Prince. However, this also included Detroit taking on Nocioni’s bad contract, which the Sixers have now done themselves. Perhaps the deal could still happen, though – Sacramento still has two bad contracts on the books in Beno Udrih and Francisco Garcia, and while both players (especially Beno) give the team more than Noc did, shedding that extra weight and acquiring the veteran Prince could be worth it.
The Utah Jazz, picking 9th (thanks, Isiah), are reportedly quite infatuated with Greg Monroe, which is understandable, since their all-star power forward seems poised to leave in free agency, and their starting center is aging and coming off a major injury. Monroe probably won’t be available at #9, though, which could open warm the Jazz up to trading up. Do they have anything the Kings want though? Their best young assets are C.J. Miles, a 23 year old, 5 year veteran that never seemed to learn how to play basketball, and Paul Millsap, who is on such a bargain of a deal that the cost-cutting Jazz would be fools to let go. Still, if you like Miles and can get your guy at both #5 and #9, this could work.
Ditto for the Indiana Pacers, at #10, who have very few young assets themselves, other than Roy Hibbert (whom I doubt they trade) and Brandon Rush (shooting guard, has potential, is terrible on the court).
However, if you’re looking for a wild stretch that works for both teams, try this one:
The Sacramento Kings trade Francisco Garcia and the #5 pick for Richard Jefferson, George Hill and the #20 pick
I have to start this with a disclaimer: this deal makes sense for the Kings if and only if they are certain that they don’t want Cousins, and he’s available at #5. I know this seems odd at first – both teams seem to be giving up to much. But walk through this one with me.
The Spurs have one and a half legs out of their championship-winning window. The critically aclaimed trade for Jefferson backfired, with RJ looking nothing like the near all-star he was for those early decade Nets teams, and the Spurs were swept by the Suns in the playoffs. However, they still have Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on their last legs, meaning they can’t go to a full-fledged rebuilding strategy.
This seems to me like the next best thing.
In Garcia, the Spurs get just what Jefferson failed to provide – albeit on a smaller scale. Cisco can score, he can defend, he can shoot, and he can handle the ball. He’s a perfect fit either at the 3 next to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, or at the 2 when Manu is on the bench.
This is where one says “Cisco is nice, but he’s not as good as George Hill”. Is that so? Check this out:
Those numbers are dauntingly similar. In their best campaigns, Hill and Garcia give virtually the same production – Hill is a slightly more efficient scorer, passer and ball handler, while Garcia gives you more blocks, steals and rebounds. For the immediate future, which is the Spurs’ bottom line, this is no loss. And by upgrading their pick from #20 to #5, the Spurs can now pick a young stud who can both contribute right away, and develop under the tutelage of Pop and the Big Three (do you have any doubt that DeMarcus Cousins will destroy this league if Tim Duncan’s work ethic rubs off on him?
Sacramento looks at this deal differently. In the Garcia-Hill trade off, the Kings obviously prefer Hill, since he’s younger and still on his rookie contract. Hill could be a very nice compliment to Tyreke in the backcourt, both as a second ball handler and as a shooter of Reke’s drives. While Garcia and Hill are similar now, if Hill improves down the road he could become the better player, which is what interests the Kings more than what happens right now.
In addition, bringing in Jefferson’s expiring deal gets rid of yet another bad contract – Garcia is nice, but isn’t worth a year. Jefferson probably never plays for the Kings, either getting bought out or immediately swapped to a team looking to get under the cap next summer.
Which brings us the pick swapping. Remember when I said this only works if the Kings don’t want Cousins? That’s because in this draft, the disparity from top 5 to the rest of the draft, that drafting number 6 (which is essentially what the Kings will be doing if they stay at #5 and don’t take Cousins) isn’t that different than drafting at #20. In fact, Hassan Whiteside, who has already had two workouts for the Kings and is apparently getting at least some consideration from them at #5, goes at #22 in Chad Ford’s latest mock draft.
IF you don’t want Cousins – which, given his background, is understandable – this deal means you can still get one of your guys in the draft, while dumping a bad contract and getting a young stud on the way. Which is pretty neat.
The Financial Bullet
The conventional use of cap space is usually to sign a free agent. However, it also enables you to take on another team’s bad contract so you can extort an asset or to from them. For example, the 76ers are reportedly willing to give away the 2nd pick in the draft to the team that takes Elton Brand of their hands. Brand’s deal is truly horrific, though, so the Kings probably don’t want that.
However, several other teams might be looking to shed some payroll, and could be willing to give away a key piece for it. The Knicks could be looking to move Eddy Curry’s final year so they can sign another big free agent, and might be willing to give away Wilson Chandler – or even Danilo Galinari. The Heat have reportedly already offered to trade Michael Beasley to the Nets for virtually nothing to clear more cap space themselves, which is an intriguing possibility if you believe Beas could still fulfill his potential with a change of scenery.
The options truly are endless: this is a league full of overpaid players and frugal owners. A creative GM with cap space to play with could end up swinging something major. Whether that thing is taking on a player who can contribute despite being overpaid, or to take on a package including both an albatross and an asset, this might be your best bet.
Of course, if you’re sick of drafting, making minor moves, and waiting, the Kings have the right combination of assets to pull off a major deal. Here is a random idea on how to make a splash felt round the league:
The Kings trade Donte Greene and the 5th pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Andre Igoudala
Gotta admit, Geoff, you kind of beat me to this one. Originally, in my mind, this trade was included in the Dalembert for Nocioni and Hawes deal (though I assumed Philly would want Jason Thompson and not Hawes, and Greene was not included). However, despite these deal going halfway down, I see no reason why the other half can’t follow. The original trade, with both Igoudala and Dalembert, couldn’t have gone down until July 1st anyway (Sacramento officially gets their cap space only then).
For the Sixers, this sends the franchise into a full rebuilding mode – and not a moment too soon. Igoudala was never worth the franchise money he was given, and though losing their best player hurts, this allows Philly to pick Evan Turner, and hand the franchise over to him without worrying how he’ll coexist with Iggy. Throw in the 5th pick, and Philly suddenly has a really nice, young core: Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Turner, Donte, Thad Young, Marreese Speights, Hawes and whoever Philly nabs at #5 (Cousins?) form a young, athletic top 8, all of whom offer room to develop. This team could do serious damage down the road.
As for the Kings, this move fills yet another major whole with a former 76er. With Dalembert shoring up the frontline, Igoudala will join Tyreke to form an explosive backcourt duo, with burgoening defensive potential. While Iggy isn’t the perfect Tyreke compliment, as he isn’t a great outside shooter, his shooting percentage should benefit greatly from somebody else creating his shots – he posted respectable true shooting percentages of 58.0 and 59.8 in his first two seasons in the league, when his usage was relatively low.
The Kings would now have a great 3 guard rotation of Tyreke/Beno/Igoudala, which presumably swallows nearly all 96 backcourt minutes. The rest can go to Fransisco Garcia, who will also split small forward duty with Casspi. Losing Greene hurts depth-wise, but down the road, would you rather have him or Igoudala? Right. I thought so.
Throw that backcourt with a frontcourt that includes a post scorer in Carl Landry, a post defender in Dalembert, a potential-laden big man in Thompson, and a rebounding specialist in Jon Brockman, and you have a nice rotation. Not a championship rotation by any means – and probably a squad that, in the West, will just barely fight for their playoff lives unless Tyreke makes a huge leap – but a squad full of potential.
Last, but not least, Sacramento is now poised for the future. Since Dalembert’s deal expires after next season, Sacramento are now on the board to be well under the cap for the summer of 2011. While this can still change – an extension for Landry could be in order, as well as one for Dalembert if he fits in, and nobody really knows what is going to happen with the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement – the flexibility is a huge asset.
The Isiah Thomas
Trade the #5 pick and your 2012 first rounder for Hedo Turkoglu. Trade Casspi, Landry, Greene and Thompson for Gilbert Arenas. Watch fans cry weeply. Not recommended for those who aren’t into destroying their franchises and tarnishing their reputation beyond repair. Then again, Geoff, if you’re into that, who am I to deny you the oppurtunity. After all, you’re the one in charge, not me.