The Kings have a hoarding problem
And someone needs to sit down and talk to their front office about it
Last week I heard a false NBA trade rumor. What the rumor was really doesn’t matter (okay, it does a little bit in the context of what comes next, but since it was a false rumor it doesn’t in the cosmic sense of the world). What matters is the thought process I engaged in following the rumor. Here it is.
The rumor: Greg Monroe will be involved in a trade sending him to the Sacramento Kings.
My initial reaction: That makes zero sense. Mathematically, that actually makes negative sense given that the Kings already have about 50 big men on their roster.
My second reaction: *Goes to Wikipedia, Kings Website and other NBA related websites to check the actual amount of big men on the Kings roster (six)*
My third reaction: *step away from the computer to take a deep breath*
Final Reaction: Actually, it makes complete sense if it’s the Kings.
Let’s recap the Kings Draft strategy over the past few years.
Okay. Let’s do it.
2009: Draft Tyreke Evans, a PG/SG combo guard who goes on to have his best season to date in a Rookie of the Year campaign. No longer with the team.
2010: DeMarcus Cousins at Center.
2011: Jimmer Fredette. A shooting guard with offensive skills but an unproven defensive record.
2012: Thomas Robinson. An unproven big man with “untapped potential” (if you’re playing “hot take” bingo feel free to cross off a square) and great athleticism.
So far so good. This is where we get weird.
2013: Ben McLemore. A shooting guard with offensive skills but an unproven defensive record.
2014: Nik Stauskas. A shooting guard with offensive skills but an unproven defensive record.
2015: Willie Cauley-Stein. A big man with “untapped potential” and great athleticism.
2016: Georgios Papagiannis. An unproven big man from Europe that no one really knows much about.
Skal Labissière. A big man with “untapped potential,” field vision and positional versatility on the NBA Court.
Read all of those again. If they’re starting to sound a bit redundant and repetitive feel free to wake up from this feverish nightmare, something the Sacramento Kings can’t exactly do.
Approaching the NBA Draft generally comes from a positional or team need. Sometimes you go in for a player who can fill a roster role or looking for a trade that can give you enough pieces to compete in the forthcoming year. The Sacramento Kings performance in the NBA Draft leads me to believe they prepare for the big night like Donald Trump prepares for a presidential debate. Snorting a lot of cocaine and playing “Rock You Like a Hurricane” at volumes hazardous to the human brain.
In the past half a decade, the Kings followed a similar pattern in the NBA Draft. That is — select a player to fill a positional/skill need, then select the exact replica of that player for 2–3 more years until you’re at a positional log jam with not enough minutes to distribute evenly. The second element of this problem is that they’re also selecting based off the “potential” skill set for the need they’re trying to fill. Fredette was a great example, a plus shooter and a minus everything else he was supposed to be the long range relief for the team if he ever figured out how to play defense or handle the ball against NBA opposition. He didn’t.
They filled that gap with McLemore a year later, a more athletic version with a slightly worse stroke. Positionally, he was a better fit with more upside across the board in every category Jimmer lacked in. Then they decided to re-up on a bigger version of Fredette in Nik Stauskas, stifling positional competition and taking away from Benny Mac’s development curve.
The new fascination in the Kings’ front office seems to be big men. Despite having a top 5 Center in the League, they drafted 3 more in the last 2 years and signed Kosta Koufos, which, if you’re thinking makes zero sense, you’re absolutely correct and you can have my job now.
I entirely understand the onset of position-less basketball. When Golden State can trot out a line-up that spots Draymond Green at the five, your entire 1–5 structure goes down the drain along with your dreams of seeing the Western Conference title in the next five years. Unfortunately, fielding a line up of 3 7-footers, Daren Collison and Rudy Gay is not the answer. Bigger men are worse ball handlers for a reason. They have to bring the ball up higher and their shooting mechanics are changed as well due to this. Draymond can slide up a position or two because he is strong for his size and all of his intangible skills carry up to that position. Sliding big men down serves as a detriment to their game so even if the Kings do follow up on some sort of nightmare “all-big” scenario (purely hypothetical) it will not work.
The biggest issue with this Sacramento Kings team is the failure to address basic needs that even my five year old cousin can differentiate on. They have a lack of floor spacing around Cousins which requires 2–3 guards with an above-average affinity for hitting the long ball while being capable enough ball handlers to work the rock into Boogie in the post. That just hasn’t happened. Last year the answer to their woes appeared to be Rajon Rondo, and if you think “hey, could work” about the Rondo solution to a team’s shooting problem, let me direct you to my recent article of discussing Rondo’s statistical output when it comes to shooting.
Chicago Bulls have finally pulled the trigger on nostalgia and decided to rebuild around Jimmy Butler. Except that they…medium.com
The simple truth is that the Kings are a tangled mess with no clear path to unfucking the roster instability that they themselves have wrought. Their drafting and acquisition pattern seems to hinge entirely on what Vivek had for breakfast that day or what morning sitcom happened to be on in his penthouse. The team actively overloads on one position without really giving their previous gambles the time to solve themselves.
In an ideal world, you want to play DeMarcus Cousins in a 1 in 4 out system, giving him the space to operate inside while surrounding him with players that will be able to knock down the open shot once the defense collapses. Cousins is a plus passer from the post and he has silky enough (for a big man) handles to take opposing centres from extended elbow distance when necessary. The problem is, he has no-one else around him to support that game plan.
Rudy Gay is a volume shooter if anything and a career .344% three point shooter. He is the closest thing on this Kings roster that comes to a stretch-four, but is at his best from a long-two distance, an extinct NBA skill set, which clogs the operating space for Cousins. Aaron Afflalo is a capable defender and a decent shooter (.385% from three, making him the best on this roster) who can slide across the two or the three and defend across three positions on the other end. The rest of the roster doesn’t exactly fill itself out. You’re choosing between McLemore (.346), Collison (.374) and Lawson (.366) to fill out the two spots on the roster.
McLemore gives you more size and athleticism but stifles your play-making, but may just be a necessary risk since both Lawson and Collison are undersized and playing both together would be a defensive suicide (although, that may as well be the Kings’ motto over the past five seasons). Lawson is the team’s best options as far as being a distributor while also coming at least relatively close to Collison’s shooting output. He’s a quick passer and a capable slasher which will work well with Boogie’s ability to knock it down from 15 feet. Unfortunately, his recent history of bouncing across the league and becoming a regular in over five liquor stores across the country does not predict the best scenario. Collison on the other hand can more than hold his own on from a shooting perspective, but starting him makes Boogie the best distributor on the floor.
The biggest problem here is that there are no pieces here that fit well to the only franchise piece that the Kings have left, one set to be an unrestricted free agent in two years time. Sacramento has had six years and a nearly rotating amount of lottery picks to figure out how to build around Boogie and they failed miserably, now they’re facing an almost guaranteed outcome of losing him if they don’t figure it out in the next two years. The repeatedly refused to address the holes in their roster and draft/acquire players who would complement their star. Now, it may be too late as we can tell from Cousins’ escalating state of Twitter unrest. It’s time to start the #FreeBoogie movement for real.