As I covered the situation with the Kings at length in a recent post, this once mighty franchise has fallen on especially hard times.
On the surface, it seems like the Kings are not only in a tough spot in regards to their tenuous location and ownership situation, BUT...looking at their roster, I have to admit that they are not entirely without a future. Let's take a look at their payroll situation for the upcoming season:
Beno Udrih: 7.2 million
Francisco Garcia: 5.8 million
Tyreke Evans: 4.15 million
DeMarcus Cousins: 3.6 million
Jason Thompson: 3 million
Omri Casspi: 1.3 million
Donte Green: 1.67 million
Darnell Jackson: 1 million (qualifying offer)
Jermaine Taylor: 884,293 (team option)
Hassan Whiteside: 788,872
Pooh Jeter: 788,872
Total: 27.62 million
Samuel Dalembert: 12.2 million
Marquis Daniels: 2.47 million
Antoine Wright: 992,680
Luther Head: 992,680
Marcus Thornton: 473,604
Total: 17 million
There are a few things to keep in mind here: For starters, regardless of their cap space, this team is not spending any more money than they need to. They are a young, rebuilding squad, and I'm pretty sure no one is mistaking them for players in the Summer 2012 Dwight Howard/Chris Paul sweepstakes. Like New Orleans, this team has a very uncertain future, in addition to simply bleeding money by the year. Any moves they make are going to be to make this team simply watchable and to be slightly above the minimum cap threshold (wow, how many teams are saying that these days? I'll give you a hint, and it rhymes with "no one"), probably nothing more.
This team is terrible. I'm pretty sure no one is making that mistake. No matter what the result is of the draft, or a free agent signing, I have full confidence saying that this team is not making the playoffs next year.
1). Sign Marcus Thornton to a 4 year, $24 million dollar deal
I would even go as high as 27 million for young Marcus. He is a prodigious scorer and instant offense either in your starting lineup or off the bench. He seems to like playing in Sacto, which is something that cannot be valued with numbers or metrics.
2). Take the best available with the number 7 pick, except if that best available person is Kemba Walker
The Kings are a little SOL in this scenario - they really needed a true point. At his best, Tyreke does a somewhat unflattering, yet passable Allen Iverson impersonation. But I always felt that AI's best years were when he played off-guard with an unselfish point in Philly (Eric Snow) - I'd prescribe the same recipe for 'Reke. Unfortunately, at 7, the Kings probably aren't going to get that type of PG.
The gurus at nbadraft.net have the Kings taking Kemba Walker at the number 7 slot. I feel that on his best day, Kemba does a somewhat unflatting, yet passable Tyreke Evans impersonation. While the Kings don't really have the leeway to draft based on need at this point, Kemba Walker isn't the way to go. He has little defensive ability, limited passing skills and of course, his durability will always be in question considering his 5'10" stature. I think the Kings already have a guy like this on the team, except he's 6'5" and is better on all those fronts. At this point in the draft, I'd take the most talented player...as long as that player isn't Kemba Walker.
3). Try to get any free agent power forward to sign
Even with multiple draft picks and a potential 7 million dollar payday for Marcus Thornton, this team would still be about 8 million dollars under the MINIMUM salary requirements. Amazing.
From what I've seen, I feel that DeMarcus is at his best playing center and with some work and some intense therapy, could be the prodigal Jermaine O'Neal (not this guy - this guy). So I'd try to get a competent 4 to play with him. Kenyon Martin, Kris Humphries, Chuck Hayes, Jeff Green and Reggie Evans could all be had for less than 10 million. Just anyone that will get a rebound, run and not take too many shots.
4). Demand Paul Westphal to tell his squad to put up 120 a night
All the moves I'm prescribing are for the future and with the hopes that this team will play an entertaining enough game to get more fans to come. If I'm the GM, I'm telling coach Westphal to make this team run-and-gun. Defense be damned, at least they'll be exciting to watch on one end of the court! Westphal isn't a bad coach, he's just coaching a John Calipari team against a league of professionals.
5). Sign The Immortal Brian Cardinal, Tony Battie, Joe Smith, Shane battier - or all of them.
This sounds silly. I am aware that I just recommended the signing of The Immortal Brian Cardinal. It is painfully obvious to me that this young Sacramento team is out of control, led by its ringleader, Mr. DeMarcus Cousins. There is nothing in DeMarcus' pre-draft scouting report that left anyone down - great hands, big body, tough rebounder, nice shooting touch and is absolutely batshit crazy. It might be the most accurate scouting report in the last 20 years.
With a bunch of other 20-something like Tyreke, Garcia, Jeter and Jason Thompson running shotgun in DeMarcus' clown car, the Kings need a couple of veterans to help mold DeMarcus into the destructive force he should be. The Immortal Brian Cardinal, Battie and Smith could all be had for the veterans minimum (and will be happy to have jobs, at that), with only Battier would be less apt to play there (with his still remaining talent and certain market demand after a great playoff run with the Grizz). This team needs leadership BADLY, and I think those four are the best available to give it.
Overall, this offseason needs to be about bringing in some vets to help develop the kids and getting to the level where, at the very least, the team is competitive. While I'm never a proponent of all-offense, no-defense teams, this Sacto squad has to be competitive AND exciting enough to deserve the level of community support it has garnered in the past few months. I'd love it if this team resembled the Warriors of the past few seasons - never winning more than 36 games, but playing hard and being entertaining as hell. Do it Sacto - the league needs you.