Sacramento Kings: Making sense of the Tristan Thompson trade

Sacramento Kings - Tristan Thompson (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings - Tristan Thompson (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings made a surprising early splash ahead of the start of the NBA’s free agency by swapping reserve guard Delon Wright for the veteran big man Tristan Thompson. This move was likely made with the intention to bolster the frontcourt rotation’s depth but does feel a little perplexing given the reports that indicated the Kings were zeroed in on re-signing Richaun Holmes.

Thompson suffered from a loss of playing time in Boston’s maligned center rotation last year, where the Celtics grappled with the decision of playing Thompson, Daniel Theis, or Robert Williams seemingly every night. As a result, Thompson’s statistical production faltered. He averaged 7.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, with 38.2 percent of his rebounds coming on the offensive glass.

Wright on the other hand impressed many as a spark plug guard off the bench last season. Earlier this year in March, Sacramento sent out Cory Joseph and two second-round picks in exchange for Wright. Delon rewarded the Kings for this move by posting 14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per 36 minutes while drilling 39.8 percent of his three-point attempts.

However, after selecting Davion Mitchell with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Kings were forced to clear out a backcourt rotation that already features De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Wright.

The Sacramento Kings shocked many with the decision to ship out Delon Wright in return for Tristan Thompson. Let’s look at the future implications of this move.

In a vacuum, I believe Delon Wright is a more fundamentally sound basketball player. He’s a tall combo guard that can play both positions, shoot, slash, and kick it out to the open man. Wright isn’t bad defensively and could certainly help a team make a playoff push.

That being said, I believe Thompson will make this year’s Sacramento Kings better. Two of the greatest weaknesses of last year’s roster had been its inability to impose their presence on the glass, as well as an overall lack of mental toughness which resulted in many fourth-quarter leads wilting away.

Thompson really only does two things well these days, but toughness and rebounding are what he does best. He will set hard screens, be a rebounding menace in the paint, and bring an energy to practice and late-game situations that could drastically alter the outlook for this young squad.

Remember when Thompson vehemently held on to the belief “The East runs through us”, even after LeBron James departed Cleveland? That’s the sort of energy this team is desperately lacking.

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Fortunately, this acquisition does not prohibit the return of Richaun Holmes. It also won’t stop Sacramento from pursuing other free agents, as the team has been reportedly interested in Nerlens Noel even after making this trade. With free agency set to kick off tomorrow, we shall likely have some more answers very soon.