Posted by: Kingsguru21 | November 29, 2011

Bargaining with the boogeyman and splicing the need for a Cousins/Dalembert/Nene front line

Look around, and the idea of the aforementioned title, aka Dalembert/Nene/Cousins front line, is not one that seems imminent or even possible in some cases. While all the skepticism is certainly understandable, not to mention reasonable, it’s certainly possible. Here’s how.

*****

A couple days ago, Tom Ziller had a piece at Sactown Royalty about the salary of the Kings. Nothing he said was wrong in terms of a reality standpoint, with the exception of this:

Second-round picks, of which the Kings have two in Tyler Honeycutt and Isaiah Thomas, do not carry cap holds, and neither will sign for more than $800,000 for a full season, in all likelihood.

The bolded part is what’s wrong with that statement. Unless the new CBA has eliminated the roster charge for 12 contracts and/or cap holds, then in fact what TZ said was wrong. Is this a big deal? No, of course it’s not.

Mistakes happen. Today, on Twitter I announced what I thought a 4 year contract for Nene would be. It turns out you don’t compound raises, which I did, and that significantly changes the amount of money a player can get. In this case, instead of Nene being able to get 65 million it’s somewhere between 60-62 million (I have to recalculate–which I won’t do mainly because it’s not a big deal–and we won’t know what the exact max contract Nene can get until it’s announced officially). My point is that simple mistakes are made with the best of intentions. The previous paragraph is not finger pointing. But, and this is really why I point this out, is that if you read that and believe TZ knows what he’s talking about (which he does), unless you know differently you won’t know the difference. Hence why I pointed it out.

Here’s why it matters. The NBA requires you when having cap room to have either 12 cap holds at a rookie minimum salary figure (aka a 2nd round pick), or fellows like Honeycutt and Thomas, matter here. They take up a roster charge.

Here is a list of players who have salary (or cap holds) once Free Agency starts:

Samuel Dalembert: 16,800,000
John Salmons: 8,500,000
Francisco Garcia: 5,800,000
Tyreke Evans: 4,151,640
DeMarcus Cousins: 3,627,720
Jason Thompson: 3,001,284
JJ Hickson: 2,354,537
Jimmer Fredette’s cap hold/contract (the cap hold is 120% of the rookie scale): 2,238,360
Donte Greene: 1,679,914
Marcus Thornton’s cap hold (it’s the same as his Qualifying OFfer FYI): 1,059,293
Hassan Whiteside: 788,872
Tyler Honeycutt (or minimum salary charge for every roster spot not filled up to 12): 473,604
Isaiah Thomas (same thing as Honeycutt): 473,604

Now, with the exception of Dalembert’s cap hold (which will be reduced by about 2 million I think), I’m fairly accurate with 1 other detail to mention: Once you hit 12 contracts/cap holds, no more minimum rookie salary roster charges (as they are called) are required. That means either 1 of Honeycutt or Thomas has a cap hold; not both. Well, this is only true if Dalembert hasn’t been renounced (which I doubt).

Right now, with cap holds (and Dalembert’s cap hold being calculated at 16.8 million–which is as close as I can get to calculating it based on the proposal that Amick put out) and the contracts on the roster the Kings are looking at 50,475,224 (50.5 million for simplicity).

If the Kings want to get Nene, this is going to take some finessing on Petrie’s part. Some major league head honcho type of finessing.

*****

Let me acknowledge some things. I’m not against JJ Hickson or Jason Thompson per se. I just don’t believe the Kings would be a better team now or a few years down the road if the Kings were to sign Nene and keep JJ Hickson. This goes at least double if the Kings were to keep JT and JJ as the other 2 legs to the Kings big men tripod.

Hickson has his strengths and weaknesses. This is a nice post at Sactown Royalty detailing some of why the Hickson contingent is so high on him. (The post also contains a YouTube vid that shows Hickson taking off from long distances and dunking. Which is the main reason I linked to it.)

But, I’m not of the opinion that the Kings are in need of an athletic dynamo that can just dunk on people anytime. It’s usually not that simple in the NBA, although I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. If I am this time? What’s new about that?

I think the Kings, if they were to acquire Nene and keep Hickson, would be a middle to top 10 defense (at the very best and if all goes well) and a middle level offense (at best and if things go swimmingly well). The Kings were a team that was 25th in ORtg and 20th in DRtg (points per 100 possessions in case you’ve forgotten).

I’m not sold the Kings can compete at the top for a championship with that team (assuming the rest is the same), and I’m not even sold a playoff contender emerges either. Like I said, I could be wrong and I’ll happily admit it if I am.

Here’s why I like Nene and Dalembert and Cousins as a front line. (I spent hashing this out on Twitter earlier today with a number of others including Greg Wissinger, Kevin Fippin and Bryan Rosa so I apologize if some of this seems familiar.) Dalembert and Cousins are 2 of the 10 best rebounders (or thereabouts) in the NBA. Right now. Not in the future. Not if the ball bounces the right way and grows a mustache; now.

Nene and Dalembert are 2 of the best defensive big men in the game. They are both in the top 5 and neither are better than Dwight Howard. Both are right there in the conversation with Andrew Bogut and Joakim Noah as the 5 best defensive bigs in the NBA right now. (You can add anyone you want but hopefully you get my point.)

Pairing 2 quality rebounders and 2 quality defenders is a good combination. Then you factor that Dalembert would be the worse offensive player the Kings have, and that’s not as awful as some make it out to be. Nene is an efficient offensive player, and has been for a number of years. Cousins potential as an All-Star is certainly in part due to his rebounding, improving defensive ability, but mainly due to his offensive virtues. Cousins rookie season had it’s down moments to be sure, but there were plenty of up moments too. It’s silly to argue the potential of Cousins; it’s also equally silly to bank on production that hasn’t been achieved yet. Which is exactly why I want Nene and Dalembert as starters. Once Cousins pushes his way into the starting lineup for good, he’s there for the rest of his career. One Cousins becomes a consistent player, he’s a starter in the NBA.

Here is the best part. With Nene, Dalembert and Salmons as your front line, that is arguably the best defensive front line in basketball. The Kings under Westphal have shown better defensively than offensively IMO, and certainly this would be another step in that type of direction. The Kings have the potential to be one of the top 10 defensive teams in the NBA. These are the teams that made up the top 10 in DRtg a year ago:

1 Chicago Bulls
2 Boston Celtics
3 Orlando Magic
4 Milwaukee Bucks
5 Miami Heat
6 Los Angeles Lakers
7 Dallas Mavericks
8 Philadelphia 76ers
9 Memphis Grizzlies
10 New Orleans Hornets

Now, I’m not saying the Kings will automatically make the playoffs if they acquire Nene and re-sign Dalembert. What am I saying is that the Kings will see an automatic upgrade defensively for a team that had plenty of holes on that end a year ago. I’m a big believer that you can have less than stellar defensive players in your backcourt if your frontline is capable of shutting down the other team more often than not. In general, I think big players can have a greater impact defensively and smaller players can have a bigger impact offensively. That’s not true because of today’s rule changes, but simply in general. (Which I know a majority reading this will disagree with.)

*****

The last point before I end this thing is that it’s incredibly important that the Kings sign Dalembert, Nene and then Marcus Thornton in that order. Why? Well, there are numerous reasons.

Nene’s max salary (for a player 9 years in the league) is 15,323,616 for a full season (which is what every salary figure listed above is as well; I understand that all contracts will be reduced down to a 66/82 amount but I want to make this as simple as possible). Dalembert’s cap hold (adjusted to reflect the new cap figures and based on what information we now have) will simply be the biggest detriment to signing Nene and re-signing Thornton.

Let’s assume that the Kings re-sign Dalembert to a 5 year deal for 5 years and the base salary at 8 million. The 1st year will be 8 million, the 2nd year will be 8.6 million (and so in increasing up to year 5 at 10.6 million) and you can add other goodies. You can add contract incentives that vary from games played, to All-Star games and the like. You can add a trade kicker (which wouldn’t make Dalembert upset at all) all the way up to 15%. There are options here in otherwords.

With Nene, you can do the same thing. Start Nene at 15.32 million, and increase his contract by 4.5%. (It will work the same way as Dalembert in case you haven’t been paying attention. Dammit pay attention to these little bullshit contract details!) Now, you can also execute a Sign and Trade for Nene. I prefer to use JJ Hickson and Jason Thompson for 2 reasons. One, it’s reasonable that Denver would want a big or two in return. It makes Denver more amenable to doing a deal with Sacramento for this reason. Two, it creates the kind of opening you need so you don’t have as much avoidable friction among bigs that the Kings had early in the 2010-11 season with Cousins, Dalembert, Landry and Thompson.

This means that you can probably start Dalembert at 10 or even 11 million (which is a huge advantage the Kings have).

None of this happens unless the Kings re-sign Marcus Thornton, and that needs to happen too. This isn’t about not re-signing Thornton. Thornton’s cap hold is so small that it allows the Kings to sign both Nene and Dalembert, THEN turn to Thornton and get his deal done. It’s a matter of utilizing your cap space to your greatest advantage without turning your back on a player like Thornton. Yet, like I said up top, it’s going to take a major league sell job by Petrie to pull off.

This scenario just makes sense that if you’re going to shoot for the stars (hell, isn’t that what Free Agency is all about?) you need to take advantage of all your advantages. The Kings have 2 young bigs that are tradeable in Hickson/Thompson, and the Kings have lots of cap room. The Kings have 2 of the 5 most desirable Free Agents on the market for whom the Kings have the inside track to re-sign. It’s all there to put together a roster that would make a significant impact. Why wouldn’t you take the chance? The other part of this is that it would make it easier for the Kings to raise the dollar amount they could offer to Dalembert once you eliminate the cap hold and the total dollars being taken on by Nene.

I can understand if the Kings choose to not re-sign Dalembert. I can understand if they choose to sign Nene and let Dalembert go. I can understand if Dalembert and Nene outright reject the Kings despite whatever overtures they will get. I can understand if the Kings don’t end up getting these two players. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot for the stars and try to get the best players that can help you now and down the road. Petrie and the Maloofs (not that I trust them but they are still the owners today so I have to mention them) have mentioned they want to spend the cap space. Let’s be realistic here: The Kings aren’t getting Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Deron Williams in Free Agency outright. That’s just the way it is whether it’s right or wrong. Sometimes that means overpaying for a quality player who isn’t a max guy like Nene. Sometimes that means overpaying a defensive role player like Dalembert who is durable and plays a position that naturally jacks up prices because there are so few high quality bigs in the NBA. Sometimes that means telling a young player like Thornton we’ll get to you as soon as we can. You’re not last on our list; you’re just not the first player we can deal with if we want to improve the team.

That’s the deal. I don’t know if the Kings pull it off. I don’t know if all the detrimental realities keep the Kings from getting either Nene or Dalembert. It’s certainly possible and I won’t rule it out. It’s my pipe dream, and feel free to laugh at me. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to move on until it’s clear there is no way that it’s possible.

The Kings are the only team that can offer Dalembert and Nene their money. They are the only team can offer Nene the chance to play PF a lot more often. Petrie can point out that they think they are on an upswing (every great team starts off with a firm belief that you can get better by management) with Evans and Cousins around. Dalembert and Nene can play pivotal roles in the Kings rising into the playoff picture. Dalembert and Nene can accomplish this while getting paid an astronomical sum.

Again, I’m aware of the downside of all this. But, I don’t see what harm it has to dream about the Kings using cap space to try and make an improvement that would lead to a playoff berth. Then again, maybe I am crazy. Carry on.

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Responses

  1. Dang Nate, you entered preseason in mid season form. You made that trade so real I could almost taste it. Good to see you talking about hoops again, good to have you back balla.

    • Thanks BJ. Now if only this would become true too…..yee haw!

      • Nice article Nathan.

        I do somewhat disagree about signing Nene AND Dalembert though because I believe it’s overload in the frontline depth chart. Cousins was already showing signs of being an allstar level player last season in my view so there’s no reason to believe he can’t at least hold his own and solidfy a starting job by himself without having Dalembert as his insurance policy. I believe Dalembert will end up getting overpaid for the same reason Nene will end up getting overpaid and that’s because the lack of bigs in today’s game just like you said. I would much rather overpay Nene than Dalembert though because I feel like Nene is the type of player who is very productive but can also move without the ball and play off of guys like Cousins and Tyreke who are going to need the ball in there hands early and ofton.

        So you have Thompson, Hickson, Cousins, Nene and also the hopes of Hassan Whiteside getting his feet wet this season and coming along nicely perhaps playing some spot minutes. Where does this leave room for Dalembert? and with all that big man potential depth chart why would you even waste your time by overpaying Dalembert like we all know they are going to if he returns? That does not make sense to me. Let’s say they do as you have planned and sign Nene and Dalembert than have Cousins off the bench. What if Cousins is performing greatly while Nene or Dalembert is struggling. Where does this leave Nene or Dalembert? Rotting on the bench getting overpaid and eventually turning into washed up overpaid untradeable big men who they have no room for? Having Dalembert and Nene on the same team shouldn’t be an option for them this season because it certainly does not fit into there long term plans.

        • Well actually KF123, in signing Nene you would be moving JJ Hickson & Jason Thompson along to Denver. Or at least that was my idea anyway.

  2. I read the whole thing a few times but must of skipped that or something. That does leave extra room for big man depth chart but at the same time you still have a problem if Cousins performers like a boarderline allstar this season and I believe it’s highly possibile. I don’t like the idea of overpaying Dalembert to be Cousins insurance policy. I think they should probally just let him walk even if they don’t end up signing Nene to be honest.

    • Understood. My whole point is that it would be immediate production & part motivation for Cuz to be a full time starter. Sometimes not being a starter can help a player understand that minutes aren’t guaranteed.

      That mental aspect of working to earn minutes might help Cuz in those small ways. That’s a big part of why I think overpaying Daly & Nene is worth doing. When u factor in the strengths & weaknesses of all 3, I see it as an ideal pairing. But as I’ve said since, I know it’s unlikely to happen.


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