The Sacramento Kings are a mere nine games into 2013-2014 season. In those nine games, Michael Malone’s team has managed a meager two wins. In their seven losses, Malone has not shied away from blasting his team’s effort, and for good reason. The team has looked lethargic for long stretches, causing them to dig themselves into holes that have proved to be insurmountable. While the lack of effort is obviously inexcusable, they’re is still the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: talent.
Earlier today, our own Bryant West reported that ESPN’s Chad Ford mentioned in his weekly SportsNation Chat that the Kings have a high level of interest in Minnesota Timberwolves Forward and former #2 overall pick Derrick Williams. Despite being only nine games into the season, and having to figure that the current roster is eventually going to play much better, this is the type of deal the Kings need to make, and for a multitude of reasons.
While the jury is still out on first year General Manager Pete D’Alessandro’s off-season acquisitions of Carl Landry, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Grevis Vasquez, D’Alessandro still has the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess left behind by the previous regime. Long-term deals given to role players such as Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson, and Marcus Thornton, combined with the Kings theoretically missing in two of the last three drafts with the selections of Jimmer Fredette and Thomas Robinson (who was shipped to the Houston Rockets for Patrick Patterson and spare parts), has handcuffed D’Alessandro in his attempts to bring in a player or players that would make an immediate impact. If the Kings interest in Williams is as high as Ford indicates, now is the time to act.
STRUGGLING TO FIND MINUTES UNDER ADELMAN
While trading for Williams is essentially an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle, It’s not as risky as it may seem on the surface. Williams has had trouble getting consistent playing time under Minnesota Head Coach Rick Adelman during his first two seasons, and nothing has changed early into his third NBA campaign. Adelman has experimented with Williams at the small forward spot, with results ranging from mediocre to just flat-out bad, as Williams hasn’t shown the ability to create his own shot or hit from the outside consistently enough to warrant minutes at the three. Adelman himself has admitted that Williams is at his best while playing power porward, but with all-star Kevin Love averaging close to 36 minutes a game at the four, time there has been scarce for Williams.
So why roll the dice on Williams? Minnesota didn’t draft him with the second-overall pick in the 2011 draft by accident. Williams is a freakish athlete that can score at the rim and despite being considered undersized by most people in means of a traditional back to the basket power forward, Williams has the potential to be a very good stretch four. Hitting the outside shot hasn’t come easy for Williams in two plus seasons, but inconsistent playing time and not having a defined role can make it difficult for a player to get into a groove from the outside. Williams showed the ability in college to hit from beyond the arc, connecting on almost 57% of his three-point attempts during his final season at Arizona. This obviously doesn’t mean he is going to turn into a knock down, three-point shooter in the NBA, but it does show that with consistent minutes and a defined role that he has the potential to develop an adequate jump shot. Williams ability to slash to the basket could also be taken advantage of when he’s guarded by bigger, less athletic bigs away from the paint.
Williams also isn’t the first young player with huge upside to struggle finding minutes in Rick Adelman’s rotation. Croatian star Drazen Petrovic famously was the fifth guard on Adelman’s Portland Trail Blazers of the early 90’s, seeing minutes only sparingly behind the likes of Clyde Drexler, Danny Ainge, Danny Young, and Terry Porter. Petrovic would later be shipped to the New Jersey Nets where he would later find stardom under Head Coach Chuck Daly, before his life was tragically taken in a car accident in the Summer of 1993. Gerald Wallace could never seem to crack Adelman’s rotation as a young player in Sacramento. Wallace was left unprotected in the 2004 NBA Expansion Draft, being picked up by the Charlotte Bobcats, later becoming the team’s first NBA All-Star.
So what will the Kings have to give up to acquire Williams? It was reported by Ford that Adelman would like a veteran power forward to plug into his rotation, and the Kings might have just what they’re looking for. While most fans would love to see Chuck Hayes moved, who was a key player off the bench for Adelman when he coached in Houston, conventional wisdom would suggest Minnesota will want more value for Williams, despite the “bust” tag that comes with him. That value they seek would likely come in the form of Jason Thompson.
Thompson is in the second year of a five-year, $30 million contract (fifth year being only partially guaranteed). He’s the perfect third big man to insert into Adelman’s rotation behind Love and Nikola Pekovic, and would make an immediate impact on a team that is in “win now” mode.
Thompson has been a consummate professional in his time with the Kings. A hard worker on the court, and staple in the community off of it, losing a player like Thompson would be a tough pill for Kings fans to swallow, especially for a player in Williams that may never make a real impact. But there are other things that need to be considered besides the talent exchange in this deal.
Thompson became expendable this last off-season when management brought back Carl Landry. Landry was hurt before the season started, but It’s pretty safe to assume that management didn’t lock him up to a four-year deal to sit at the end of the bench when he returns.
Thompson has been starting at power forward for the Kings, but is better suited as a third big. And on a team that won’t be seeing the playoffs this year and trying to rebuild from the bottom up, a rotation player like Thompson is more than expandable.
Most importantly, should Williams not work out in Sacramento, the Kings can make him a free agent in the Summer of 2015. Thompson will be owed a little over $6.4 million for the 2015-2016 season. This trade would give the Kings even more cap flexibility going into the 2015 off-season, one year before they’re scheduled to move into their new Downtown facility. Should this trade go down, as of right now, Demarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, and Ben McLemore would be the only Kings under contract going into the Summer of 2015 (although that very likely will change).
It’s time for the Kings to clean up the leftover’s of the Maloof era. This trade won’t propel the Kings into the playoffs this year, it may even make them worst in the short-term. But Williams has the potential to thrive in the right environment and have a major impact on the floor, and if you’re the Kings, that’s a risk worth taking.