Posted by: Kingsguru21 | August 24, 2009

So what is the Kings plan?

Excuse me for writing this today. I just feel like writing about the Kings at this very moment (about 4 hours before the A’s-M’s game that I’m planning on going to), and I don’t have much time. Plus since I’m going to be in Sacramento much of next month, I’m not sure how much I will feel like writing about the Kings in September with so little going on.

As discussed here last week, I pointed out why I thought the Kings made the right decisions to trade the notable players that have driven the Kings to their greatest success this decade (and in franchise history).

Emotionally, and I think that’s the major component here, I think fans haven’t let go of those players. I also think that the hindsight of saying this team wouldn’t compete is completely 20/20. Was it a mistake of Petrie and the Maloof’s to push that? Yes, it was. Did it make a difference. I’m thinking pretty much not. But, for the sake of everyone (and to build on these points later, I would like to rehash/reapply some of this, albeit in shorter form) I’m going to go over the Webber/Bibby/Miller-Salmons trades again.

Why was Webber traded? The public line was that having 3 smaller contracts would be easier to trade. But, Kenny Thomas was the poison pill in all potential deals, and no team has been willing to take him on. That’s why, still, I don’t think he’ll be traded. Corliss Williamson’s deal expired in 2007, and Brian Skinner was traded almost a year later to Portland to save the team some luxury tax in the 2005-06 season. So, in a sense, some of the objectives were actually achieved even if fans would want Thomas moved. (I don’t blame them, but you can’t force NBA teams to take K9. Plus, for the last 2 years he has rarely played.) I still think these were the 3 reasons that Webber was traded (ignoring the public line that was obviously not accurate or true):

1) The Kings wanted to give Miller/Bibby/Stojakovic a shot as the core of the team to build around (which didn’t work)
2) The Webber deal pushed the team under the luxury tax for the 2004-05 season AND 2005-06 season
3) Webber was no longer worth what he was paid and the team shed some of the back end money that would have been owed C-Webb

Now, 1 is obvious. 2 is equally as important, and because of making this deal, it allowed the Kings to get under the tax as they were slightly over the luxury tax line. (Note: Bender’s salary included players who were no longer on the Kings. If you click the first link, that will bring you to Bender’s site. Larry Coon’s FAQ includes what teams have payed tax on this particular CBA, and you notice the Kings were not one of them. That is the 2nd link.)

3 is the part I think fans forget here. Even with Thomas’ deal ending next summer, the Kings still payed less for Williamson, Skinner (who turned into Vitaly Potapenko and Sergei Monia) and Thomas than they would have had payed for Webber over the last 3 1/2 years of his contract. I don’t think the Kings could afford to keep Webber at a highly diminished state, and because Philly could afford to do so, and were still trying to keep Iverson on the roster at that time, they ended up taking the risk. How has that worked out for Philly again?

Bibby’s deal is different, but I think it’s just the same. Essentially the Kings payed for Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih with Bibby’s salary. I don’t care what people think about Udrih at all here, but when you combine Martin’s extension last season and Bibby’s salary, the Kings were likely to be luxury tax payers. (I think, though, they would have been very close. When you factor Abdur-Rahim’s salary being taken off due to his medical retirement, that would have likely brought the Kings under the tax line. But, the team would have been barely under the line.)

Bibby’s salary removal allowed the Kings flexibility to re-sign Udrih (something I was 50/50 on and felt could go either way), and it also changed the culture of the team somewhat. It wasn’t a move that I think Petrie (or the Maloof’s) actually regret with hindsight. It was the best time and scenario that dumping Bibby made sense. You weren’t likely to get a young talent like Josh Smith, and you weren’t likely to get more than cap room. Which is what the Kings got. Moving on.

I’m not going to even bother with the Ron Artest deal as most fans actually liked the deal and expected the Bibby and Miller/Salmons deals to yield something similar. Here’s the problem with that reasoning. One, Artest didn’t yield a super high return in any trade he has been moved for. Second, Artest was younger than Bibby/Miller/Salmons/Webber (at 28) last off-season when he was moved. Third, he was cheaper and that meant it’s easier to trade a young player for him. This was opposed to just finding expiring contracts to get him off the cap (as was the case with Bibby and Miller). As such, that’s why the Kings got a better return for Artest.

Miller & Salmons are an interesting note of comparison to Webber. First, the difference in long term money is important. What’s not different is that Miller, like Webber, was not having the impact he once was on the Kings. Paying him that level of money (and keeping Hawes from more minutes) was not important. I don’t think the Kings ever had many deals to move Salmons (that was reported) in part because of his trade kicker, but also in part that there weren’t many teams who wanted to pay a backup SG/SF who rebounded that poorly that much money. Chicago was a perfect storm for the Kings. They gave up all their expiring contracts, gave up Nocioni (who at least has a fit in the starting lineup for the Kings in the interim; this was a priority of Petrie’s at the deadline to find more competitive players and shake up the roster), and the Kings dumped some salary for this season. The financial deal is almost even (right now if Salmons opts out, that means the Kings will pay 2.5 million dollars more for Noc’s 3 seasons–if Salmons doesn’t opt out next summer it will be likely the Bulls pay 2.5 million more–I take that trade every time), but more importantly, the Kings sold Salmons and Miller at the right time. Neither were providing a great veteran presence, and Miller had flat out quit on the team. There wasn’t likely to be a better deal (in the real world–not in a fans warped sense of what’s going on based off a rumor they read on Hoopsworld one day in January), and that’s why the deal was done. Just like Webber, there was money, long term roster issue’s, and culture at stake.

Which brings me back, thankfully, to my original point: What is the Kings plan?

******

Well, most of that plan was executed pretty well by the trade deadline. Many of the moves that saved the Kings money last season helped them in the interim, and the draft day selections (Evans & Casspi–Brockman won’t make anybody beyond a fan or two buy a ticket to watch him) may help this team financially has spent considerable resources (especially online through kingsflix–and I’m assuming elsewhere) marketing Evans and Casspi this summer.

Let’s first look at the roster starting last season:

Beno Udrih and Bobby Brown at the PG spots
Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia and Quincy Douby at the SG spots
John Salmons and Donte Greene at the SF spots
Mikki Moore, Jason Thompson and Kenny Thomas at the PF spots
Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes and Shelden Williams at the C spots

(Note: Abdur-Rahim wasn’t ever on the active roster even though the medical retirement didn’t go through until January or February of ’09.)

Now look at the roster which I won’t include Brockman (he would be at the PF spot)

PG: Udrih, Tyreke Evans and Sergio Rodriguez
SG: Martin, and Garcia
SF: Andres Nocioni, Donte Greene and Omri Casspi
PF: Thompson, Sean May and Thomas
C: Spencer Hawes

Now, the obvious roster imbalance is obvious. Not to be irritating, but, on a rebuilding team you have to expect that. Big’s are usually the hardest players to get in the league (which is why so many play much longer), and that’s why a player like Hawes will be in the league for a long time regardless of any injuries he does have.

Still, despite the lack of depth at C, it’s not going to make a huge deal of difference. Any C that would make a difference for this team hasn’t declared for the draft (yet) or is not available to the Kings at any cost. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

The thing I’d like to point out is that the Kings waived or traded, from the start of the 2008-09 season until now, the following players on last year’s OPENING DAY roster: Miller, Salmons, Douby, Moore, Brown and Williams. 3 of the players acquired during the trade deadline spree’s were waived within a day to a month of being acquired: Cassell, Drew Gooden and Will Solomon. Other players like Calvin Booth, Rashad McCants, Ike Diogu, Cedric Simmons and Bobby Jackson have signed elsewhere or are trying to get contracts still.

There are 7 players on last year’s roster (Udrih, Martin, Garcia, Greene, Thompson, Thomas and Hawes) who were there at the end of the last season. Other than Udrih who was signed long term as non-Bird Free Agent by the Kings over the ’08 Summer, all those players have something in common as they were drafted (or acquired before their rookie season started in Extra E’s case) by the Kings. With Tyreke Evans, Jon Brockman and Omri Casspi, that isn’t going to likely change. Only Sergio Rodriguez, Kenny Thomas, Sean May (and Brockman if he’s signed) have a 1 year (or left) contract or a team option that could make it so. That means roster flexibility. More importantly, this team is no longer holding asset’s whose value have sailed, or are badly overpaid to the point where you can’t trade them (like Miller).

There isn’t a player on this roster with little to no trade value other than Beno Udrih. I’m not even sure the Kings will trade him anyway now. Since early July, and seeing how deals have played out, I’ve watched the Kings make one big move since draft day: Signing Sean May.

Which leads me to believe that the most important point has yet to come for most fans.

******

If you’re the Kings, and you didn’t trade Bibby because you were worried about how to run the offense without him in the game, than that concept, at least, has to partially apply to Udrih in his value to the team. Right now, no matter how you feel about him, he could either be an over paid high quality backup in a few seasons or a perfect stop gap starter. Who knows, we might even see Beno Udrih fetch something worthwhile in a trade a few years down the road if Tyreke Evans is playing 40 mins a night.

That’s why, even though fans love to play the fantasy trade game, GP & Co. won’t probably trade Udrih until they’re sure they have a quality backup and they know what they have with Evans and Martin first. With Udrih, you have that buffer room. Plus, it will be much easier to trade Udrih with 2 years left on his deal as opposed to 4 years left (which is currently where his contract status stands).

But, those are not primary reasons you don’t trade Udrih right away. Tyreke Evans is 19 years old. He’s going to need time to adjust his game to the NBA, and that might take a month, 3 months, a year, or a year & half. At least with Udrih you have that buffer room. Because no matter how you feel about Udrih, the investment in Beno is not anywhere near the investment that is being made in Evans long term. Having him work through his problems early and have something to work towards is an important goal of any ball handling G in the NBA. Some guys make the leap right away, and some don’t. There is no reason to burden Evans with carrying a franchise until he’s clearly capable. The more time you give him to grow into those shoes is usually the best way to invest in said franchise.

These factors alone with Easy Reke are probably why he won’t win the Rookie of the Year. I think Blake Griffin will have pretty good numbers, but I bet his post January on numbers will be what roughly what his career will show: Very good but not a franchise player or anything more than borderline All-Star. We Shall see. Would i much rather have Evans than Griffin? You bet. Moving on.

******

Andres Nocioni is different and in a bit more tenuous position. First, he plays a position that at least 4 players on the Kings roster can play (Garcia, Martin, Casspi and Greene). Second, he has a year shorter contract than Udrih that is front loaded (or decreases as every year goes by from the previous year). Third, he could provide value to a team needing toughness and able to hit a 3. (I don’t know what these teams are. New York, Philly and the Clippers are all possibilities I think.) But, like Udrih, Nocioni could be traded in a heartbeat and I wouldn’t care. On the other hand, I think the Kings want to wait to trade Nocioni when it’s clear that at least Greene/Casspi (if not Greene and Casspi) can man the starting SF spot capably.

I don’t care what you say up until this point, but I think that’s the whole problem here with trading Noc. What he could fetch the Kings is likely an expiring contract that expires in 2011 (at the earliest) if not 2010 (if GP & Co. got lucky). I don’t think the 2010 Free Agency matters much to the team anymore simply because of the amount of teams with cap space who can drastically reshape their team outnumber the Kings. Plus, you factor in the Kings won’t be very competitive this season, and I think that effectively kills the amount of reasons the Kings can lure a franchise changing Free Agent.

So, with all that being said, I expect Noc to be on the roster until the trade deadline next February at the earliest. This will probably spill over to next summer as more teams will have flexibility and what not. It will be simply a more reasonable market to trade Noc, and it’s far more likely that both Casspi and Greene (or at least one) will be able to replace Noc’s production at a higher level. This doesn’t even mention that both are cheaper when you combine their salaries.

That doesn’t even mention that the Kings will likely be very tough on Evans, Casspi and Brockman (if he ends up on the roster; I think the odds of this is 70-30 barring a major C moving past Brockman on the depth chart and playability) when you factor in the tough season the Kings endured with their rookies last season (Thompson and Greene). Even though what Greene did was stupid, I’m pretty sure a tight ship and making all of them jump through every hoop (maybe even Greene as punishment) possible to make them recognize playing in the NBA is a privilege and not a right.

******

Since Paul Westphal has arrived on the shores of the EC (and looked for a mother’s basement to live in like us bloggers–or maybe it was just a room in a house), he has talked about changing just about everything. I don’t think it was just talk either; it sounded like a direct message and challenge to the veteran players that attitudes of earlier seasons will no longer be the samo-samo in these hear parts. At times Westphal has mentioned the need to be more competitive every night, every practice, and in every aspect of the game. These are all good messages, and it’s interesting to see what changes happen as the season moves on. Every coach talks up this stuff over the summer, but the Kings desperately needed Westphal to provide that in the name of sanity and respect.

Really when you look at the whole season upcoming, it will be somewhat about the play of the young kids (Hawes, Thompson, Greene, Casspi, Brockman and Evans) and seeing them develop as players. However, I think the veteran players have a lot to prove (I’ll go into this in detail in later posts) and a veteran “retread” head coach who has a lot to prove himself. I don’t think this team will greatly over-achieve if Kevin Martin gets hurt again (which the odds say is likely) as he is the team’s best player. Long-term this would be a problem, but I don’t think the franchise has any allusion’s about Kevin being the “guy” who delivers this team to championship status.

******

Since 2005, 2003=04 if you really think about it with the signing of Miller, every move has been dictated by the injury to Webber. Even the move to acquire Miller had a bit to do with Vlade Divac as he was getting old and the Kings knew they had to soak some of the minutes Webber would have to play if they were able to get the most out of him. To an extent it worked, but Divac’s game consistently dropped off as the 2nd half of the season went by. Really, the highlight of the team’s season was beating the Lakers in LA right before the All-Star break. It pretty much went down hill from there. That wasn’t Webber’s fault; that was the reality.

Because Webber’s contract (including gimpy knee) was taking 40% of the salary cap for the Kings at the time, it would be hard to dump his contract. Hence the return of what the Kings received in return for Webber. Bibby was traded at the right time and for a reasonable price. Trading Miller a season earlier might have netted a bigger return, but quite honestly, I doubt it. Miller has always been effective as a Kings starter, but he also was a perfect fit for the Kings system. He has never been, or ever going to be, the quality of player that Vlade Divac was. (That pretty much says it doesn’t it?) Miller is fine when you have the right parts to surround him (as Chicago does), and the Kings never would. Or, the asset’s it would take to get those players in return wouldn’t have been worth it to make Miller as effective as possible.

At every turn, the Maloof’s and Petrie have tried to keep the team as competitive as absolutely possible. At first, I think this was because they thought they would have enough cap room in 2010 to lure a major Free Agent. But, as time goes on, it’s looking like that won’t be the case. Worse, if you don’t have a very good team, it’s hard to get a quality Free Agent to even look at you in a bad market unless you’ve drastically re-altered your team with established players. (That is what I think is so over-looked about 1999. Yes, the Divac signing is greatly important to the franchise, but it doesn’t happen without Chris Webber being there.) As much as I think the Webber trade by itself didn’t change the franchise with his sole presence, the value it gave to other players in thinking Sacramento was a worthwhile place gave it a different feel. This time around, where is that appeal for players in FA in 2010? I don’t think there is one. I give credit to the Maloof’s and GP & Co. last trade deadline; they knew they didn’t have that option in their playbook. So they dumped Miller & Salmons while they could, got a decent return, and will live with the hits that come in the interim. (Like the Kings could have gotten more for Miller & Salmons. Like what, Ike Diogu?)

I firmly believe in this NBA, like 1999, you can’t drastically change your team without having an impact player. The difference is impact players won’t likely change as often or as easily as they did in the 1990’s. The most reasonable way to get said player is through the draft. All the mechanisms that existed in 1999 will exist in 2010, with one great difference: The Kings can sign another Free Agent for 5 seasons as opposed to 6 in 1999. There were greater max raises available than there are now, and that’s another factor, too. (Case in point is LeBron. He could sign a 6 year 120 mil contract with Cleveland, or a 5 year 90 million dollar deal with New York. Do you think NYC makes up for 30 million in differences for LeBron? No, me either.) It’s much easier to sign a true impact player like LeBron or Wade when you are a team with good talent (as Cleveland has the opportunity to attract with tons of cap room and LeBron still there). (Consider this reason #1 why I think Wade is an absolute goner no matter what happens with Miami.)

The Kings can’t compete in that marketplace. But, what about 2011? That is possible, but I’m hoping the Kings save their cash. What I hope they do, and this is solely hope as I have no reason to believe they won’t yet, is save the cash to resign all the young talent and keep together a potential championship core. At some point, you’re going to have to pay these guys. Why waste money in 2011 when you could better utilize it in 2014?

Anyway, that’s where I think this team is. The franchise has 1st round picks for every year in the future provided they don’t trade a pick away. As some of these players get older, and better, you can afford to keep adding young players to your roster. As the Kings get better their talent will probably fetch more in a trade (like Greene or Casspi) than Miller or Salmons ever would have at their peak.

And, at the end of the day, that’s the bottom line here. The young players playing at a higher level than Salmons probably ever could (especially rebounding wise–Salmons really stunk at that) will yield a more likely return that is reasonable than what the Kings would have gotten provided Salmons opted out in 2010 (a far fetched belief). Right now, I like where the Kings are at, and I like the core of young players the Kings have. I like Martin and Garcia as role players, and I think as far as poison pills go, Beno Udrih could be worse. He could be Kenny Thomas in 2005. The Kings have gotten their transition and have gotten it started already. With Martin, Garcia, Douby, Hawes, Thompson, Greene, Evans, and Casspi over the last 6 drafts, that’s a good transition to have. That doesn’t even include the 2010 pick, or the fact that Kenny Thomas will no longer be on the roster (along with May and Rodriguez potentially).

******

One of the negative impacts of 2010 is that most teams next season won’t be paying luxury tax, and being under the line will mean most teams won’t likely get more than a million in tax (if that). Why? The luxury tax pool (Dallas is very likely to be the highest tax payer–not a shock there) of money will be smaller, but, more importantly, there will be more teams collecting the tax by virtue of not paying it. I also think that means that the escrow tax will dramatically decrease to the point where the players may not have to pay back benefits to the owners next season as well. (That may not be true. We’ll see how this stuff plays out.)

What does this mean for the Maloof’s? It means several things. First, cash dumps by the Celtics with Will Solomon and Sam Cassell won’t be as widely available because more teams will be able to do so. That will decrease the value of taking a Will Solomon. That’s not in the Kings best interest. Second, with so many teams not paying tax they won’t need that flexibility. They’ll simply let the contracts expire. Third, it may be worth it to keep a player in case of injury. (You know?) Mostly I think it means that escrow and luxury taxes will severely decrease keeping the amount of money spent to a very minimum. (This is how I think the owners will attempt to screw the players. It’s pretty devious because most fans won’t know what’s up with these last several paragraphs. Just read Larry Coon’s FAQ and notice the numbers involved with luxury/escrow tax payments to each team. It’s rather large. The Maloof’s got over 10 million in those alone this past season. It was nearly 10.5 million.)

Another reason I mention this is a dirty little secret is that escrow and luxury taxes don’t qualify as BRI. Neither do payments given to teams when a team moves (like the Seattle to OKC move). So, whenever people claim the Maloof’s lost a lot of money last season, they’re lying. Between the vast amount they got (5 million dollars from the Clay Bennett ownership group last season) from the Seattle to OKC move alone, and the luxury tax/escrow tax that they received, the Maloof’s don’t have a lot to complain about. But, that’s why I think they dropped salary too. All that extra money (and 15-16 million is nothing to sneeze at) came in handy to keep the team from bleeding red last season (at the very least).

Why do I bring that up? From a business standpoint, the Kings have not been taking extraneous money out of the business, The extra cash here & there has helped keep costs down. Say whatever you want about the Maloof’s, but they aren’t stupid business people. The next time the statement “we’re losing money” comes out, I’m going to simply say this: Show me your books or waste somebody’s else’s time. The Kings get a majority of their revenue from their local TV contract, and the national TV contract. The great profit comes from selling tickets and getting people to pay the parking and buy concessions. Anybody who doesn’t realize that is not only naive, but gullible. They have an excellent business when the market can bear it, but the market can’t bear it right now. Still, this is the folly of ownership.

From a roster standpoint, I think the Kings are moving in a quality direction. From a franchise standpoint in terms of management, the Kings have a succession plan to Geoff Petrie if he retires (more on that later as well). When you factor in Paul Westphal, his staff hirings (just having veterans on the staff makes me happy), and his attitude so far, I like where the team is headed in that direction, too. From a business standpoint, and even though the Maloof’s will claim they are losing too much money (which is their problem), they are doing fine. Between the luxury and escrow taxes next season, they will make out okay, and they might even be able to pay back the debt they owe for taking out the loan from Chase/BofA last season. (They won’t do that, but I’m just saying they would be able to assuming more fans become more interested in the team as the season moves on.)

The only question’s I have now are the development of the young players, the willingness to spend money from the Maloof’s, and how long Petrie/Levien stay a team. Considering where other teams are at right now, I can live with it. It’s not a perfect situation, but owning the Kings never was. If you want to root for an all the time winner, there’s a team in LA that has done that. Go root for them.

You want to make a difference right now? Buy a ticket. But, if you can’t oh well. It is what it is. Right now, honestly, given that the Kings have had chronic bad luck from day one, the one thing I can say is that there is a passion for the Kings still in the EC. The only question I have is how much. This season can go a long way towards answering that question. Here’s to you EC hoopheads!

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Responses

  1. […] the Kings could (or would) trade Kenny Thomas because of his expiring contract worth 8.775 million. I’ve already talked about that already. Still, I think it’s an interesting point that TZ brings up throughout which is simple: The […]


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