I’ve had an underlying obsession with the Milwaukee Bucks for a few years now. They are bad. They’ve been bad. Yet I find myself jealous of the way they choose to lose.
The Kings have lost just as many games over the past three or so seasons, but they’ve lost their games as a strong offensive team that consistently plays bottom-of-the-league level defense. The Bucks have taken the opposite approach. Aside from last season, which really was some next level awfulness, the Bucks have been a team with respectable defense and little offense. They went from one top-level interior defender in Andrew Bogut to another in Larry Sanders. They drafted athletic shot blockers like Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo. They traded for other interior shot blockers like Sam Dalembert and Ekpe Udoh. You get the point. They felt like an organization that valued defense, which is something the Kings haven’t been in … forever?
So on that level, I’ve kept a close eye on the Bucks. We’ve been begging for a Larry Sanders or a John Henson type to put next to DeMarcus Cousins for years now. Milwaukee has always made sense as a trade partner, especially after the Kings hired a defensive minded head coach in Michael Malone last summer.
Then Chad Ford reported in his latest mock draft that the Kings are interested in Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight. I’m only mildly interested in Knight, but I’m glad the Kings are talking to the Bucks.
Brandon Knight is a solid young guard, but no part of me is interesting in dealing the #8 pick for him. Isaiah Thomas is a better player who the Kings have complete control over, and they can bring him back without giving up anything. Of Course, Knight would be exponentially cheaper next season, but is the extra $6 or so million the Kings would save next season worth giving up a top-10 pick? I don’t think so.
It’s hard trade to talk about, even in hypotheticals, because there are so many moving pieces. Any trade the Kings make will be directly affected by whatever Rudy Gay decides to do with his contract, and who’s to say the Kings aren’t asking for more than just Brandon Knight? If it wasn’t obvious already, I want Larry Sanders or John Henson with Brandon Knight if I’m giving up the 8th pick in this year’s draft. If the Kings are willing to take on Larry Sanders and his big contract (and questionable off court behavior) than the Milwaukee Bucks would have to take back some combination of Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams, Jason Terry, and Travis Outlaw to make the salaries work. I should note that Larry Sanders has a poison pill provision in his contract, making a potential deal for Sanders a little more difficult to complete.
The Isaiah Thomas vs. Brandon Knight debate is an interesting one. I think Isaiah Thomas is clearly the better overall player right now, but Brandon Knight could be a better fit next to DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Emphasis on could. For Kings fans that don’t like Isaiah Thomas as a player because he isn’t a ‘true point guard’ you probably won’t like Brandon Knight, either. Knight’s playmaking ability is a serious question mark, which is why he’s spent a good portion of his career playing next to other adequate ball handlers. If he were to come to Sacramento, he’d be playing with Ben McLemore who might be the worst ball handling starting shooting guard in the league. Not ideal.
Brandon Knight is three years younger than Isaiah Thomas. Logically speaking, Knight probably has more potential while Thomas is likely in his prime right now. Neither player is old, obviously, so age in that sense isn’t a factor, but Isaiah Thomas was 22 in his rookie season and Brandon Knight is 22 right now. He still has substantial room to grow as a player.
The Kings had the ‘three twenty-point scorers’ thing going on last season, which was what it was, but that isn’t a recipe for NBA success. Teams with that sort of offensive production distribution do not win in the NBA. With that point in mind, Brandon Knight could be more effective with a lower workload. Knight has always been an effective spot up shooter, and his off the ball offense is solid. Isaiah Thomas relies heavily on having the ball in his hands, and he is a better overall offensive player, but not necessarily the best fit next to two other guys who need the ball for large portions of an offensive possession. Knight can spread the floor and stay out of the way, which is what this Kings team might need from their point guard.
Knight also has a better reputation as a defender. I happen to think that his defensive ability is a little overstated, but I would admit that he is better than Thomas in that area, and certainly has better physical tools that give him more potential on that end.
If the Kings are talking to the Bucks about Knight, that has to be their mind set. It’s the only way ditching Thomas for Knight makes sense. And if something happens on June 26th, I just hope John Henson or Larry Sanders are involved.