The general perception amongst many Kings fans that the weak spot on the floor for the Kings is the SF spot. And while they are right, the typical reasons (player sucks; player doesn't do this that or the other) cited are not. So consider this A) my thoughts on why the Kings ending up with Andre Drummond is not such a terrible idea as it seems (and I know why it seems so) and B) why the SF solution is already on the roster.
Why is A part of this discussion? Well, what are the Kings greatest need? A shot block athletic defensive big man that can score some points next to DeMarcus Cousins. A SF that can complement the Kings bevy of backcourt players (Evans, Thomas, Thornton, Salmons, Fredette) additionally. Some shooting.
Let's address the shooting here for a moment: Thomas, Thornton, and Salmons are all above average when they are wide open. All 3 individual's mentioned can create their own shots with the dribble or without the dribble. Jimmer Fredette is already known as a shooter, but very well might not even be on the roster come October. (I'll expand on that in detail on a Jimmer related post.)
Which means, by now, that the Kings have to look at a variety of ways to improve the roster around 2 All-Star if not Hall of Fame talents in Evans and Cousins.
First Andre Drummond. Let's say the Kings don't end up with the 1st overall pick (which will be Anthony Davis and he will become a Kings player), what other player in the draft offers the best opportunity to help this franchise long term? Let's say the Kings end up staying at the 5th overall pick for the sake of argument.
I doubt Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wouldn't go ahead of Drummond. I'd be very shocked indeed if that was the case. I'd also be shocked if Bradley Beal was still available at 5. Additionally, if Thomas Robinson were available I would also be shocked. I think in some combination those 4 guys are going in the top 4 because they are seen as the best players in the draft by most talent evaluators. But, I've been wrong before. So has Chad Ford, Jonathan Givony, and NBA talent evaluators for that matter. Mistakes happen; the real skill is acknowledging the mistake and moving on.
Jonathan Givony has some interesting thoughts on Drummond in his write-up from a little over 5 weeks ago:
Whoever drafts him would surely be well-served hiring an experienced big man coach who can work with him on a daily basis and help him learn how to play with more toughness, confidence and aggressiveness. Such attention should help him a great deal, as he clearly has far more potential as a back to the basket threat than he was able to show this season.
Also, I like this part:
Not just a presence inside the paint, Drummond is also very much capable of stepping outside as well, being very effective on the perimeter for a player his size. He bends his knees and gets in a low stance exceptionally well, showing incredibly nimble feet sliding his feet and moving in all directions.
His mobility on defense should make him an extremely valuable asset to have in pick and roll situations, as he doesn't seem to have any problem hedging screens and recovering quickly or even switching out and staying in front of guards when the situation calls for it.
Call me cynical, but the Kings need help on the defensive end yes? Do the Kings really need another" me first dickhead all the time pound the ball and put up the worst shot available" type like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins? Even if Drummond is especially immature (and he is), his talents will fit with the Kings well IMO. At the end of the day, it's not just about "chemistry" but how guys play with and off each other. Something that Cousins and Evans both struggle to understand at this stage.
There is another source though that will definitely get a lot of people on the wary end of Drummond:
Sliding a few spots in the draft may actually not be the end of the world for Drummond, as it would lower the expectations he'll have to deal with early on and allow him to ease his way into the NBA, which will likely take some time. As someone who is extremely affected by the ebbs and flows of games and obviously still in a very early stage of maturation, going to a strong organization with positive figures around him on and off the court would clearly be very beneficial.
Now. I don't really care about this that or the other. I think a year ago, more concern about Drummond would be warranted. But give Drummond a real training camp, a better situation than Jimmer Fredette or Isaiah Thomas walked into in mid December this season, and a chance to work with Clifford Ray some and I think the potential for high yield from an Andre Drummond is fairly reasonable. Is it a risk? Sure, there's also a chance Anthony Davis looks at himself in a mirror and finds his unibrow so ugly that he can't play basketball anymore and lives in a cave for the rest of his life. Let's be honest: There is risk in anything you do. The question is the risk worth the potential of failure. I say yes. You probably say no.
Drummond is the gifted athlete that Kings fans high on JJ Hickson were hoping for. Only, Drummond is more athletic than Hickson (yeah I know) which obviously qualifies Drummond as the best athlete the Kings have. Additionally, Drummond is more defensive oriented than offensive oriented at this point. Also something that JJ Hickson is not.
Short of Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond is the best player the Kings could get long term. The good news is that I think the Kings have plenty of things in play that could help the Kings improve long term. One is the potential of a real DeMarcus Cousins improvement this summer. Two, the hope that Tyreke Evans sheds some of his bad habits this summer. Three, keeping Jason Thompson (if the Kings are committed to building a winner) would be especially mandatory if you draft Drummond given that Drummond will be able to play minutes but need time otherwise to ease into the demands of the NBA. Four, Chuck Hayes and Drummond will be able to play off each other defensively and the rebounding of the 2nd unit won't be nearly as exposed with Hayes as a single big man on the floor.
While Andre Drummond will take a great deal of patience, similar to Derrick Favors in many respects, Drummond is also a player whom you can build a quality defense around in time. (Assuming, you know.) I don't know if Drummond really has the potential to be at Anthony Davis levels in that respect, but Drummond won't make your team worse defensively that's for sure. Even as a very raw young 19 year old rookie. I really doubt few have the opportunity to be at Anthony Davis levels when there are comparisons being made to Kevin Garnett already
Now to the dreaded SF spot......
I'm going to use some 82games.com stuff here to prove my point about the SF spot:
First John Salmons:
Player Floor Time Stats by Position
Now, a few other graphs featuring Minute by Minute Production:
Player 48-Minute Production by Position
Opponent Counterpart 48-Minute Production
Net 48-Minute Production by Position
What's interesting about this is Salmons has a higher negative PER at SG, and yet the net results actually show that Salmons net negatives were about the same at SG or SF. Part of that is the talent gap at each position between SG and SF, and part of that is Salmons is actually a real SG who can play SF and PG somewhat. Salmons is really a guy who can run the offense, and take shots as needed (more or less depending on what's necessary).
Check out these shot splits from Hoopdata:
Notice something? When was Salmons best shooting and monthly performances? March. What happened in March? Salmons got to play his role (at SG, off the bench and without Tyreke Evans), and, I don't think this is an accident either, Chuck Hayes also his played his best ball with Salmons on the floor. Imagine that, 2 veterans knowing how to play the NBA game playing better with each other than with headstrong kids without a real clue as of yet how to play the NBA game at high level.
I'm not going to bother to link Donte Greene, Travis Outlaw or Tyler Honeycutt (mostly due to sample size) here. In Donte's case, I expect the Kings will not A) extend a Qualifying Offer to Donte or B) even keep Donte's bird rights. In Outlaw's case, he is what he is for better or worse. I'm not expecting much, but Outlaw will be on the roster for 3 more years (barring trade) and at least can be traded after July 1. (Outlaw can't be traded before then due to some quirks in the amnesty bid process. It's not a major issue because it's not very likely Outlaw is tradeable.) I won't put Francisco Garcia here either because Garcia only likely has 1 season left on the Kings (next year) so he's mostly a short timer as well.
First some words about Tyler Honeycutt before I move onto the enigma that is T-Will: Honeycutt still has a nice long term future projection even if his season numbers doesn't reflect that quite yet (as brief as they are) in part because he was able to perform decently at Reno (had one great game in his 8th game of 10 Honeycutt got minutes in) during the short time Honeycutt spent time there. Next year will likely be a make or break year for Honeycutt as his long term projection may depend on how hard Honeycutt works to get into the rotation (that was not in the cards for Honeycutt no matter what he really did this year), and next year playing with a possible bench of Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Andre Drummond and Chuck Hayes offers a lot of real opportunities for Honeycutt to showcase his talent on a meaningful and consistent basis.
Contrast that with Hassan Whiteside who doesn't seem have to nearly as rosy a long term projection at this point despite Whiteside's stint in Reno and some reasonably nice moments during the Kings season on top of that. When you are talking about drafting a guy like Anthony Davis, or even a guy like Andre Drummond, at some point you have to admit that maybe Hassan Whiteside isn't in the right place for him or, truthfully, for the Kings. I didn't like Whiteside in the leadup to the '10 draft, and I don't love him now. But the truth is, if you have Andre Drummond, Jason Thompson (whom you'll have to resign at reasonably good value), Hayes (already signed to such value) and Cousins, where is there room for Whiteside? Additionally, if you're going to have a 5th big man, I'd much rather the Kings reach out to Darnell Jackson who will act and play like a pro when he's called upon. Whiteside improved somewhat over the course of the season, but not enough to make me think he's not easily replacable by a much better talent (and then some) like Drummond. It's not like Hassan Whiteside is a gifted pro who already is doing things as a young man you can't teach. The only reason to keep Hassan Whiteside is to fill a roster spot, and if the Kings need to do that, why not offer a roster spot to Darnell Jackson? Jackson has proven he can be a professional without being a distraction. Do the Kings really need another kid on the roster with so many potential distractions already littered throughout the roster?
Which brings me to the potential starter at SF (I still can't believe I'm writing this): Terrence Williams.
Player Floor Time Stats by Position
Now, keep in mind this only reflects the total season % of minutes Williams played at the position. There was 15, 915 minutes for all 5 positions, or 3183 (at one position). Williams played a total of 369 minutes.
Player 48-Minute Production by Position
Opponent Counterpart 48-Minute Production
Net 48-Minute Production by Position
Okay, I think it's pretty obvious that Williams has real talent, and could be the long term solution at SF. Given Williams personality quirks, and the fact that the Nets traded him for a 1st round pick (something the Rockets could justify at the time), and the Rockets outright waived Wiliams after he didn't light Houston on fire is problematic.
On the other hand, whatever problems Terrence Williams had in Houston or in New Jersey won't happen in Sacramento. Why? There isn't much nightlife for Williams to get in trouble in Sacramento, and if Terrence Williams is truly a problem maker with his personal life he'll get in trouble anywhere. On one hand, the Kings were generally pleased with Williams transition to the Kings in a short period of time after signing T-Will to a 10 day contract. On the other hand, is it fools gold for Williams if he gets a long term extension? Has T-Will earned a real extension? (In my opinion, no.) But a 3 year extension at 2 or 3 million per year? Yeah, I'll go for that. I'm much more concerned with the Kings re-signing JT to begin with, but Williams is probably just as critical.
Here is the real problem I have: Whatever SF you choose will likely be a player who fits in well with Tyreke Evans, and to a lesser extent Isaiah Thomas, and that matters here. Part of the trouble finding a SF is that the Kings were hoping that Omri Casspi could play off Tyreke Evans in time. That never worked out given Evans machinations on becoming Allen Iverson Jr, and the fact that Casspi (if you're being kind) is a marginal NBA player. (If Westphal was Casspi's problem, what is the problem with Byron Scott? Is he that terrible too, or am I just mis-reading things here?) Either way, whoever is at the SF spot needs to defend, shoot the ball from the perimeter (especially the 3) to a decent extent, move the ball on the offensive end (and not just be a scorer), and provide solid play that allows Evans to be himself (whatever that is exactly).
That's the problem here: Tyreke Evans game is terrible for one reason and one reason only. That reason? Decision Making. It's not shooting (even though there are problem area's to be sure), it's not even passing, and it's not the ability to play defense. It's the decision making that comes with when Evans passes or shoots, or the commitment Evans makes in just playing the game itself. Decision making matters more than the complaining about a broken shot. Evans shoots nearly 80% from the FT line; terrible shooters don't do that. The problem is that Tyreke Evans has difficulty understanding what is a good shot, and what it is not, and worse Evans does not understand where his most effective shots from the perimeter actually are. Or, Evans doesn't understand what types of perimeter shots he should be working on to maximize his greatest offensive strengths.
Consequently, if you are the Kings, you thought coming in (something that didn't happen in large part because Evans terrible season and regression in total terms) that John Salmons was terrible for the Kings, you probably ended up being right. Your reasons though? Not so much. John Salmons wasn't terrible when he could play the SG role and without a player who exposed all of his teammates weaknesses when running the offense. Salmons could run around some, but what good does it do to run off the ball if Tyreke stands with the ball pounding it into the hardwood letting the shot clock run down?
Do you think it's an accident that a 5'9 rookie with 29 NBA games under his belt started sp quickly into his career? You could tell Isaiah already made better decisions with the ball than Tyreke at this stage (not a good thing), and worse Isaiah actually managed to get the Kings to run actual plays. You know, plays, where teammates run to certain spot to do something for another teammate who is doing something else to help another teammate and so on. You know, plays. Something that apparently Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins do not need to bother to do because they are already immensely successful NBA players. The best part about Isaiah is that quite often possessions would not end with Tyreke jacking up a terrible looking zero percent chance shot from 20 feet that looked worse in it's delivery than in the end result. (Clank.) With 5 seconds or less on the shot clock no less.
As Geoff Petrie noted on Saturday in Jason Jones' Q&A, Isaiah Thomas is reliable. Something both DeMarcus and Tyreke need to learn: Playing 1 on 1 works fine in college and AAU but not in the NBA. In the NBA, actual pick and rolls work. In the NBA, running off the ball works. In the NBA, attempting to get into a play by 15 seconds in the shot clock isn't just sound strategy, it's also greatly improves the chances you will get a quality shot if you work hard enough to get it. By the way, I suggest reading the blog edition if you have not that part of the Q&A.
DeMarcus Cousins rarely gets easy baskets at the rim from G's because he is a terrible target. He is an absolutely terrible target at the rim. And, of course, because the G's on this team somewhat struggle at times to get Cuz the ball it's all the G's fault. Sometimes it is the Guards fault (whichever G it is we are referring to), but in a lot of cases DeMarcus makes it impossible to get him the ball. He either wants it at impossible angles or expects a low percentage delivery to work. Simply put, as bad as Tyreke was this season (and I've promised to lay off DeMarcus for 2 years as I do with all young players, the gloves are off next year with him as it was with Tyreke this year), DeMarcus' failures to create quality shot attempts both with the ball and without the ball are a failure largely on DeMarcus and DeMarcus alone.
Why go through all this? Simple: I'm trying to illustrate is that you can't build a team around two very talented young players if those players make it impossible for you to know exactly what you are getting on a consistent basis, how can you as the franchise fill said hole?
Of course, a big part of this is the Maloof finances and that changes things too. The Maloofs can't struggle to make minimum payroll (the Kings have 44.1 million in payroll without any draft picks, a re-signed Jason Thompson or Terrence Williams) if they have to draft a couple of rookies who are expected to fill holes of veterans or players who already have experience in the NBA. That's not a reciple for success in the NBA.
Here is the roster that is guaranteed to be on the team next year due to salary commitments of one kind or another along with their ages (by the end of the season):
DeMarcus Cousins (22)
Tyreke Evans (23)
Jimmer Fredette (24)
Francisco Garcia (32)
Chuck Hayes (29)
Tyler Honeycutt (22)
Travis Outlaw (28)
John Salmons (33)
Isaiah Thomas (23)
Marcus Thornton (25)
That's 10 guys and the average age is 26.1 years of age. Terrence Williams will be 25 by the end of the season, Jason Thompson will be 26 by the end of the season, and assuming the Kings keep Hassan Whiteside he will be 23 by the end of the season as well.
That's 13 guys. Now you draft a player with the 1st round pick, and you draft a 2nd round pick as well to be on the roster. That's 15 guys, and 15 guys is the maximum you can have on a roster.
By the time you got finished signing all these guys, you are talking near the salary cap total. If Drummond was to be drafted at the 5th pick, at 120% of the scale that would be 3,374,640 dollars right there. The Kings salary is now 47.5 million dollars. (Appromixately under the 49.33 minimum threshold by nearly 2 million dollars.) So, if you're drafting Drummond or whomever at the 5th pick and signing them to the 120% scale, that means that you have 2 other roster spots you can fill.
That's the whole issue I have with making saying the Kings have a SF problem. The Kings do not have a SF that many fans like, sure, and I don't blame them. But let's stop pretending the issue is entirely the SF spot itself. It's about as much as Cousins and Evans and how they produce as the players who play that spot. It's about that the Kings do not have the money to spend on players who are better fits than Travis Outlaw so the Kings are stuck with Travis Outlaw. It's about, as Keith Smart noted, the Kings needing to finding stars on the roster before anything else really matters. (Okay, Smart didn't really say that. But that's what he should have said.) You can't worry about a single position if you don't have a single future slateable star giving you star production on a consistent basis.
Which is why, in my view anyway, that worrying about a single position is a fools errand as long as the franchise is banking it's hope on two young players who don't quite understand how to play within a team concept yet. How you can possibly say you have a hole at a particular roster spot if you don't even know you have a franchise player on the roster?