The Kings Offseason: Part 2. Free Agency/ Trades (1/2)

This piece will focus on the Sacramento Kings’ free agency moves following the draft. Though each move seems to be derided by the national media, I can see the plan and vision that Vlade Divac has. He has signed several potentially useful players who complement DMC and Rudy Gay. I will go through each player acquisition and give my thoughts on the player and his fit with the Kings.

Prelude: Wesley Matthews– Though he is not a King, Wes Matthews played a huge role in the Kings’ free agency plans. He was their big target and was offered huge money to come play SG for the kings. However, Wes turned the Kings down to go to the Mavs and play with Deandre Jordan… oops well he at least got $70 million dollars. For Wes Matthews!!! Thats incredible. Personally, I think Wes Matthews at his healthiest and best is worthy of a big contract, maybe not that big though. He would be an ideal fit with Demarcus Cousins: a smart player, good defender, and great shooter. However, he is coming off of an achilles injury, which has been known to create problems for players throughout their careers. In his current state, Wes is a huuuge gamble and not a smart one in my opinion. For the Kings, I realize that you have to throw out big money to attract players to Sacramento. I just don’t think Wes Matthews is worthy of the gamble. The Kings really lucked out when Wes chose to play for the Mavs. This allowed the Kings to accumulate a wealth of talent and players who fit in the organization without blowing it all on one player. Though Wes is clearly a talented player, I think the Kings really benefitted from him not agreeing to terms.

Monta Ellis– Monta was also offered a large contract by the Kings but he decided to instead play for the Indiana Pacers. Again, I think this worked to the Kings’ favor because Monta is simply not a good fit for the team. The Kings do not need another ball dominant offensive minded player who isn’t the greatest outside shooter when they have DMC and Rudy Gay on the team. Monta also cannot defend and would not have helped improve the Kings’ perimeter defense. Monta is a much better fit for a Pacers team looking for offense than for the Kings.

The Trade: The Kings traded Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, and a future first round pick (conveyed 2 years after the Kings protected pick goes to Chicago) to Philadelphia in exchange for the rights to two 2015 second rounders: Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic. Philadelphia also has the ability to swap first round picks with the Kings in 2 future drafts. From the information gathered online, the pick conveyed to Philadelphia is top 10 protected in 2018 and unprotected in 2019.

Why I like the trade: The trade opened up a significant amount of cap space for the Kings by getting rid of two terrible contracts in Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. These players have not been as productive as expected, although in my opinion Jason Thompson has played as well and as hard as he is capable of. He is fairly under appreciated but he is overpaid and the expectations for him have simply been unrealistic (due in large part to his big contract). Landry however was a huge bust as a King and needed to go. With the money, the Kings signed multiple players who can contribute to winning now. Additionally, the Kings received two international prospects who have some talent. I don’t know a lot about them so I won’t comment any further on the players. Finally, this trade signifies that the Kings are in win now mode. They are tired of losing and drafting bust after bust. They are tired of being the laughingstock of the league. The Kings are trying to improve and they cannot be faulted for that.

Why I dislike the trade: Trading future picks is risky business. Trading picks with meager protections is even risker. I can’t believe the Kings were only able to put a top 10 protection for one year and leave the pick unprotected the next. That is crazy! Obviously, if things work out, then the pick will be low as the Kings will be in the playoffs. But if they don’t and the Kings play poorly in the future, they could very well have given the Sixers a high lottery pick. Sam Hinkie continues to collect assets and seems to win every trade he is part of so this is a huge gamble. Vlade is apparently very confident that the Kings will be good and the pick won’t be valuable. It is a risk that I would not have taken. The next thing I don’t like is including last years lottery pick in Stauskas. He was drafted one year ago, albeit by a different administration, and is already gone as part of a package for cap space. That just shows how bad the Kings have been at drafting when they give up on a lottery pick just one year later. Stauskas clearly has a lot of work to do to become a good NBA player but there was a reason he was highly touted and he deserves an opportunity. I’m glad that he will get one in Philadelphia. Including Stauskas seems like overkill to me. Finally, we come to the pick swaps. Ideally, the Kings will be in the playoffs and better than the Sixers for the next few years. This is a likely outcome, thus making the pick swaps irrelevant. Lots of things could change though, resulting in the Kings getting a lower draft pick because the Sixers swap picks with them. Kings fan should not be as concerned with this part of the trade, as the Sixers are pretty terrible for the time being.

Overall, the trade included many pieces that I did not like. However, the reasoning behind the trade for the Kings is a sound one, as they are looking to win now and needed cap space to sign impact players. Vlade has done a great job with the cap space, and I will go further into each of those moves.

Player 1Rajon Rondo– 2015 stats: Boston: 8.3 ppg, 10.8 apg, 7.5 rpg. Dallas: 9.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.5 rpg. Rondo is a huge name in basketball, for good and for bad. The talented PG has had an interesting career arc, to say the least. He was the PG for the great Celtics teams and the world champions and was viewed as one of the best floor generals and PG defenders in the league. However, he has also been known for a bad attitude, not being the greatest teammate, and being an absolutely horrific shooter. The good seemed to outweigh the bad and Rondo was often ranked amongst the top PG. People were even saying the Thunder should trade Westbrook for Rondo! Think about that! It is a joke, manufactured by people’s irrational hate of Westbrook. But I digress.

Current Rondo is not the Rondo of old. He is no longer the great defender he once was. He has seemingly become an even worse shooter (have you seen his free throw percentage?! Its unbelievable: In 2015 he shot 33% with the Celtics and 45% with the Mavs) and his attitude is fairly toxic, as exemplified by the situation with the Mavs. If Rick Carlisle can’t deal with you, there is a problem. He was absolutely horrible on the Mavs, likely one of the worst starting guards in the league. The recent struggles have tremendously lowered Rondo’s value around the league, and the Kings took advantage of the situation to sign him to a 1 year- $10 million dollar contract. This deal has advantages for the Kings and Rondo. The Kings get to audition a one time very good PG for a reasonable price to see if he can be part of their future. Rondo gets a one year prove it deal to rebuild his value and get a big deal when the cap jumps next summer.

Let me preface the following with this: I am not a Rondo fan. I think his lack of shooting kills the spacing on a team, especially one with a dominant big man like Demarcus Cousins. I think his defense is overrated. I think his attitude is terrible and a seemingly poor fit with the already rocky Kings. I also think Darren Collison is a better player than Rondo in his current state.

However, the Kings signing Rondo is not a bad move. Vlade is making a gamble that surrounded by his friends in Rudy Gay and DMC, Rondo will not create any problems in the locker room or with the coaching staff. He is also gambling that Rondo can revert to his Boston form from a few years ago and be the great floor general and defender that the Kings desperately need. At the $10 million price point, Rondo is a reasonably cheap risk, at least compared to the other ridiculous contracts doled out this offseason. Vlade made a bold choice going after Rondo when most other teams stayed away in the hopes that he goes back to playing at the level he is capable of. If everything works out to plan, Rondo will be dishing off passes to Rudy, DMC, Ben Mclemore, Marco Belinelli, etc and setting the table for a potentially very good offense. Rondo will ideally be slowing down the likes of Paul, Curry, and Westbrook and leading the Kings in transition in George Karl’s fast pace, free flowing offense. There are a lot of ifs here and a lot of things have to go perfectly for Rondo to be a great player again on the Kings. The potential is there, however, and I can see and understand why the Kings made a move to get their new starting PG.

To be continued… Belinelli, Koufos, Butler, and overall thoughts on the Kings will be included in the next post!