Entering the NBA Draft armed with the eighth overall pick and a handful of young assets, the Sacramento Kings were primed to make a big splash on Draft night. Rumors were abound that the Kings had three deals on the table to trade their draft pick and speculation was running wild that Josh Smith, Rajon Rondo, or even both, might call the Cowbell Kingdom their new home.
Of course, none of that came to fruition, and it ended up being an anti-climatic night for Kings fans. Now, it is important to note that staying pat in these situations sometimes is the right move, but it’s hard to agree with that stance in these circumstances.
Taking a big picture look of where the Kings currently stand as an organization, the Maloofs selling the team to a competitive new owner. The city of Sacramento fought a tough fight to keep the team, made DeMarcus Cousins the franchise player with a max deal, and traded for Rudy Gay who is on board for at least another year thanks to his player option. Also, a handful of young, talented players on the Kings are definitely making progress towards building a winner.
The problem is with a couple of expensive salaries on the books and being in the extremely difficult Western Conference, the Kings are in that dangerous middle ground where they aren’t quite good enough to grab a playoff spot, but they may just be good enough to keep themselves out of the lottery.
The Rockets floated in this territory for years before finally landing a superstar. They still need some work to be a true contender, but Daryl Morey is commended for swinging for the fences and there is hope that another superstar will join the roster. That’s a much better place to be in than to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. That’s what it feels like with the selection of Nik Stauskas as the eighth overall pick.
Nothing against Stauskas, who may very well be a solid player. He was absolutely the best shooter in the Draft and has more of a complete game than people give him credit for, but unless this leads to a big move, it’s hard to see the logic.
Just one year and one pick earlier, the Kings drafted Ben McLemore. McLemore had an up and down year but he still has more upside than Stauskas, who plays the same position. With power forward being a much bigger need and Noah Vonleh still on the board, this selection looks even worse.
This could all be part of a much larger plan to bring in a star player, but the idea was to move the eighth pick, McLemore and Isaiah Thomas for Rondo. The Kings could still offer McLemore, Thomas, future picks and/or other players for Rondo, but a move like that could lead to the Kings grabbing at least the eighth spot in the West so that would make any future picks not very valuable.
For Boston, that would give them 2 players who might not ever be All-Stars and a non-lottery draft pick. Not the most attractive offer.
Josh Smith is another possible trade option but imagine a team with Rudy Gay and Josh Smith. Really, think about that.
As far as hit fit on the offense, Stauskas will be relied on mainly as a spot-up shooter. Unlike Jimmer Fredette before him, Stauskas will have an easier time creating his own shot thanks to his height. McLemore fills this role already and so does Jason Terry, who will be healthy to start the season. There will be a training camp competition of course but the job is McLemore’s to lose. It would be smart to start the season like that anyway, to give Stauskas time to develop, particularly his ability to score at the rim.
Stauskas has ideal size for a shooting guard, measuring at 6’6”, 207 lbs. at the combine, with a 35.5” vertical. He is a good, but not great, athlete who is best known for his jump shot.
He shot a tremendous 49 percent in catch-and-shoot situations and a respectable 38 percent off the dribble. When Trey Burke left for the NBA, Stauskas carried the extra scoring responsibilities well, improving from 11.0 points per game to 17.5.
Not only did Stauskas improve from the perimeter in his sophomore season at Michigan, but he also improved as the primary ball handler in the pick and roll. Nearly one-third of Stauskas’ possessions last season came out of this set, adding two full assists to his per game average from last year.
While he won’t ever be a defensive stopper, Stauskas is quick on rotations and he closes out hard on shooters. He’ll have trouble with quicker guards but he’ll do enough against guards of similar size. If he can remain active, stay in front of his defender and defend the pick and roll, that will be enough to not be considered a defensive liability and he will put together a quality career.
As previously mentioned, Vonleh would have been the much better pick. Power forward was (is) the Kings’ biggest immediate need, and Vonleh could have entered the season as the starter. The starting five would be complete with a balance of offense and defense. With Thomas being a restricted free agent and rumored to be involved in many different trades, Elfrid Payton would have also been a better selection.
The Kings have shown that they will be active in their efforts to improve the roster so another trade option may surface, but if the team plays with the current roster to the trade deadline, they may be too far behind already for any deadline deal to matter. Because crazy things always happen in the NBA, don’t rule anything out.
Based on reactions across the web to trade rumors, there seems to be a fairly even spilt between which route the Kings should take to improve. Some fans want to make that big splash trade, but others want to hang on to the young core, develop, make some minor changes along the way and see if they can build a winner that way.
Unless Boston takes the aforementioned deal for Rondo, I’d let Gay and his near $20M salary walk after the season, hang on to the young talent, try to find takers for Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams to free up another $10M or so and see if you can add two quality players in the offseason.
What would you do?