There has been much talk about whether or not the Kings can afford Isaiah Thomas in the wake of the salary cap behemoth otherwise known as Rudy Gay's contract, how many shots Rudy Gay can take and still be effective, and, whether or not Jason Thompson is on the outs himself.
Talk is cheap. Doing is important. That's the key single greatest takeaway I have from this trade. Do I like Rudy Gay? Fuck no I don't. Never said I have, and unless he dramatically increases his efficiency and defense at 27 years old from his Memphis peak years, I don't really have any great love of Rudy Gay.
But thats missing the point here: This ownership is willing to spend money to improve the roster even if the risk looks rather unseemly at this juncture.
Seriously: Would you rather have Rudy Gay getting back to his Memphis levels being badly overpaid, or would you continue trying to trot out a bunch of role players/backup's who aren't really starters in roles that don't really suite them? Because that's what the Kings were really doing with John Salmons and to a lesser degree Chuck Hayes.
Between the Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay acquisitions, this new ownership has taken on 3.23 million this season in extra salary when you factor the differences in Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay's salary along with Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy's deals on top of it.
Next year is the real kicker: This team now has an additional 14.3 million in salary between Williams and Gay alone that was not there at the start of the season. This my friends is called one thing: Mucho mucho dinero. And, for better or worse, this ownership group seems to be interested in doing what it takes to build a competitive roster.
This is a step in the right direction. There's still a lot to be done starting with the acquistion of a premium talent (preferably from the 2014 draft), but it's a step in a direction that if you can get Rudy Gay of previous years back, it's a gamble worth taking. And it's not like beyond 2015 either Williams or Gay will be on the books. Now onto the Isaiah Thomas "next contract" discussion. The dirty little secret is that this new ownership group and management has always targeted 2015 to be the year they do things in Free Agency. Nothing they've done, with the exception of the extension given Cousins and sign Landry to their respective contracts, the 2015 cap space is still not only intact, it seems far more solid than it did before these trades.
How? Step on down into the world of the CBA lunacy.
First a time honored tradition here at EC: Ripping off Mark Deeks brilliant salary page and putting it on here. With updates that Deeks himself hasn't gotten around to. (It's his hobby, not his career.)
|Aaron Brooks *||$674,194||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||$674,194|
|Brandon Heath *||$35,000||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||$35,000|
|Trent Lockett *||$35,000||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||$35,000|
|Total w/o options||$59,633,293||$48,903,159||$28,607,370||$29,081,438||$16,784,031||$0|
Now, a couple of things. Ignore this season's salary. Other than making it so the Kings have to make trades because they are now over the cap by about 3.5 million dollars, not much will change. (They made the Rudy Gay trade while over the cap. It's not really that hard to make trades because over the cap. It's really hard finding trades, though, you think is palatable and worthwhile.)
Here's the main point about Isaiah Thomas. Worrying about re-signing him at this point is meaningless. We don't really know how the management and/or ownership see's Thomas at this point. It could be he signs an 8 million dollar contract, that luxury tax implications or no, doesn't make a difference because they won't sign Thomas to an 8 million dollar a year contract.
My opinion is that Isaiah could get an 8 million per offer easily on the market, and the team would be pretty crazy to not match for a variety of reasons that I would really rather not have to explain until that bridge is actually crossed and we have a better idea of what the roster looks like at that particular time.
But here's another point: A team's salary for luxury tax is only judged by what it looks like on the last day of the regular season. Which, when you're Vivek Ranadive and Pete D'Alessandro, gives you plenty of time and flexibility to consider how you deal with Isaiah next summer. You don't have to worry about tax ramifications beyond the 2014-15 season because there won't be any. There is too many expiring deals as of now to be concerned about that.
Right now the Kings have about 29 million dollars in cap space (if you project the cap going up by 2015) before Isaiah Thomas, and any potential rookies through the draft. (A higher than lower pick in 2014 would be preferred.) So you're looking at 2 possible lottery picks, and 2 2nd round picks on top of the existing 5 salaried players to be on the roster come 2015 as of now without Isaiah Thomas (those are DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum). And that's with the possibility of Jason Thompson being dealt at some point before then (and sooner before later at that).
The Kings could be looking at another 10-12 million between 3-4 rookies added to the roster in 2014 and 2015. That means you are looking at 4 cap holds at worst before looking at cap room. Depending on where the cap falls (could be about 61 million then), by my estimation you're looking at the potential for at least 16 million in cap room WITH Jason Thompson on the roster. More without him or any net gains. Without Isaiah Thomas on the roster, either, for that matter.
Of course that's the rub. The decision about Isaiah at this point is not really about the luxury tax in 2014-15. It's about how it effects your cap room moving ahead in 2015 and what plans you have with it that particular year.
That's the reality at this juncture, and anyone saying otherwise simply doesn't understand that there is so much time between now and the 2015 trading deadline that worrying about impending luxury tax is simply being a worry-wart and little else.
Now, if I'm being asked, do I think the Kings will get under the tax line? Yeah, they probably will. It seems likely that the Kings will be looking to do it sooner than later. Dumping Marcus Thornton AND Jason Thompson's contract would be ideal at this point from the franchise's standpoint, and they might be able to do it. It might take awhile to dump Thornton as he might not be dumped until this summer, but it's certainly possible. I think JT's value is quite a bit higher in the right circumstance and there's plenty of teams that could use a 3rd big man like JT. Plus, the Kings now have Aaron Gray and Hamady N'Diaye to backup DeMarcus Cousins (who should be playing 36-38 minutes every night since he's supposed to be the franchise big guy). 3rd big guy's just aren't as valuable when you have a big minute franchise level player (or supposedly) in front of them. Plus, Cousins and Thompson's talents don't really mesh in coach Michael Malone's system.
Consider the start of the current regime's was dealing with a serious time issue around the 2013 draft, this is what the new regime has done since coming in.
|Players In||Players Out|
|Ben McLemore (drafted 1st round)||Tyreke Evans (Sign and Traded for Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez)|
|Ray McCallum (drafted 2nd round)||Cole Aldrich (not re-signed)|
|Greivis Vasquez (traded for Tyreke Evans)||Toney Douglas (not re-signed)|
|Robin Lopez (traded for Evans)||Robin Lopez (traded to Portland for a 2nd round pick)|
|Luc Mbah A Moute (traded for 2nd round picks)||Luc Mbah A Moute (traded for Williams)|
|Carl Landry (signed with cap room created by Tyreke Evans Sign & Trade)||John Salmons (traded for Gay, Acy & Gray)|
|Hamady N'Diaye (signed with minimum player exception)||Chuck Hayes (traded for Gay, Acy and Gray)|
|Derrick Williams (traded for Mbah a Moute)||Patrick Patterson (traded for Gay, Acy and Gray)|
|Rudy Gay (traded for John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez)||Greivis Vasquez (traded for Gay, Acy and Gray)|
Aaron Gray (traded for Salmons, Hayes, Patterson and Vaquez
|Quincy Acy (traded for Salmons, Hayes, Patterson and Vasquez)|
Total Players acquired: 10 players acquired
Total Players traded: 9 players either traded or let leave via Free Agency
Total New Regime players traded: 3
Total Old Regime players traded: 3
Fact is you went from this roster:
|Sacramento Kings Roster prior to Tyreke Evans Sign and Trade|
|Tyreke Evans||Tyreke Evans||John Salmons||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
|Isaiah Thomas||Ben McLemore||Travis Outlaw||Patrick Patterson||Jason Thompson|
|Ray McCallum||Marcus Thornton||Patrick Patterson||Chuck Hayes||Chuck Hayes|
|Toney Douglas (FA)||Jimmer Fredette||Travis Outlaw|
Now you have this roster:
|Sacramento Kings roster after Rudy Gay/ Derrick Williams trades|
|Isaiah Thomas||Ben McLemore||Rudy Gay||Derrick Williams||DeMarcus Cousins|
|Ray McCallum||Marcus Thornton||Travis Outlaw||Carl Landry||Jason Thompson|
|Jimmer Fredette||Quincy Acy||Jason Thompson||Aaron Gray|
|Travis Outlaw||Hamady N'Diaye|
You went from having constantly to having mix and match every lineup to......wait for it....a fairly concrete solid starting lineup. You really can't argue with Thomas, McLemore, Gay, Williams and Cousins as the starting lineup with this team. Previously, you had arguments from the PG-PF as to whom should start and why.
Now there's none of that. Hell, that alone will be nice to know that when in doubt, the same lineup still exists. Again, while I"m not huge fans of either Rudy Gay, or Derrick Williams, I get what the front office is trying to do. The 3 most athletic players on the current roster were all acquired by the new regime. Take stock of that for a moment.
Do I think this means the Kings become a 30 win team? Nah, not even close. There's a long ways to go before I really begin to believe anything special is imminent with this group. Had Utah not been playing with Derrick Favors and simply allowed the Kings to come back for somewhat inexplicable reasons (although watching Benny Mac hit that three was sure fun), this is the same Kings team that struggled with Utah on the road. Struggling with Utah anywhere without one of their best players is not the mark of a cohesive or strong team.
Derrick Williams is not an upper echelon PF in this league, but he has the ability to be a solid PF night in night out if things work right for him and his attitude remains better than it has been. Rudy Gay, if he returns to his Memphis form, could give the Kings production it hasn't seen since the Ron Artest era.
Yeah, that scares me too.
If nothing else, you're moving out some of the width for some actual shot at creating depth. And a roster that has real depth always has a chance to move forward effectively than a roster that had similar like players at at least 3, I would argue 4, and you could convince me all 5 positions if you think of Thompson and Cousins similarish players. (That's a stretch, but I could see how you could make that argument.)
Fact is, the NBA is a 2 way game that needs all 5 players on the court to do as many things possible ON TWO ENDS of the court without making trade-offs. While this roster is still making plenty of trade-offs that will see this team remain terrible, this team is making trade-offs that makes this team more palatable moving ahead.
That's something, and the fact that the new ownership was willing to spend 14 million dollars (before even factoring in a new contract for Isaiah) to acquire players like Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay mean if nothing else that the old regime is no longer here. And, before people say this is a Geoff Petrie/Maloofs roster, is it really anymore?
Cousins was clearly committed to by the new regime. McLemore, McCallum, Landry, Williams, Gay, and N'Diaye are all new regime players. Whether or not the new regime was really committed to Isaiah Thomas, it's hard to imagine they aren't going to take a very long, hard and committed look to see how Thomas looks with this current set of starters. Yeah, you still have Thompson, Thornton, Fredette and Outlaw as old regime players, but given the circumstances this kind of roster turnover is pretty hard to do unless you have truly committed ownership willing to do the hard things now for the payoff later.
It seems as if that ownership is actually here. And while, again, in of itself, none of these moves (other than the drafting of McLemore) really stand out as stellar moves by themselves, there was nothing that I think they could have done in 6 months time given the circumstances that would have dramatically altered the roster. A 2nd round pick in 2014 is owed to Toronto. Unless the Kings start winning at a very heavy clip, it's going to take an 11th worst or better NBA record to give the 1st round pick owed Cleveland in the JJ Hickson-Omri Casspi trade.
Some of the moves seem more like a splash to make a splash, but if you ignore money (and I am), the Kings now have a legitimate starting lineup.
I couldn't say that at the start of the season, and that's an improvement whether or not like you the new ownership (and I've said numerous times by now that I'm giving them until 2015 before I fully judge them), it's certainly fair to say they are working very hard to increase the value of their asset's and are willing to take risks no matter how unseemly they seem on paper in real time at the time of the deal's themselves.
Any ownership group willing to take risks to build a winner is one I always can get behind. And, say whatever you want about them, given the sheer commitment this ownership group has made already in such short terms suggests that the aggressiveness in trying to build a winner is clearly there.
The question remains is the question that has been hanging over this franchise since Chris Webber has crumped in a heap on the Dallas floor on May 2nd 2003: Can this franchise obtain a franchise player? Given we don't know the results of the lottery for another 6 months, time will only tell. But if the first 6 months are any indicator, this franchise won't stop trying to improve things so that the recent disaster and toxic waste dump that was the Sacramento Kings franchise no longer exists.
What's next is anybody's guess. But it's nice to know that this current regime certainly has a game plan in mind and the willingness to go out and execute it. You can't shine shit, and the asset's on this roster are few and far between. The greatest asset this team has had to deal, realistically, was Tyreke Evans and well that fetched Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez. Not exactly the stuff of legend.
The fact is, the culture change alone along with perhaps getting the old Memphis Rudy Gay, an improved Derrick Williams whose flaws are not on constant display as it was in Minnesota, and perhaps getting 36 minutes of sustained excellence from DeMarcus Cousins would go a long way to improving the roster.
Which is what the franchise is rolling the dice on. Let's hope it works because even if the Kings get a franchise player in the 2014 draft, the issue of just how much talent this roster has would still exist. And as we've seen in recent years, how players fit together matter just as much as the individual talent of said player.
While I'm not ready to say anything special is imminent, this is a start. A start of something that's positive with a potential outlook for much more several years down the line. Patience, and capitlization of asset's at the right time, are always key. The trick is can this new regime do just that? We shall see.
If nothing else, in between the summer of 2015 and now, you should see this group be an interesting mix of highlight reel dunks and 3 pointers. That's something pretty fun and different over the last half decade, yes?