Posted by: Kingsguru21 | May 25, 2009

Questioning the conventional wisdom with fire & marshmellows

I know the title doesn’t make sense. It probably never will, and it’s me mostly amusing myself. If you don’t like that, I would suggest go fucking yourself. I hear there’s a 10 foot pole that’s always available if this is your thing. Moving on.

The name of the game in the NBA draft is to get a player you want. Sometimes that player is near your pick (like Ricky Rubio), and sometimes your pick (at 4th overall) is worth moving up trying to get him. But, at what cost?

Today, Section 214 of Sactown Royalty put out a piece that’s worth reading, and delving into a bit deeper. (Oh by the way, I don’t feel the least bit guilty of piggybacking off StR. Particularly since I was going to write something up today anyway. 214 just beat me to it. Good for him. Now it’s my turn to mouth off. But, I have something he doesn’t. A willingness to torture the 3 people who read this by combining NBA Draft rumors with CBA tidbits. Masochism thy name is Pookeyguru.)

He suggested several important things that can’t be let go or overlooked. First, is that the notion of what value is during draft time. He made a point that going back at least 10 years (and you could go back further to the Stephon Marbury/Ray Allen swap during the 1996 draft as well) that very little of collateral value was given up to make these deals. It’s important to heed, and it’s almost as interesting that in the same post, he mentioned giving up Donte Greene. I’m vehemently opposed to this for a variety of reasons, but let’s wait a minute. Let’s do this one step at a time. You ready? No. Well, that 10 foot pole is waiting to screw itself into your ass anytime your ready. I hear it’s pretty fun if you’re a Clippers fan. Eh, I digress.

ricky_rubio_llega_pescar_rio_medium

(Yes, I copied that from 214’s post, but I love the picture. I’m going to jizz all over it as soon as I’m done eating.)

First Part: The breakdown of the trades 214 proposed

The #4 and #23 pick and Kenny Thomas (1 yr. @ $9 million) to Memphis for the #2 pick and Marco Jaric (2 yrs. @ $15 million).

This wouldn’t be unrealistic of the Grizzlies to ask. After all, it nets them an extra selection in the 20’s (for a player say, Nick Calathes?) and it gets rid of an extra commitment for 2011 in Jaric. It makes sense for them. But, if you’re Sacramento, do you really want to do that? Why would you be desperate to make a move that helps Memphis when they are the one’s who are trying to get good value? Don’t you make them sweat a little? If they want Hasheem Thabeet for instance, there is a low likelihood he would be available at 4 simply because of OKC picking at the 3rd spot.

That’s a slam dunk for Memphis (particularly if they’re looking to keep a pick like Calathes or Victor Claver over-sea’s) and if you’re Geoff Petrie, the need for Rubio vs staying pat at 4 is the issue.

I would be glad, if I was Petrie, to swap picks (Memphis has the 2nd, 27th and 35th overall picks) for Sacramento’s (4th, 23rd and 31st) along with the Jaric and Thomas swap.

But, beyond that, I would not do anything more. That is Memphis’s problem. And, in fact, I imagine Geoff Petrie won’t give up any player that’s considered part of the core group of players (Martin, Hawes, Thompson, Garcia, Greene) just to get Rubio. I want Rubio as much as any group of players, but Petrie acting desperate to get Rubio won’t improve this team. Especially if he eliminates an extra passing option of Rubio’s (Greene) to acquire him. Surrounding Rubio with shooters will always make his talents glow that so much more. Garcia, Martin, Greene, Thompson, and Hawes all do that.

The only wrinkle to all this is if the Grizzlies do decide they want Rubio, than that means putting Mike Conley Jr on the market. I can live with the Kings trading the 4th overall pick for Conley if it comes to that. In fact, I would be excited if they chose to do that.

The #4 and #23 pick and Donté Greene to OKC for the #3 and #25 pick

Now, again, I do not like this because of Greene. I don’t want the Kings to give up Greene to get Rubio. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not good for the basketball team if Greene pans out. He’s also not likely to be the most desirable talent for OKC.

If the Kings were to swap the 4th and 23rd pick for the 3rd and 25th pick, and Francisco Garcia for Thabo Sefalosha over the summer, than I’d do that.

Now, the Kings would not be able to trade Garcia until the summer because he’s BYC starting July 1st (I don’t want to explaing the Poisin Pill Provision is), and the first part of the swap could happen while the rest of it being agreed upon to happen at a later date. This could happen just because the Thunder have the cap space to do this deal. This deal makes sense, but then again, I don’t like it because it gives up too much. If the Thunder want to make Rubio work, that’s their problem. The Kings don’t have to accede to any other team’s demands, let alone the Thunder or Grizzlies, just because they know the Kings would love to have Rubio.

Now, I would love to substitute Nocioni for Earl Watson if the Thunder were willing to do that, and not only that, the deal could be consumated on draft day (rather than having to wait until after the July Moratorium is lifted). Would they? Not likely. Then again, who knows?

Why Donte Greene shouldn’t be included for Ricky Rubio

I recognize that Donte Greene has had issues over the course of the season. But, he’s 6’10, and can play the SF and PF spots. You can play him inside, and outside. He’s 21, and while he’s immature, he’s not the type of kid who isn’t working to get better this off-season.

I realize, and recognize, that giving up something to get something is the name of the game. Don’t let me fool you by saying that I think the Kings can get away with low-balling the Thunder or Grizzlies here. I don’t think that’s the case. I just know that at this stretch of the game the Kings don’t have to accede to either team’s demands. Nor, should they.

Back to Donte Greene for a moment. It’s very easy to imagine that Greene is improved next season coming off the bench with consistent minutes and a PG willing to pass to him. He did have a great game in Memphis (with his best minutes coming alongside Garcia), and he showed some of his potential in that game.

Based on talent alone, if you’re going to consider Hawes and Thompson part of your untouchable core, shouldn’t you consider Greene in the same neighborhood due to his vast abilities? Hawes & Thompson are considered valuable within the organization, if what I’ve heard said by Jerry Reynolds is accurate, in part because part of their core package is the versatility of playing both PF & C. Well, Greene can play SF & PF, and seems like a natural fit with Hawes and Thompson. That’s a tremendously gifted front line between the 3 of them, and that’s 3 guys who can play 2 positions interchangeably. Not a lot of teams have that in this league. That creates matchup problems. Matchup problems are why teams win in this league.

If you don’t believe in Donte Greene, as I’ve said, than trading him now makes sense. But, if your’e going to trade him at 21 before you’ve given him a real chance at developing, than you’re selling your future short with Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes. That is unless you think there is another player that fits in just as well at the SF spot as Greene could potentially. Then you go that way I suppose. I just don’t see that particular option anywhere on the horizon though.

The boring salary cap part

Things that every fan should realize.

1) Draft picks, when traded, before the draft, or even during, don’t have any monetary value
2) Francisco Garcia is PPP, and BYC after July 1st, so trading him to any team without cap room will be nearly impossible
3) The Kings current cap situation applies to the draft, as in how the season ended in 2008-09 is how the Kings salary cap will look when the draft happens on June 25th

Now, all that having been said, there is this great idea that the Kings are screwing themselves with cap room if they take on a Marko Jaric and move Kenny Thomas to accomplish it.

Kings Projected Salary for the 2009-10 season before any Draft Picks are included: 45.025 Million

I bring this up because the idea that A) the Kings can become salary cap players with Kenny Thomas’ deal is an interesting point, but not necessarily a pertinent one, and B) there is no reason to commit to an already high salary player when you’re not even a playoff team yet.

But, I’ll get to that in a moment. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

There is an idea that the Kings will have significant salary cap space. That, is wrong. They are likely to have some, but not a lot. And, depending on how much they want to use it, or if they would prefer to use their expiring contracts cap holds to keep them from having cap space, they can do that as well.

The point is that this team might have cap space depending on how much salary the draft picks bring in (it’s hard for me to speculate exactly on what the cap figure will be), but here’s a good idea of what the Kings are looking at as a bare minimum WITHOUT making a move.

You have 45.2 million with the following players: Kevin Martin (9.68 million), Kenny Thomas (8.775 million), Andres Nocioni (7.5 million), Beno Udrih (6.031 million), Francisco Garcia (5.8 million), Spencer Hawes (2.332 million), Jason Thompson (2.035 million), Mikki Moore has 2 million coming to him as part of his contract if he was waived by June 20th (I think that’s the exact date but I can’t remember what it is–it’s around there somewhere; also it’s worth keeping in mind that figure could go down because of any contract he signs within the league so the Kings are likely to get up to a 100K reduction in salary), and Donte Greene will be at 870K next year.

You add in the 4th pick, whose base slot salary is at 3,008,400, and with the 20% kicker than can be added to any rookie contract, that the Kings will add, it will be at 3,610,080. If you have the 23rd slot (without the 20%), you’re looking at 972.5K, and the 2nd round pick slot will likely be around 450K say. (Last year it was at 440K. I’m not sure if that’s gone up or not.)

The Kings likely salary with those 3 slots alone (slotted the way they are) will be at 50,058,270. If the salary cap is at 57 million next season (which it’s rumored to be–but we won’t know until July), that means the Kings are likely to have anywhere from 7 to 7.5 million dollars in cap room. This is not a barn burner type of deal, and to be quite honest, if the Kings traded up with Memphis and swapped Kenny Thomas for Marko Jaric, the deal would actually net the Kings money this season against the cap. (With Jaric and the 2nd pick, the Kings would have 11,558,840 committed in salary. With Thomas and the 4th overall pick, the Kings would have 12,385,080. So essentially you’re only moving the needle less than a million dollars, and I’m not sure that Memphis trades down anyway. The one thing that Memphis does not need is more cap room. As it is, they’re roughly 8 million dollars below if the salary cap is set at 57 million next season. If it goes up, they’re even further under the limit.

The point here is that the Kings won’t have the gobs of cap room they need to make a real offer to a player who could make them a playoff team next year. They have quality young pieces, and if they snag Rubio in the draft, they will have gotten even better. They don’t need to work that hard to make a splash in free agency when they have so many workable pieces already in tow.

To sum this monstrosity up

I want to make this clear. I think it’s a bad move to act desperate to move up for Ricky Rubio even though he fits many of the team needs anyway. Right now, Draft Express has Rubio listed 4th on their mock draft because of the recent talk of how Rubio doesn’t want to go to Memphis or Oklahoma City. If anything, OKC may want to make a deal to switch the 3rd and 4th pick because they don’t want to pay, say, a James Harden 3rd pick money. I can understand why, too. They have money to spend in Free Agency, and can make a play for a player that fits their scheme in some way.

I’m opposed to trading Donte Greene to move up to acquire a pick to select Ricky Rubio because there is no guarantee he stays in the draft with the draft working out so badly for him in order. (He would be wise to stay in no matter what happens, however. There is never a guarantee of going top 5 in any draft, and when you can, you do so. Even though his buyout is tricky, it’s not so terrible that he can’t work his way around it.) I’m opposed to trading Donte because of his skill set, his potential and upside, and because of his potential fit with Thompson and Hawes. That’s a versatile, fairly athletic, and valuable trio of players. You add Kevin Martin and say, Ricky Rubio to this team, and that’s not only a fun team to watch, but a talented one too. How good that team does depends on how good Rubio, Greene, Thompson and Hawes all become. At this point none is a guarantee to become a top 3 player at his position.

My concern here is not how Petrie plays this. He doesn’t have a lot of options here, and unfortunately, if giving up Greene made sense because of the other talent on this team, than I would have no problem with it. However, he does not have that luxury. My greatest concern here is simply that another team would swoop in, like say Minnesota, and really entice Memphis, or OKC even, with a package so good they’ll ignore Sacramento altogether and just be willing to pick 6. I don’t how why Minnesota would do it exactly, but it makes sense that they would consider it. Naturally, the danger for OKC or Memphis is that the player they want at 6 is not there any longer.

In the end, I’m not greatly concerned. I believe Petrie will get a player that will make this team better. If it’s not a franchise player (which there might not be in this draft; that happens unfortunately), then it had better be a quality star level player that the team can use as a core piece or in a trade to acquire a core piece down the road.

Do I think that player is Rubio? Yes, and here’s why. I think Memphis is pretty high on Thabeet, and unless that changes, trying to move Rubio will provide more headaches for them than they will if they take Thabeet. And, the end game for them would probably be Thabeet. Could he help them? Yes, he very much could. Is it in Sacramento’s best interest that Memphis take Thabeet? Yes.

I think Oklahoma City has 2 options to weigh. One, is that that they have a chance to get a SG that fits in perfectly with Russell Westbrook in James Harden. Second, is that they have a perfect Free Agent target in Marcin Gortat. Gortat and Harden are both high IQ type players, and with so much young raw talent around in OKC, that might be their next step to take. And, while Rubio is a high IQ player himself (just one of the many reasons I really like him), it makes just as much sense for OKC to take Harden.

In a sense, I think the Grizzlies are the key. If they take Thabeet, the Kings and Thunder are likely to take swap picks so the Kings can take Rubio 3rd, and the Thunder with Harden 4th. (I would be shocked if Washington didn’t take Ty Lawson. Shocked. He seems like a perfect fit for everything they need especially when you’re talking about a bench PG. Plus, he could be a great spark plug for a team that could use that. As I said, I’ll be shocked if Washington doesn’t take Lawson. Okay, back on track.)

So, if the Clippers take Blake Griffin, and they probably will (It makes no real sense for them not to even though they could get quality trade offers, I don’t see how they could get trade offers that really makes their team better or more valuable with the versatility and talent that the Clippers have around Griffin—as far as all the teams go they are a PERFECT fit talent wise for him), then you’re talking about Memphis. If they are in love with Hasheem Thabeet as many have mentioned, then you’re looking at OKC. They have no reason to take Rubio because of their real needs at SG & C. Rubio is not either. The easiest way to ensure they would be able to take Harden is to switch picks with Sac. (That would also help OKC as they would have more money on the Free Agent market as opposed to less.)

That means the Kings could take Rubio without any real interference. Do I think it’s possible? Yeah, it seems likely this could happen. There’s already talk of this going around, so it’s pretty likely that it could very well happen. In the end, the talk of the Kings being screwed on draft day will fade if they end up with Rubio anyway. Which is not the point of this little exercise, but merely a rebuttal to Section 214’s point about how the Kings would have to move up to get Rubio.

Here’s the ultimate trump card scenario: The Clippers trade down for the Grizzlies pick, and take Rubio with that. The Grizzlies jump up & trade Griffin. That would mean the Kings have to go to Plan B. And, that would be what? I don’t know. But, I would have to guess Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry would all have to come into play here.

We will see. What I do know is that the Kings can’t overpay to get Rubio because it makes no sense to do so. You make your own team weaker while making the Grizzlies or Thunder (or Clippers–even worse) that much better. There is no competitive advantage in that, and last I checked, the NBA is about competition. That’s just as true off the court as it is on. (Btw, that was a screwy Game 3 between Orlando and Cleveland. Too many foul calls called. Ugh.) Anyway, I believe if the Kings don’t panic, and let the Grizzlies do their thing, the Thunder have a greater need to go after Harden and Gortat than they do trying to make a tight fit with Russell Westbrook and Ricky Rubio work. The Kings, and Geoff Petrie as labeled by Tom Ziller as the most patient man in basketball, will keep his poker face, and play it as straight as possible.

That’s why, even though the Kings didn’t win on the draft lottery, they still can become winners anyway. Just like LA, Memphis and Oklahoma City have options, so does Sacramento. Thankfully, trading away the young talent that is here, and under contract, doesn’t have to be traded away in haste to beat other teams who are looking to move up in the draft. (And, there will be those teams out there.) The Kings have something that no other team in the draft that will make them the best suitor for Rubio: They have a franchise who desperately needs him, a higher pick than most other teams to entice a team moving up. The Kings have many assets that doesn’t include Donte Greene, namely Kenny Thomas and the 23rd/31st overall pick(s).

Do I think the Clippers will try to trade down a pick to get Rubio? Why? It would be much easier to sell Zach Randolph away for a very cheap package from a few teams out there. Blake Griffin is the KIND of player that could make the Clippers a very attractive team for at least the next several years. The Clippers are not a talentless team. Eric Gordon is a stud. Baron Davis properly motivated is extremely talented and can change a game. And, despite what Chad Ford says about Mike Dunleavy Sr loving Rubio to death, he doesn’t exactly run an up-tempo system that would Rubio will thrive in. (In fact, any team that gets Griffin should want to run him to take advantage of that ridiculous athleticism.)

The Grizzlies could take Rubio and screw up the whole thing. So could the Thunder if the Grizzlies take Thabeet. But, then those teams have to work very hard to put a square peg in a round hole. And, one has to ask the question, is Rubio absolutely more valuable than OJ Mayo or Kevin Durant? If not, you might have to believe that those teams would have to let Rubio “slide” to the Kings at 4.

This is why I’m hoping for Rubio. That, and I believe because of the fact the Kings desperately need personality, which Rubio has, and his style of play, up-tempo which suits most of the roster, than the Kings are an absolute block-buster of a hit for him. The Grizzlies, Thunder and even Clippers are not that. There are very few players in whom you immediately change your style. Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant to name 3. Ricky Rubio is not any of those guys. If he was, the Clippers would be taking him #1. Then again, they are the Clippers.

What we have here is the quintessential game of fighting fire with marshmellow’s. Only Geoff Petrie knows how hot the heat really is. Perhaps, and equally as important, the penultimate way to play this game is to get smores out of the deal. Of course, Spanish Chocolate never hurts that endgame does it?

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