Posted by: Kingsguru21 | July 15, 2011

To Nene, Daly, JT or JJ…..or perhaps not

So the question, or perhaps the elephant in the room, beyond the lockout naturally, is what will the Kings do with the cap space?

The general speculation is that the Kings would like to sign Nene, Marc Gasol or perhaps just simply re-sign Samuel Dalembert. So here we go……….

This is a table comparing Nene Hilario, Marc Gasol, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Thompson, JJ Hickson, and Amir Johnson. Also I’ll throw DeMarcus Cousins in here just to illustrate a few things. (I have a feeling some combination of these 6 and Cousins will be on the Kings roster if there is a season.) This first table is just last season (their total careers is the next table so not to worry) only:

ORtg DRtg TS% USG% TOV% DRB% BLK% Win Shares
Nene Hilario 123 104 65.7% 18.8% 13.9% 20.8% 2.4% 9.6
Marc Gasol 113 103 58% 16.9% 15.1% 19.4% 4.3% 7.9
Samuel Dalembert 100 105 50.9% 17.1% 17.3% 26.9% 4.3% 2.9
Jason Thompson 106 109 53.3% 17.9% 13.7% 20.7% 1.8% 2.9
JJ Hickson 98 109 50.3% 25.5% 13.6% 25% 1.8% 1.5
Amir Johnson 124 110 60.8% 15.3% 10.9% 17.8% 3.6% 5.7
DeMarcus Cousins 94 105 48.4% 27.2% 18.5% 24.4% 2.1% 1.1

Some thoughts about this I suppose are needed. Marc Gasol might be the most versatile player on this list and the most important in terms of total impact. But, again, the fact that Memphis is almost certainly likely to match any offer to Gasol is an extremely important one. Even then, I’m not sure that Marc Gasol is really the type of player who will be an automatic upgrade over Nene.

Nene had the best season on this list in my opinion. Nene led the NBA in TS% the previous 2 seasons and would have again if not for Tyson Chandler’s insane season in that department. Also, and this is an important fact about Gasol, Nene got 2.3 assists per game last season. Gasol had 2.5 assists last season. (Cousins had 2.5 dimes per game last season too.)

Dalembert had a tough year in every area except rebounding. Other than that, I expect Daly to rebound this next season regardless of whatever team it is.

Thompson and Hickson’s seasons are self explanatory. Thompson, as Kings fans know, was caught in a numbers crunch in the front court, and Hickson was caught, like JT was in his first 2 seasons with the Kings, the only real front court player of note that the Cavs had. Amir Johnson had a nice statistical season, but on a 22 win team. That tells me a lot of things even if Johnson is not the problem, he certainly is not a solution for a 24 win team without better players on the roster ahead of Johnson in the rotation.

I discussed Cousins here & here. I ain’t doing it again in this space.


Okay now look at their careers in total (obviously Cuz’s will be the same).

ORtg DRtg TS% USG% TOV% DRB% BLK% Total Win Shares Average Per Season
Nene Hilario 113 103 60.5% 18.1% 15.9% 18.3% 2.3% 6.2 (49.5 total)
Marc Gasol 116 106 59.6% 17.4% 15.3% 19.9% 3.5% 7.6 (22.7 total)
Samuel Dalembert 106 102 55.3% 15.3% 17.3% 25.5% 5.6% 4.4 (39.8 total)
Jason Thompson 106 111 53% 19% 13.9% 20% 2% 3.2 (9.6 total)
JJ Hickson 102 106 53.2% 22% 13.9% 22% 2% 2.4 (7.3 total)
Amir Johnson 122 107 61.6% 14.3% 13.6% 18.8% 4.7% 2.8 (16.6 total)
DeMarcus Cousins 94 105 48.4% 27.2% 18.5% 24.4% 2.1% 1.1 (Total is also 1.1)

A lot to take in, but typically across the board (and obviously Cousins career in total sum has not been written yet) players are pretty close to their career averages. There are players like Nene who had a significantly better year than his career averages, but then again Nene has had 3 years like that in a row. Perhaps Nene is at the peak of his career yes? Dalembert & Cousins are the best board men on this list, and if you’re surprised by that, you know less about the NBA than you think you do. You could say Gasol is hurt by the fact he plays with Randolph, but the fact is Gasol is not a great rebounder. He never will be regardless of where he is at. If anything, Randolph probably allows Gasol to play to his strengths and not allow the Grizzlies to be as hurt by difficult rebounding. As much as anything, both Gasol and Randolph simply complement each other beautifully across the board.

Amir Johnson, Jason Thompson and JJ Hickson are the worst players on this board, but all 3 guys are really probably 3rd big in rotation type players. In Johnson’s case, it took him several years with the Pistons before getting minutes. Thompson has gotten plenty of minutes due to the Kings dearth of bigs until his 3rd season. Hickson is a quality 3rd rotation big, but he’s not much more than that as his season proved with the Cavaliers a year ago.

The point? There are roles for players that make sense, and there are ways to utilize players to get the most out of their ability. I’m not sure the Kings would make much improvement playing Hickson starter minutes next to Cousins next season. Additionally, I feel that same exact way about Jason Thompson. Either you get a player better than either Hickson/Thompson by retaining Dalembert, or you sign/trade for Nene, or possibly Gasol (I’m less warm on this).


Now another table showing more than just stats and how a player can, or can’t be, valuable. A legend on how to read the table: Age is based on the upcoming age for the next season (if the season starts on time of course–I’m really hating writing this caveat every time i write “next season” btw), Fouls are average over total career, Wins are an average of how many games a team has won annually (wins are also rounded up or down to whole numbers) over that players career, Games & Minutes (regular season & playoffs) are totals and not averages. Also, as in all the tables, the Basketball-Reference page for each player is linked in the name if you wish to see them.

Seasons Games Minutes Age Wins Playoff Games Playoff Minutes Fouls
Nene Hilario 9 527 15619 29 45 44 1298 3.4
Marc Gasol 3 232 7576 26 37 13 519 3.7
Samuel Dalembert 10 662 17278 30 37 17 518 3.1
Jason Thompson 3 232 6408 25 22 0 0 3.5
JJ Hickson 3 223 4652 23 49 11 79 1.9
Amir Johnson 6 289 5144 24 46 11 56 3
DeMarcus Cousins 1 81 2309 21 24 0 0 4.1

Now, when I look at this table, it’s clear to me which guys are playing consistently on winning teams and what not. Amir Johnson was a member of the Pistons from 2005-09, but only played a few games in the best seasons they had with Flip Saunders. Additionally, like Johnson, Hickson’s low playoff minutes and games tells me a lot about how valuable Hickson was against the best players in the league during games that, one would assume, meant a lot to Cleveland.

Jason Thompson having more minutes than Johnson or Hickson over their course of their careers tells me a lot of things too. A) Thompson played on a lot worse teams than Johnson or Hickson have up to this point. Another point about Hickson: Will he foul to keep a player out of the paint? Or is he just another defensive sieve? There are good fouls and there are bad fouls. Bad fouls are when you reach and grab a player instead of moving your feet or commiting a touch foul when a player clearly will score. But a good foul is keeping a player from scoring an easy bucket inside. A big man’s job defensively is to keep the paint as difficult as possible from scoring in the paint, and Hickson’s low foul total is concerning to me.

Dalembert’s impact on a team is one I’d like to point out here: He’s played on some mediocre teams with severe flaws but still one of those teams better players. If he played on a team with a big rotation of Nene, Cousins and himself, that would be far away the most talented team (and big rotation) Dalembert will have played on to date. This is possibly true for Nene too. The fact that the Kings could take the ball out of Cousins hands more often would be not such a bad benefit for someone who crumbled at times trying to make plays that, despite what some may believe, is not capable of making.

I like Marc Gasol, but like everyone else in the NBA, it matters what talent you play with. Nene has played with a lot of good talent in Denver which has led to many good seasons with, and including the few years Nene played very little or hardly at all, Nene as part of the Nuggets 1st round & out squads. Still, Nene is clearly a talented player who helps his teams improve with his abilities.


There are a lot of things that jump out at me about the various guys on this list for a number of reasons. The biggest thing that jumps out at me is that there isn’t a clearcut winner here, but a number of “eye in the beholder” type guys.

So this will almost automatically eliminate Marc Gasol as Memphis is likely to match any offer any team, Kings or otherwise, will offer. The Kings can’t waste time and energy going after a player who will not likely be part of the Kings roster next season. Even if that was the case, I’d make the case that Gasol is not worth attaining anyway. He isn’t good enough rebounding, and his skills in some cases (passing and high post) duplicate Cousins to a great degree. An upgrade over Hickson and Thompson? Yes. An automatic upgrade over Nene or Dalembert? Not so much in my view. That’s the problem here.

There are multiple scenarios I can see playing out. The first is the Kings do go after Marc Gasol using Thompson and Hickson as bait in a sign & trade. Then the Kings re-sign Dalembert and probably would figure to bring Cousins off the bench to decrease the amount of pressure coming at Cuz next season.

This same scenario could, and quite possibly may, play out with Denver & Nene. The Kings trade Thompson/Hickson in said S&T for Nene, and the Kings bring Cousins off the bench while starting Daly/Nene.

Another possible scenario here is that the Kings just re-sign Dalembert, keep Cousins in the starting lineup while bringing Thompson/Hickson off the bench. Of every scenario I bring up, this is the most likely scenario I see playing out due to the Kings advantage in signing Dalembert comparative to other teams, and that the cap space the Kings do have may not end up being an advantage in signing another team’s player like Nene/Gasol or whomever else could possibly enter this conversation at some point.

Another scenario (this is mostly why Amir Johnson is on the list) is that the Kings sign Nene, but turn around and trade Thompson for Johnson. That way the Kings 4 bigs are Nene, Cousins, Hickson and Johnson. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind this option at all.

The last option, and this is probably what a lot of Kings fans fear I suspect, is that the Kings don’t get any player with their cap space. Additionally, Dalembert feels slighted enough to walk away from whatever money is on the table to a team like Miami or somewhere else. Whether it’s because the Maloofs won’t let Petrie spend or because the Kings can’t spend that money makes little difference here; A lot of Kings fans are expecting the franchise to be extremely active in pursuit of players.


Those are the scenarios that are likely to play out, and with the sole possible exception of Amir Johnson, the Kings have the ability to be in the mix for every player mentioned in this post.

Of all these scenarios, my preferred scenario would to be find a way to obtain Nene, re-sign Dalembert and sort of bring Cousins off the bench. (Not for less minutes, but just off the bench.) You may not think it’s possible, but I don’t care what Nene says about wanting a “90 million” dollar contract. In no scenario is Nene ever going to get that. The last contract Nene signed was a 6 year 60 million deal. 29 year old PF/C’s do not typically sign for that kind of money unless their names are Dwight, Yao, etc etc. Nene is a really good player, and I would be thrilled if the Kings got him. It just won’t be for 90 million dollars is all.

Tim Kawakami had a piece in his blog about 2 weeks ago, and there was some good stuff in there. One thing was the 90 million bit which is a lot of pie in the sky type posturing from Nene, and more likely, Nene’s agent Dan Fegan. (Read this for my opinion of Fegan. It’s not changed.) More importantly, Fegan was part of the whole “Kevin Martin” saga that transpired shortly before Martin’s trade at the deadline in 2010. This is potentially problematic, but I’m guessing not. As much as I don’t like Fegan, his negotiating power this time around will be limited which will help the Kings greatly. The biggest problem with Dan Fegan is that he could be problematic if Nene wants out in the future. That’s a problem for another day I suppose.

As far as Dalembert, the biggest issue with Dalembert signing may be his cap hold (which is not likely to go away with a new CBA–that isn’t there because of the CBA but because of how the NBA wishes to hold teams to a certain amount of money to spend–cap holds are basically there to keep Miami from doing what it did last summer but with more money available to Miami than there really was) if only because it may keep the Kings from making a sign & trade with Nene. (If Dalembert is signed to a new contract, that replaces the cap hold.)

People will point out Marcus Thornton and his cap hold, but it’s so small that it’s guaranteed the Kings are going to re-sign Thornton last because Thornton’s cap hold is so small that it won’t change much unless a team comes out very early and offers Thornton a ridiculous amount.

Another point is that while Nene doesn’t want to play C as much as he has in Denver, in Sacramento he won’t have to. With Cousins (who is a better C than many seem to want to believe he is) and Dalembert both being able to defend C’s, that’s a huge bonus for the Kings here. Nene also gives you a top flight defender down low with Dalembert. Factor in Nene’s offensive efficiency and that makes him a near perfect acquisition.

Looking back at the list, Nene’s strengths are clearly low post defense and efficient offense down low. Dalembert’s strength is low post defense, shot blocking and rebounding. Cousins strengths are passing, perimeter shooting, rebounding and the ability to improve in a number of area’s including post scoring, low post defense, fouling among other things.


If you’re a Kings fan, and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this, the best and most realistic scenario that will include the Kings improving is if they can find a way to swing Nene coming to the Kings, re-sign Dalembert at a lower price than last season, and re-sign Thornton as soon as possible.

After that, it becomes a matter of opinion what the Kings should do. Should they sign a pass-first facilitating type PG? I wouldn’t because that player would like be the 5th G in a rotation behind Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and Francisco Garcia. Plus, who says a facilitator is what the Kings really need anyway?

At the SF spot, you’d have John Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt if he can find a way to play in minutes.

Up front, you’d have Nene, Dalembert and Cousins as your 3 man rotation up front. Before you freak out about the minutes point, Nene is the only player of the 3 to average over 32 minutes (which is how you’d break down an average minutes for 2 big spots over 96 minutes a game) and even then the highest was 33 MPG. Dalembert has never averaged over 31 MPG, and Cousins has a ways to go to earn 32 MPG at this point.

In otherwords, the big rotation minutes are there.

The only question that remains is could the Kings execute a Sign & Trade for Nene using Hickson/Thompson as the bait? Well, that remains to be seen. Could the Kings re-sign Dalembert? That’s certainly a possibility. Cousins is still on the roster either way.

Right now, I’m hoping for a Nene/Dalembert/Cousins frontcourt. A top heavy rotation from 1-9 with talented versatile and accomplished veterans with young accomplished and potentially brilliant youth? That’s a recipe for winning.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This team goes as Tyreke Evans goes. But if you put enough talent on this team, there is no reason for this team not to be a 45 win team at a bare minimum next season and make the playoffs barring health of course. (Which is a different problem naturally.) If the Kings don’t make the playoffs next season, you can consider me extremely beyond disappointed. That’s the next step. That’s the next phase of development for this team is to start the quest, in a pragmatic sense, to compete for a championship down the road. You have to make the playoffs first. Then you start working up your way the ladder and so forth.

The opportunity for all of this is there. It’s just up to Geoff Petrie, Paul Westphal, Tyreke Evans and the various veterans on this team to make it work. A good rebuild should take place over 3 seasons. At the start of the rebuild you had Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson, Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, John Salmons and Brad Miller as your main asset’s. By the end of the 08-09 seasons, Miller & Salmons were traded for expiring contracts and Andres Nocioni. Noc became, along with Hawes, Dalembert. A poor season from the Kings resulted in Tyreke Evans. The draft pick from the Ron Artest trade, along with Donte Greene, became Omri Casspi. Kevin Martin was traded for Carl Landry and cap space. Landry became Marcus Thornton. The first season under Westphal allowed you to have another poor season in relation to winning games and draft DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside. This past season, another toughie, the 3rd of this rebuilding era, allowed you to draft Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Honeycutt and Isaiah Thomas. Beno Udrih (whose value had increased immensely in the last 2 seasons under Westphal or whatever reason you wish to insert here) was traded for John Salmons.

There are a lot of people who will judge the Kevin Martin trade by how the cap space is used, but I’m not one of them. I look at cap space as an asset that has yet to have illustrated a quality opportunity for the aforementioned cap space used to it’s maximum effectiveness. The way I see it, this type of Free Agent class is the type of Free Agency where the Kings can succeed as a small market. It’s up to Petrie, as he has with the various trades of Martin/Nocioni-Hawes/Artest/Miller-Salmons/Udrih, to maximize every dollar and inch of that value to the best of his ability.

Given where the Kings were at in 2009 with poor asset’s, no real cap flexibility, and limited trade asset’s, the roster is now considerably more valuable than it was in 2009. Petrie has done his job, and has a way to go. After that, it’s all up to Westphal and the players to make it work.

Of course, a lot of this depends on how Free Agency goes too. Let’s cross our fingers and pray shall we?


  1. Nate – another excellent post. Thanks. Just a couple of things. In the end the Kings have the most money to offer Sammy. I think he’s too young to be chasing a ring when he will likely be signing his last decent contract. At 35 sure, at 30, no way. He’s looking to get paid again. Question: It’s hard to guess what he’s worth without knowing anything about the next CBA but humor me; what do you think the Kings would have to offer him?

    Do you really think the JT/JJ combo really gets the trade done?

    Just a comment – in a lot of ways the J’s get you similar results and are roughly similar players. From my POV it’s that JJ is two years younger and at this point offers greater upside or greater perceived upside than JT. I don’t know if you saw the interview excerpt from SLAM they had on Cowbell Kingdom, but JJ had some huge games against some of the league’s best bigs last season and some bad games against some of the worst.

    James Ham and Akis both disagreed with me me but I don’t see much value to the Kings in keeping both the big J’s. The team gave up some value in Omri and I think they brought in JJ to replace JT. If neither player shows much improvement I would still guess both player are fairly easy contracts to move but I see little synergy or team improvement by having them both in the Kings front court. Thoughts?

    • I agree about Sammy chasing a ring. The Kings can pay Sammy more, and, thus, I think they can re-sign him. The question is will Sammy accept what they offer or won’t he?

      I don’t know that a JT/JJ pairing gets that trade done. I don’t know what Denver wants, and, honestly, the Nuggets, Stan Kroenke especially, may try to play the victim to get Nene to return. If it were another team, I’d say it’s a decent shot. Because Stan Kroenke is an all-around jackass? Who knows. On the other hand, Nene may not re-sign with the Nuggets because Kroenke is a first rate clown.

      I don’t agree that age offers more upside. The truth is, while players do mature, they basically are who they are. Some players improve and mature as time goes on; after all it’s the basis of building (or re-building really) around youth.

      I agree with you about keeping both JJ/JT. If you’re going to re-sign Dalembert, at the very least, I don’t really see the value of keeping JT because you’re asking for a similar problem the Kings had with their 4 bigs of the apocalypse last season. Only, it was a recipe for disaster if things didn’t go precisely to plan. At that point, the Kings will could very well look for a home for JT and possibly use Garcia as the way to trim salary by perhaps taking another SF. Marvin Williams perhaps?

      Remember when the Kings weren’t looking to trade Omri? I’ll believe that they will want to go in with 4 bigs again like they did last season when they do. Until then, I’ll wonder what’s different about this group of 4 bigs (especially when the same 3 that performed well without Landry are still there) and JJ Hickson is a scorer who isn’t that effective without the ball.

      At any rate, we shall see.

  2. […] is one reason I’ve suggested Nene in the past. Cousins desperately needs to learn, whether it’s in a starting or off the bench role, how to […]

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