Posted by: Kingsguru21 | May 17, 2010

Why I don’t really want LeBron James (A Free Agency discussion)

Yesterday, Section214 had a poll question on StR about should the Kings acquire LeBron James. I voted no, which caused some uproar, and the poll question probably stemmed from this.

I read some comments that LeBron is not Kobe. This is of course, obvious. LeBron and Kobe are different players. But both players are major league assholes. Kobe just has a near Colorado trial where LeBron hasn’t gotten that lucky as of yet. It’s not like you want your kids to grow up like either guy. Being a NBA superstar rates high in monetary funds, chances at women who want to fuck a star, and lots of fame. Being a NBA superstar doesn’t usually lend to being a reasonably good human being. And, as such, that’s where I forget to mention that I prefer Kobe to LeBron in many ways. Having said that, if the Kings got a chance to acquire Kobe for nothing, I’d argue it wouldn’t be worth it. The difference? Age naturally. LeBron is younger. So it seems like a no-brainer. But is it?

First, I’d like to point out that LeBron will probably “talk” (with talk being a euphemism so the Maloof’s and Geoff Petrie can kiss his ass for a few days while at the Palms) with the Kings to get some PR leverage out of the thing. Also a free Palms stay. Mostly, though, LeBron, if he even bothers, will just flirt with the Kings to gain some leverage. Probably nothing more.

That is, naturally, the big problem I have with all this. Courting LeBron will tell him he’s wonderful and all that. My first inclination when he picked up the phone: Fuck you Bron-Bron. But that’s me. I don’t particularly care for him.

Why? Meh, let’s go down this road.

Think back to LeBron’s rookie year. One of the problems with him started back to his rookie season: I feel, and still feel, that the Cavs were good enough to make the playoffs that season. The Cavs won 35 games Bron’s rookie season. Is it LeBron’s fault they didn’t make the playoffs? No, probably not. It’s probably Paul Silas’ fault and the crappy roster. The crappy roster that included a healthy Zydrunas Ilgauskas (who was still performing) and a breaking out to near stardom in Carlos Boozer. Both played 75+ games that season.

Check out the roster for Chris Paul his rookie season. How is it possible that the Hornets so badly overachieved? Is it because they got lucky, or was it all Chris Paul? (I’ll leave you to ponder that.)

What I know is that LeBron hasn’t had perfect rosters, but I do know that I think LeBron doesn’t push a roster to win an extra game or two. That isn’t particularly gaudy. I do recognize that LeBron was young, and Paul was 2 years out of Wake. But, LeBron James and Chris Paul are both superstars. How was the situation very different for either guy? Just call me skeptical that LeBron pushes his teams to new heights.

Having said that, I know it doesn’t matter that LeBron isn’t coming, I know there will also be a strong PR fallout if fans find out the Kings could have had LeBron James and didn’t want him. The fallout would be deep, and it would be catastrophic. The Kings and Geoff Petrie would have to decide how to play any game with LeBron James because playing it wrong from a PR perspective will make things difficult.

At this point, and on this score, I’m hoping LeBron makes it easy on the Kings and just dismisses them early. (I’m thinking this probably will happen.)

From a salary cap perspective, the Kings are like every other team that isn’t Cleveland: They can offer 5 seasons and 8% raises from the starting season. Cleveland can offer 6 seasons and 10.5% raises. What does this mean? It means the likely difference of 20-25 million over the life of the contract that Cleveland can offer vs what everyone else can offer.

Are Sign & Trades likely? In my opinion, not very likely. The Nets are one team that could offer something of value by offering (if they get the 1st pick) John Wall, Terrence Williams and maybe Courtney Lee or Chris Douglas-Roberts. (Maybe CDR in their own version of the S&T.)

I don’t think Chicago has much of substance, and I really don’t think Cleveland will want to help the Bulls get LeBron more money when they are in the same division. It seems to me that any thought of getting Cleveland to agree to any sign & trade is a prospect that has very little upside for the Cavs given the state of the rest of their roster. Given that Cleveland won’t have much cap room if LeBron walks for nothing, their will be plenty of people who will argue that the Cavs would make a mistake if they don’t attempt a S&T for LeBron. Frankly, I think that extra money and season is something that can be offered that will matter more in this deal than what LeBron has said would matter to him. (He’s given, as usual, a lot of mixed signals.)

As far as whether LeBron could draw other FA’s to Cleveland, that’s not very likely either. There is little to bargain with from Cleveland’s perspective that would entice another team to do a S&T (like for Chris Bosh) with other teams. I suppose it is possible that the Cavs could sign Shaquille O’Neal to a contract and work out a S&T with the Raps for Chris Bosh. But, the Raps may be interested in dumping Hedo Turkoglu’s contract, and the Cavs really don’t have the ability to do that type of deal. It might be possible to combine Delonte West’s contract with Daniel Gibson’s contract to take on Turkoglu, but I doubt that happens. Again, that would have to be something that Cleveland attempts to take on to appease LeBron. And, again, this is a very low likelihood that Toronto agrees to something like this. But anything’s possible. This is what Free Agency is about anyway: Wild Speculation and toying with idea’s out of the blue!

So my real feelings on Free Agency are as follows: It’s not usually a good idea unless you’re putting finishing touches on a roster or signing a mega-star like LeBron who wants to come to your franchise. (I wouldn’t sign Dwyane Wade, and I’d be hesitant to sign Chris Bosh although the Kings could use Bosh.)

The Lakers built their team as follows:

* Kobe Bryant trade with the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 for Vlade Divac
* Pau Gasol in a trade that saw the Lakers give up the draft rights to Marc Gasol (48th overall 2007), Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie (who was signed specifically to make the trade work), Javaris Crittenton, and 2 1st round picks in 2008 & 2010.
* Lamar Odom came with Caron Butler and Brian Grant in the Shaquille O’Neal deal in 2004.
* Andrew Bynum was drafted 10th overall in 2005.
* Ron Artest was signed as a Free Agent in 2009 using the Mid Level exception.
* Shannon Brown (for a lack of a better player to put in here) was part of the Adam Morrison-Vladimir Radmanovich with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2009.

Other than Ron Artest, the Lakers have generally built their talent off trades with other teams. With Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum being the best draft picks the Lakers have had (other than Eddie Jones–the Lakers lone lottery picks since taking Byron Scott 4th overall in 1983), they’ve generally built their core off trades and players already on the team.

Boston is another good example.

* Paul Pierce was drafted 10th overall by the Celtics in 1998.
* Kevin Garnett was traded for Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Ryan Gomes, and 2 1st round picks in 2009 & 2011.
* Ray Allen was traded for the 5th overall pick in 2007 (Jeff Green of OKC), Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West.
* Rajon Rondo was part of a draft day trade in 2006 that saw Rondo (take 21st overall) being selected by the Suns who traded him to the Celtics on the condition they take Brian Grant’s contract off the Suns hands.
* Kendrick Perkins was drafted 27th overall in 2003.

Orlando Magic

* Dwight Howard was drafted 1st overall in 2004.
* Jameer Nelson was drafted 20th overall in 2004.
* Rashard Lewis was signed as a Free Agent in 2007. Technically it was done as a Sign & Trade with Seattle that netted the Sonics a trade exception. (This was used to acquire Kurt Thomas, 2 1st round picks that became Serge Ibaka– picked 24th overall in 2008–and the 26th pick in the upcoming 2010 draft. Thomas was also traded away in 2008 for Brent Barry and some other Spurs I forgot plus the Spurs 2009 draft pick. This pick ended up being traded away in 2009 for Thabo Sefalosha. I bring this up, because the Sonics/Thunder have gotten all this from the Lewis TPE.) Lewis is remembered for the big contract signed at 6 years for 116 million. Yet Lewis has helped Orlando climb through the standings and has become the perfect compliment to Dwight Howard.
* Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson was traded for Tony Battie, Rafer Alston, and Courtney Lee on Draft Day 2009.
* Mickeal Pietrus was signed as a Free Agent in 2008 using the MLE. Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass were signed using the MLE (it was split between the two) in 2009.
* Marcin Gortat signed a MLE contract with Dallas but saw it matched by Orlando. He was originally acquired in a draft day trade in 2005.

I point this out because while I could go to other teams like the Suns and Spurs, I could point out most cores of the best teams in the League (the Magic being the lone exception) generally have been built solely off trades and the draft. The Magic are really a mixture of all 3 options, and the Free Agents I’ve shown have not been high end mega money guys with the exception of Rashard Lewis. In fact, other than Lewis, nobody else has been signed to anything more than the MLE for any of the big money teams out there.

The fact is that Free Agency is not a reasonable way to build a contender unless you have a specific player who fits your roster perfectly. The Magic had a hole, only 1 time they could fill that hole in 2007, and found a player in Lewis they thought could fill it. Yes, they overpaid Lewis, but in retrospect the deal makes more sense as time moves on. Especially if Orlando wins a title or two in the next couple years. Nobody in Orlando (or anywhere) will really say much other than Orlando shouldn’t have overpaid him. Hell the Magic picked Fran Vazquez in 2005, and he hasn’t played a game for the Magic yet.

My belief is you build through the draft, and you target trades that will either A) help your salary cap situation at some point B) net you young talents and/or assets C) target a veteran if you’re near the playoffs or needing veteran help for a playoff run or D) stay the course with your roster if A-C isn’t available.

I don’t have a problem with spending money on players. The Magic, for instance, were generally opposed to paying the luxury tax but told Otis Smith (the Magic’s GM) that he could go out and spend this past summer. That netted the Magic Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass (who plays little) and the ability to re-sign Marcin Gortat. Just the timing of the money spent suggests that the Magic have spent at the right times rather than spending to spend. I doubt they will continue to spend on players as they have the last 3 summers.

Right now the Kings have a building block in Tyreke Evans. He’s the only untouchable player on the Kings roster at the moment, and even then for the right price I’m sure the Kings would trade Tyreke. (It would have to be an amazing price admittedly.) The 2010 1st round pick should be another building block.

Other than Tyreke though, it’s an interesting conversation on which players the Kings should keep and move eventually. I think Donte Greene, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry are all quality pieces (with Landry being the most productive at the moment) that the Kings could utilize moving forward. But, as with most teams, this team still needs better talent and that 2010 pick is a major start to everything else.

Here’s the problem: Let’s say the King sign Chris Bosh, bring in Derrick Favors (this is my scenario; fuck off) and draft a combination of Dominique Jones/Terrico White/Avery Bradley/Jordan Crawford or somebody like that. Is that a playoff team next year? Does Bosh make the Kings better with his presence? (You would hope.) If not, what happens then? You’re screwed if Bosh doesn’t make a big impact next season regardless of what reasons they are. (This is unlikely admittedly.)

If it wasn’t 2010, I’d be wholeheartedly against the Kings trying to sign a free agent that didn’t make the team better or give them an edge at making the playoffs. But this is 2010, and there are impact Free Agents out there like James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. You simply can’t ignore that if you’re the Kings no matter how much you think spending the money might be useful for the next season or two.

As usual, timing is everything, and hindsight is 20/20. What you think you know today is not necessarily what you know tomorrow. And tomorrow has the benefit of already lived through today. But NBA GM’s are paid to have foresight, not hindsight.

At the end of the day this isn’t about LeBron James, or Dwyane Wade really. Or Chris Bosh for that matter. This is about the Kings building, if possible, a dynasty. Any signing of an impact Free Agent (which the aforementioned 3 would qualify as), might eliminate that because trades of young players who have yet to develop on the Kings are moved to accomodate the new acquisition.

For instance: How much of a role does Donte Greene and Omri Casspi have if the Kings select Al-Farouq Aminu and bring in LeBron James through Free Agency? (It’s likely the Kings would consider trading 1 in a S&T with Cleveland if that was the case.) How does Jason Thompsons role change? Beno Udrih’s? Tyreke Evans?

I get the point that people who would say sign LeBron James. He’s the best player in the game (not disputing that if this is a numbers game), and that he has won 2 MVP’s in a row. Crappy players don’t do that. I’m not calling LeBron James overrated or anything like that. Sometimes, though, the hype glosses over some of LeBron’s deficiencies and I think it should be noted that those exist. (It’s always possible that LeBron was hurting more this post-season than it’s been let on. But that’s not why I criticize a potential signing of LeBron. It’s not about this post-season.) The fact is that the Kings are probably a year away with roster growth, a talented player through this 2010 draft becoming productive, and another unforeseen move (maybe a draft pick, maybe a trade or free agent signing) somewhere down the road.

Jerry Reynolds had a great quote from Reynolds Remembers about pushing a team to a level it’s not ready to win at quite yet:

Any way you slice it, the trade was bad. You often see that around the league with new owners who don’t really understand how the league works. They get ahead of themselves in trying to push their teams to the next level. Making this trade set our franchise back four, five, six years—who knows? Derek (Smith) wasn’t able to play at a high level, and he ultimately became a real distraction. A team that had great chemistry and made the playoffs became a team that had very poor chemistry the next season.

First off, I know this isn’t the Kings changing a playoff team and signing Derek Smith. So, there is that. I’m not arguing that signing LeBron James would be a wholly awful idea. (Sign the best player in the NBA and have it hurt you? Preposterous!) It would make the Kings a better team (although how much better would be the question), and it might even help the Kings get a new arena. (Although I doubt that.)

Are the Kings in a position to sign a major star at the 3 spot who has the ball in his hands all game long like LeBron does?

Either way what I know is this: Building through Free Agency seems nice, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Unless that right player at the right time comes along (and it’s hard to know that at the time), than I think agree to disagree is the only answer. (As per usual.) Time tends to sort these things out.

Here’s the issue though that the LeBron contigent has yet to really acknowledge: This is not as simple as clear cut as LeBron wanting to come to the Kings. If anything, at this point, that’s probably why I voted no as much as anything.

Of course, what do I know? I would have taken Darko Milicic over LeBron James with the 1st pick in 2003, too. Whoops?

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Responses

  1. free Darko, eh?Oopsie, indeed…but then hindsight is a convenience isn’t it?

    LeBron is a talented player. But I wouldn’t want him on the Kings either, & i doubt he’d be SERIOUSLY really interested in coming to Sac.If he’s gonna leave Cleveland, wouldn’t he want to be in a major market area?wouldn’t that feed his ego more?

    now don’t get me wrong–I DO think he’s talented.but Quick….who has the larger ego…Kobe or Lebron?

    A player like LeBron would suck the air outta the locker room…it would be all about him IMO.I don’t see that as moving all the other talent forward, but hey, that’s me.Then the Kings turn into a west-coast version of Cleveland.

    now for some fans, that would probably be o.k., if it meant making the playoffs every year.

    but i wanna see a successful TEAM develop; not just one guy surrounded by ‘role players’ that wants the rock. All the time.No thanks.

    & great music pookey, haven’t heard the REM in a while, thanx for that.

    • Yeah Rhondda I hadn’t heard REM in awhile either. Thought it would be a funny touch for those more in tune with my sense of humor.

      Also, HAHAHAHAHA @ the West Coast version of Cleveland. Geoff Petrie is smarter than that. The question is: Is LeBron James? My bet is no.

  2. Pook, awesome stuff bud. Been lurking but have been having huge problems with my wordpress login process.

    First, you had a Lee Michaels video a few posts back. I think I saw him at the Avalon Ballroom years ago. The thing I remember about him is that back in the day, all the bands in SF (Dead, Quicksilver, Jefferson Airplane etc all had at least two sets they would play at dances. Lee Michaels came in and when he came back for his second set he played the first set over again verbatim. For what it’s worth.

    I voted no as well. For all he brings, and he brings a lot, LBJ could help get the Kings into the playoffs, possibly even into the second level depending on the draft and internal development but that would be it. At some point the Kings are going to have to trade for a player or pick up one in free agency but I don’t think the time is right yet.

    Troy Murphy could help us win a bunch more games and has an expiring contract and could be the Pacers most productive player and at much less of a cost to the Kings than than LBJ. but again, unless you are dying for wins I still don’t see it.

    I’d rather see what the Kings can do with the kids and maybe a lower cost vet. I hope I’me returns. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see ‘Reke’s view on things when he returns to training camp. My take is that he is going to more focused on winning than he’s going to be focused on being best buds with JT and Donté. I’m fairly certain that his field of competition is going to be on the NBA court and not on who has the most tweets.

    Ultimately, that’s why I don’t want LBJ. Unless something changes and it could, I think he’s more about building his brand then he is about winning, regardless of what he says. If he signs with New York no other proof will be needed.

    • It’s understood on the lurking BJ. Sorry to hear you’re having problems logging in. That’s the first I’ve heard of that. (It might be a particular issue with wordpress. I have no advice, unfortunately, or else I’d dispense it.)

      As far as LBJ, I’ve said my piece. I get the feeling that Troy Murphy is probably off the table because the Kings don’t want to sacrifice a young piece to get him quite yet.

      David Lee is one guy many fans will want, but Lee’s defense is somewhat suspect in my eyes (even though the numbers say differently).

      http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/l/leeda02.html (look in the advanced section)

      Last but not least, LOL @ “who has the most tweets” remark. Nothing wrong with Tweeting as far as I’m concerned. I do wish Omri tweeted in Hebrew just to be different.


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