KINGS FREE AGENCY 2019

VLADE, TARGET MY LOCATION WITH AN ORBITAL STRIKE

One day.

It took one day for the NBA to up the ante. One day to remind everyone who follows and covers this wild league that it can do barely organized chaos better than any other league in America. Maybe even the world. Big names shocked the league. High-tier role players shuffled teams and possibly the balance of power. Kawhi Leonard didn’t even partake; he probably drank some black coffee and read the newspaper.

The Kings did not make any huge splashes. Instead, they made some light waves. While they played with Al Horford a little bit, they didn’t sign him the massive deal that it would have taken to convince him to wear purple and black. They signed a bunch of role-players to oversized contracts.

And that’s perfectly fine. Not signing a 33 year old Al Horford to a four year contract is smart for the Kings. Walking away because you’re not willing to pony up the four years +$100m for him is one of the smartest things the Kings have done in years. Signing the players they did to the contracts they got was also smart, even if you don’t love the players or figures. But let’s dive into said deals. We won’t use a grading system because that’s stupid, but we will prognosticate from our chairs or couches nonetheless. Because that’s way smarter.

Harrison Barnes: 4 years, $85 million

It’s an overpay. There’s no doubt about that. paying over $20 million a year for a guy who’s probably going to be a fourth offensive option and has never sniffed an all-star team is an overpay. However, it’s one of those OPs that I think are worth it based on the type of player Barnes is. He is a 3-and-D wing who can credibly guard multiple positions and is a career 37% three point shooter who knocks down his open shots. He’s also reputable as a veteran locker room guy who brings championship experience, both good (2015) and bad (2016). He’s only 27 and he already brings a wealth of NBA experiences to a young team he’s not going to an old fart to.

This is a guy teams like the Kings have to overpay. He fits with their young core as a low-usage shooter and defender who gives them versatility and can even post up the occasional mismatch to grab them an ugly bucket. The Kings weren’t getting a legit star at this position, so getting Barnes is a strong move, anyway. Even better? His contract is front-loaded. He’ll make only about $19 million in the final year of his contract, mitigating the cap hit when the Kings will also be paying Marvin Bagley, De’Aaron Fox, and Buddy Hield.

Dewayne Dedmon: 3 years, $41 million

Here are the two most important details regarding this signing: Dedmon is better than Willie Cauley-Stein as a shooter (he shot 38% on threes last year) and as a rebounder (28% defensive rebounding to WCS’s 23.7) and his third year is only partially guaranteed.

Dedmon also grades out better as a shot blocker than Cauley-Stein (career 3.9 to 2.8) and isn’t significantly older as a 29 year-old who has only been in the league since 2013. He also shouldn’t have any qualms about relinquishing a starting role to Harry Giles should Giles prove more capable than expected. Either way, Dedmon, barring injury or a catastrophic decline in production, should see plenty of time on the floor since his spacing ability helps with Fox and Bagley.

Trevor Ariza, 2 years, $25 million

This is likely more like a one year deal because, again, his final year is only partially guaranteed. The Kings prioritized future flexibility over dollars, so they overpaid guys to be able to get out of the contracts earlier.

As for the player, he outwardly did not care when he started the year in Phoenix. His production ticked back up when he got traded to the Wizards, but I’m not going to sit here and lie to you like I know how he played. He’s 34. He’s probably a little washed. But he’s also going to be a bench player soaking up twenty-something minutes a night at most.

Ariza has a reputation as a 3-and-D forward, but at this stage of his career, it will have to be seen to be further believed. Sanjesh Singh went into some detail on Ariza’s last season split between Phoenix and Washington. I recommend reading it to get a better sense of how Ariza will probably look in the 2019-2020 season.

Cory Joseph: 3 years, $37 million

I remember how Kings fans so eagerly threw themselves behind Yogi Ferrell last year. Golden 1 Center even had a “YOGI YOGI YOGI” chant going one game. But one year later, the Kings looked for a different backup point guard despite coveting Ferrell last summer. I don’t know what they want in a backup PG. Ferrell provides shooting and effort on defense. Joseph’s shooting splits last year were horrific for a point guard at 41/32/70. I’m genuinely not sure what they are looking for at this position.

Once again, the final year is a partial guarantee.

Richaun Holmes: 2 years, $10 million

The last piece of the Kings’ free agency puzzle and a nice player for big man depth, Holmes is a pure hustle and energy guy. He started his career in the dark depths of the Processing 76ers before going to the Phoenix Suns last year where he averaged 8.2 points per game 61% shooting. He shot the three on a very small rate in Philly and didn’t even attempt one last year, so I don’t know if it’ll come back.

In order to sign Holmes, the Kings had to grant Willie Cauley-Stein his wish and renounced his rights, making him an unrestricted free agent. Willie’s tenure in Sacramento is over. His lasting impact will be that he was drafted to play next to Demarcus Cousins and could never justify his self-belief that he was a star.

To me, this is a solid free-agency for a young team that needed to find low-maintenance players that would complement their emerging young stars. If Bagley and Fox are going to be these All-NBA cornerstones that the Kings think they can be, the team will need to keep those books relatively clean.

Those books will get large soon. Buddy Hield is up for an extension now. He will command at least $20 million per year. Fox is next year. Then Bagley. There is a chance that the Kings will allocate $80 million of cap space to three guys. That’s not a bad thing,. It can mean that they’ve got a championship core. But we’ve seen teams lock themselves into expensive, underwhelming cores before. Now is not the time to worry, but it will be nice if these guys can show that they’ll be a team worth considering as contenders soon enough.

Willie-Cauley Stein demands out of Sacramento

Willie Cauley-Stein says he wants out; Kings fans say “okay bye, bro.”

Usually, agents don’t want to be directly cited when they leak that their client is unhappy with his team. Usually, the reporter cites “sources” and we as readers have to read between the lines. But Willie Cauley-Stein’s agent apparently wanted no one to be confused and just said to the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson “yeah tell em I said that! FUCK EM.”

“I really think Willie needs a fresh start,” Roger Montgomery, Willie’s agent at Roc Nation Sports, told the Bee. “Based on how things have gone for him there in Sacramento, I just think it’s time for Willie to move on and we’d really like him to move on.”

“We’ve kind of hoped that things would change over the years and Willie would get a chance to expand his game, get a chance to get some consistency there in terms of the roster turnover and the coaching turnover and the things that have not been steady there,” Montgomery continued.

He’s not wrong that the Kings haven’t exactly been a stabilizing force for a young player. Willie has had two different coaches, tons of different teammates, and front office incompetence by the truck load. However, he is not a player who is limited by the system he’s in. It’s more the opposite; the majority of his offense comes from transition dunks. Him trying to create his own shot is often an adventure. He shot below 36% on shots between the restricted area and the three point line. The things he does well are easily replaceable

You watch Willie and you see a guy who looks genuinely timid of contact. He will keep his hands down as guards waltz to the rim. He never sets a real screen and it frequently leaves his point guard with a double team. His free throw shooting has regressed. These are all little things that add up to a greater sum that negatively affects the team.

There are good things about Cauley-Stein as a player. He can defend on the perimeter well for a guy his size. When he turns it on, he can put up 20 points and 12 rebounds and play strong defense. “Inconsistency” is the word you hear the most with regards to Cauley-Stein. And for good reason. So now that he has claimed that he just needs to spread his wings away from the restrictions of the Sacramento Kings organization, you wonder if he’s ever going to put it together. He can’t even understand why people are ok with him leaving.

Mike Conley traded to the Utah Jazz

Mike Conley trade has ramifications for a lot players and a lot of teams

Longtime Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley finally got traded. For Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, the 23rd pick in tonight’s draft, and a pick later down the line in 2022, after months of speculation and rumors, we can cross one of the best “available” point guards off the board. Conley’s move has major ramifications for the teams and players beyond him and the Jazz, respectively.

But first, the aforementioned Utah team. Conley will be a huge upgrade over Ricky Rubio for the simple fact that he can do *stuff* at both ends of the court. While he’s hailed as at least Rubio’s equal as a defender, he’s a vastly better offensive point guard and not just because he is a career 37% three point shooter who scored over 21 points per game last season. He’s also a sophisticated floor general who threatens defenses whether or not he has the ball. And while it was two seasons ago, he went toe-to-toe with Playoff Kawhi Leonard for 24.7 PPG and 7 assists per game on incredible shooting splits of 49/44/89.

Furthermore, Mike isn’t going to be carrying the entire offensive load. This is where he will show his value the most. Ever since it was revealed that the Jazz became “Donovan Mitchell and his very tall YMCA Friends” in the playoffs the season before last, I had been pining for him to get some serious offensive help. Mitchell was getting slandered as “comic-book nerd Monta Ellis” because of his inefficiency. But he’s still super young. Now, with a proven, veteran point guard, he is about to have his best season. Write it down.

Now, for the other teams and dudes this hits the most. Let’s list them:

  • Indiana
  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Milwaukee
  • Malcolm Brogdon

Indiana would have been a great fit for Conley to pair next to Oladipo, who’s recovering from injury. Malcolm Brogdon could have seen some action from Utah on his offer sheet. But the most important thing is this chain of reactions this will spawn. Now, a team and valuable player are off the market for a point guard. That gives slightly more leverage to Milwaukee and slightly less to Brogdon and Russell, who was on Utah’s list of “dudes who can shoot.”

Zach Lowe argues that this puts Utah in Finals contention. I don’t know if I agree considering injury risk to Conley and the strength of the West. But the conference is wide open now that Golden State is probably out of the picture as real title contenders. Also, Zach is way smarter than me at this. I’m just some shithead with a blog who only writes about the NBA to keep the sadness away. hahahaha

ha ha

*kill me*

In my latest edition of “sporadically posted NBA blogging”

I would like to start off by saying “Fuck WordPress’s block style bullshit.”

The Raptors are up 2-1 on the Warriors, who are down to Steph Curry and the Infirmary Patients. Durant is still out. Klay Thompson missed Game 3 and is coming back for game 4, but it’s in question how healthy he will be. Cousins is coming off a torn quad and looks like he can’t play two decent games in a row because of it. Iguodala is banged up. Their second-best shooter is Quinn Cook. Yet, it still doesn’t feel like the Raptors have this totally in the bag. Part of that is the fact that Kawhi also doesn’t look 100%. Part of it is that Kevin Durant can still come back. And the third part, which is most crucial to me, is that you have no idea if Toronto will have anyone else besides Kawhi step up on any given night.

Game 1: Siakam goes 14-17 for 32 points and Marc Gasol goes 6-10 for 20. The next game, Siakam goes 5-18 and Gasol plays Naked and Afraid for 31 minutes. Game 3, all starters have at least 17 points. Game 4 starts in about four hours. Take your bets on who shows up.

Toronto has been able to take advantage of the Warriors’ lack of shooting by essentially only guarding Curry with any zeal. They are constantly leaving shooters open and it has worked, with exception of that Iguodala shot at the end of Game 2. Everybody not named Steph Curry or Klay Thompson is shooting a combined 30% from three in the series. Klay will at least be another guy Toronto has to guard. But if he’s not totally healthy, they don’t have to worry as much about him as usual because his constant cutting and running will be mitigated by his injured hamstring.

I’m not even going to pretend to know what is going to happen. This series has been weird. I keep thinking Kawhi Leonard is having a bad series and then I look at the stats and he’s got 29/10/5. Kyle Lowry dove into the front row to track down a loose ball and one of the Warriors’ minority owners demonstrated that he should have all of his money stripped from him and pushed Lowry like the entitled prick he is. Lowry, to his credit, just went back to balling, unperturbed from the momentary distraction. The owner has been banned from all Warriors games for a year, but this is another example of why fans are too close to players at games.

The Free Agency Rumor Machine is Overloading

We’ve been hearing all year that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are destined for the New York Knicks. The Knicks, or the Kazoos as Zach Lowe calls them, even traded away young star (and possible rapist) Kristaps Porzingis in a salary dump to open up two max slots. Then, this happened:

ESPN story on Brooklyn’s daring trade of two first-round picks to clear double max-salary slots for free agency. Kyrie Irving is absolutely serious about the Nets, per sources. Free agency is on. https://t.co/ekY0NVhzN0— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2019


You have no idea how hard I would laugh if New York went through all of this and got bodied by a team in its own city. To add extra salt to the situation, it would be sweet revenge for a franchise that got swindled by Danny Ainge almost a decade ago. “Dealer Danny” would lose Kyrie Irving for nothing and his chances of Anthony Davis would basically go out the window. And if Durant followed…I’m sorry Knicks fans. But the Gods require your suffering.

However, this would definitely leave D’Angelo Russel, All-Star of the bombed out and depleted Eastern Conference, out in the cold. Personally, I think it could be good for him. Russell was a champion of “The Narrative” this year, leading a suddenly sparky Nets team into the playoffs and getting promptly waxed by the 76ers. Thing is, Russell wasn’t some amazing player this season. He was still not a good defender and only had a True Shooting Percentage of 53. So it’s not like he suddenly just got amazing. He was good. He was a much better version of himself.

There are other teams that can help him get even better and whom he can make more dangerous. The team that comes to the front of my mind is the Utah Jazz. They desperately need someone else to create some shots on that team because just rolling it to Donovan Mitchell gets them knocked out of the playoffs early every year. Mitchell and the rest of that Jazz defense can cover up Russell’s limitations, while he can give the offense spacing, shooting, and playmaking. He’d certainly make Rudy Gobert’s life even easier. Which reminds me, this could lead to Gobert getting even more dunks and layups, which would then lead to Jazz fans insisting even harder that he’s a top 10 player. And fuck Jazz fans.

I change my mind. D’Angelo, you should go to Indiana.

Kings fire Head Coach Dave Joerger

The Kings fired the head coach of the most successful season in 13 years. Are they KANGZING again or does Vlade Divac actually know what he’s doing?

The writing was on the wall.

For months, ever since the Yahoo report of discord between Assistant General Manager Brandon Williams and Joerger emerged, the tension was thick. Rumors would crop up here and there. We’d wonder if the minutes allotted to Marvin Bagley III one night were too little and were going to lead to Joerger getting fired. We analyzed every postgame scrum and looked for possible shots at the front office.

But when the Kings were 30-27 at the All-Star break, it seemed almost impossible that the coach would go.

And then the Kings would go 9-16 afterwards, with a handful of mind-boggling losses and fourth quarter collapses. Just last night, on the last game of the season, the Kings blew a 28 point lead to a Portland team that didn’t play it’s entire usual starting lineup. The Kings lost to a Pelicans team that sat Anthony Davis, Jrue Holliday, and Julius Randle a couple weeks prior to that.

There were other bad losses. Losses that maybe cost the team a playoff spot. Marvin Bagley III got hurt at a crucial point in the season and the Kings struggled without him. But even with him, there were games late in the season that this team lost and made you think “how the hell did that even happen?”

The advanced metrics at the halfway point of the season suggested the Kings were due to regress. They outperformed. They had a slightly negative point differential, after all. So them finishing 39-43 isn’t shocking. It’s normal. But the Kings can never be normal. So they didn’t just lose games to elite teams; they lost to garbage teams that weren’t trying to win.

That illustrates a young team learning, right?

Apparently General Manager Vlade Divac thinks it illustrates a team held back by its coach. “I determined,” Divac said in his press conference today, “that we need to move in a different direction in order to take us to the next level.”

The optics on this are horrendous: “of course the Kings fire the best head coach they’ve had since Rick Adelman. Of course they kill all their forward momentum. KANGZ GONNA KANGZ.”

Jason Jones’s article at The Athletic paint a picture of a coach who couldn’t communicate well to many of his players. Jones illustrates a portrait of a coach who didn’t believe in Harry Giles III,who might have still had Buddy Hield come off the bench behind Bogdan Bogdanovich if the Serbian wasn’t injured to start the year, and who repeatedly clashed with his bosses.

“The next level is we have a team that’s going to be a playoff team and down the road, a contender,” Divac continued. “We have to believe in them and give them a chance to take advantage of their work and talent.”

With Divac emphasizing belief in the young core, Joerger’s skepticism on Buddy and Bagley must have contributed to his dismissal. Divac, this time, seems to have a vision for the future and isn’t just grasping at straws.

Lakers embattled Head Coach Luke Walton, 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams, and Spurs assistant Ettore Messina are the main names thrown around as Vlade’s favorite candidates. Whether any of them will be upgrades won’t be known until the games start.

Maybe Divac does deserve some belief here. While I think Joerger should have been given another year, it’s at least comforting to know that there is still a vision in place that makes some sense. Divac still wants the Kings to run fast and focus on the core of De’Aaron Fox, Hield, Giles, and Bagley.

It’s not like Kings have a choice. Divac just inked a four year extension, so it’s clear that owner Vivek Ranadive believes in him. Kings fans don’t have a choice anyway, honestly. It’s not like we can run into Vivek’s penthouse with a list of demands.

We’ll just have to see if Vlade’s plan works. It might seem obvious, but all of this can only really be judged by the results.

NBA End of Season Recap

The end of the 2018-19 season is here. Let’s talk about it.

It’s over.

Another NBA season is in the books and it brought us everything we love about the game plus plenty of the shit we hate. Petty drama, shocking surprises, eye-popping stateliness, political intrigue, and of course great games. Now that it’s done, let’s go over some of the best, worst, and strangest aspects of the season.

LOLAKERS

I started writing this BEFORE Magic Johnson pulled a Danny Glover and said “I’m too old for this shit” on the last week of the season and peaced out before even telling his boss.

The Los Angeles Lakers, those eminent fail sons buoyed by a history the current owner of the franchise didn’t earn and a national media that desperately wants to have more April and May games in LA and New York, signed Lebron James in the offseason. I honestly thought Lebron plus Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and the right free agents would definitely be able to get them into the playoffs. Magic Johnson apparently thought any and all free agents would work and signed the exhumed corpse of Rajon Rondo, the head of the Space Cadets Javale McGee, and “we’re just never gonna talk about the time he threw a woman down the stairs” Lance Stephenson.

After Lebron got hurt in December, this shit went way sideways. Ingram slumped. The free agents revealed they weren’t actually that good. And Lonzo…man. When your point guard shoots 42% from the free throw line, I don’t care how good his defense is. That is horrid. Oh, and he got hurt again. He has played 99 games in his first two seasons due to a litany of lower leg injuries. I see a productive future for Zo in the league, but there’s a lot he has to figure out, both on and off the court. Speaking of which, Lonzo Ball fired his agent, dropped his family’s shoe company in favor of Nike, and is now ensnared in a sad family/business drama.

LOLEBRON

I kind of hate talking about the Lakers so much, but they were such a shitshow this year, on such a huge scale, they warrant further examination. And Lebron was part of the reason they were a problem. Despite the fact that he had another amazing offensive season (27.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 8.3 APG), it felt like he truly declined. Part of it was his defense: it was trash. Then, his fellow Klutch Sports client, Anthony Davis, tried and failed to force a trade to the Lakers that fell apart because the Pelicans looked at the players the Lakers offered and said “get the fuck outta here.”

I do have a perverse appreciation for what Lebron did this season, though. He showed he gives absolutely zero fucks about the Laker Brand. He half-assed his way through the season, tried to get all their young, promising players traded for a dude with one eyebrow, and laughed his way through it all. What a legend.

The Birth of Big Butler Energy

This happened before the season, but Jimmy Butler shitting all over the Wolves organization, DESERVEDLY I would say, became something of a motivational mantra. Whenever you feel too depressed to do anything, summon your inner Jimmy Butler. Walk into your office like the badass you are. Think how they can’t fucking sell popcorn without you or whatever you do. Just don’t, like, say it out loud and talk to Rachel Nichols about it.”

The Systematic Destruction of Defense and Inflation of Stats

I’ve always hated the oft-spoken belief that “there’s no defense in the NBA.” There is and there always has been. The people who say this are usually the people who prefer college basketball over the NBA because they really like watching lesser skilled players brick jumpers and dribble the ball off their foot during crunch time. They also really like it when athletes are treated like cattle, not the extremely valuable laborers they are.

HOWEVER! This year, the NBA tried to give them more ammo. Defense is so hard to play in the league these days, considering you have to guard a lot of ball handlers above the three point line now and damn near everyone who sees the court can bomb from three. There’s more space than ever and the league instituted new rules to more harshly penalize the more physical brand of defense that is supposed to hinder these pesky perimeter players. Illegal screens are still cool, though.

This has led to even more scoring this year; 111.2 points per game on average per team, up from 106. 3 from last year. More importantly, it has led to even more eye-popping offensive stats and a greater importance on the offensive game of superstars. The stats have become inflated to the point where they just don’t matter as much as they used to, even at these rates. For example, Russell Westbrook just averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive year and nobody gives a shit. James Harden might be the best, most impactful, player in basketball and his defense is…fine. It’s not great overall, though his post defense is, but being the best player in the game doesn’t mean being a dominant force on both ends. It’s kind of been that way for the past few years, but that was because we all knew Lebron was simply coasting on defense in the regular season and would turn it back on in the playoffs. Now, it’s a lot more imbalanced.

While there are still great defenders, even on the perimeter, the league might do well to try to tip the scales back towards defense a little bit. We don’t need to bring back mid-2000s era basketball, but a way to make guarding on the perimeter a little less impossible might do well for the competition.

Kings and KANGZ

So the Kings had their best season in years and, as of this writing, are expected to fire the head coach who helmed it all. There’s a lot to write about this team that I plan on expanding upon in a separate piece, but you can imagine fans’ consternation.

Denver’s depth guys can make them a Finals contender…but not while on the Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are a top 3 seed in the brutally tough Western Conference. Continuing a steady climb up the standings since the hiring of head coach Michael Malone in 2015, the Nuggets look ready to break through to the playoffs behind their super star Nikola Jokic. After Jokic is a bevy of young, solid players. But none of them, save for maybe Jamal Murray, look like the second star that makes a good team a championship contender. So while their significant amount of good, solid non-star players can get them through a long season and alleviate injury concerns, they’re not likely to push them into true contention.

At least, not while wearing Nuggets uniforms.

Giving up homegrown talent is never fun or easy for anyone involved. The front office and fans rightly become attached to “their guys.” There’s a pride involved in looking at someone and going “he’s with us.” Players value stability and organizations that help them become the best player they can be. But there is a way for Denver to make itself a true contender in the offseason. Nobody is really talking about them in these particular sweepstakes, but they absolutely have the talent. They just have to make a tough decision regarding on which core player to include in the trade and if it’s worth risking it for a one-year rental. Why would they consider it?

Well, can you imagine a team led by Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis?

YUP. I am on here advocating the Nuggets go all in and make a trade for the best current pre-agent on the market. Davis is one of the best defensive big men in the league, a 6’11” athletic superhuman who can guard anyone on the court. He’s the best lob threat in the league. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to force an entire defense to account for him.

He would fit perfectly next to Jokic.

Imagine a high screen and roll with Jokic handling the ball. Or Jokic setting the screen and popping. Imagine the high-low action with Davis screening open shooters on the wings, then diving towards the rim, all while Jokic calculates his next pass from the fourth dimension. Denver needs to make this happen.

I know all the risks. You trade a core piece of the puzzle for a guy who might only be there one year. Anthony Davis is signed to the same agency as Lebron James. But here are the facts on Denver’s side:

  • Jokic is only 23, with his best years ahead of him. Lebron, while still great, is 34 and has already missed more games due to an injury this year than he has his whole career.
  • Denver would be able to offer much more money on contracts.
  • Davis wouldn’t have to deal with four years of questions about being Lebron’s sidekick, which as a grown man and star in his own right, he might appreciate
  • It would piss off everybody who loves nothing more to fellate the Lakers and being petty is the league’s most important mandate

However,

  • LA>>>>>>Denver

It’s a big counterpoint. Being a star in Los Angeles yields a lot more potential dollars outside of contracts than being a star in Colorado.

But if Denver can do it without gutting their team, they should give it a shot. The question is with whom do they part? It’ll have to be some players with upside in a package that will beat a hesitant Boston or Lakers offer. I’m envisioning something like this:

http://www.espn.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yymd2xqh

Let me be clear: Boston and LA could outdo this if they want to. If Boston tosses in Jayson Tatum, it’s a moot point. And Denver will also have to send a first round pick, like a top 10 protected 2021 first round pick.

The reason I see New Orleans doing this is that they get three young players with significant upside and a serviceable center to take up those minutes vacated by Davis. It would transform their team from a top-heavy team with three complementary pieces to something resembling the Clippers; no star, but a lot of good players with a high floor. But if we’re being real, this next trade will be what New Orleans would ask for:

http://www.espn.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yyxsrlme

Denver should reject this trade and look for something in the middle. Giving up Harris would hurt if Davis left. Giving up Barton and Murray would cripple them.

A Davis to Denver trade probably won’t happen for those reasons, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Additionally, this all might be premature. This team might pop. Gary Harris and Jamal Murry might both blossom into stars. Harris is already a good two-way force. Jokic’s unselfish playmaking wizardry gives his teammates the room to flourish. He will help others lead the team in scoring and be proud of it. But the competition of the league has always required a true contender to have two super stars. The 2011 Mavericks are the exception because they had one Hall of Famer going thermonuclear and a team perfectly constructed around him also going off. A team built around Nikola Jokic is simultaneously handcuffed by his limitations and buoyed by his brilliance. The right fit doesn’t come available often.

Lebron’s Lakers Impact and the Kings KANGZing

Lebron_Melo

Unless you’re an out of state Laker or Warrior fan, I hope you make enough disposable income to get NBA League Pass. Because with the best and most popular NBA player in the league now joining the most storied franchise, you’re about to be inundated with even more Lakers games on national television than before.

According to data collected by Yaya Dubin, the Lakers had the fifth most amount of nationally televised games (ESPN, ABC, TNT, and NBA TV) in the league, trailing only the Warriors, Rockets, Cavs, and Thunder. Keep in mind, the Lakers hadn’t won more than 27 games since the 2012-13 season.  For a trash lottery team run by a family that’s basically enacting a low-rent sports version of Game of Thrones in their front office, that’s more than these perennial playoff teams: the Celtics, Spurs, Clippers, and Raptors. The Bucks had fewer than five, and they have the second best player in the Eastern Conference in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now that the LeBron James business has joined the Lakers, you can bet that there will be even more televised Lakers games. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had over 60 games on national tv, dwarfing the younger, rising teams like the Sixers, Celtics, Pacers, and Jazz, for example. In fact, they’ll dwarf every team’s numbers, even the Warriors. Hopefully the league will trojan horse those young fun teams into the national spotlight by showcasing their games against the Lakers. More people need to watch the majesty of Giannis, the workman’s grit of Oladipo, and the high-flyingness of Donovan Mitchell. By the way, expect every Lakers/Warriors game to be televised, no matter how much Golden State smokes them by.

Which will happen. LeBron is not flanked by Paul George, who signed a long-term contract with OKC, or by Kawhi Leonard (yet). He’s got…Javale McGee and Lance Stephenson as the other big free agents the Lakers signed. The second best player on that team is Brandon Ingram entering his third season. The NBA will subject you a 34 year old LeBron who plays no defense before May running the court with kids and morons.

Most teams are waiting for the 2019 offseason, which bodes ill for the Kings

Ever since the first weekend of free agency, this offseason has been boring. No big trades, no signings of immediate high impact, and a bunch of casualties of limited cap space. The market was always going to be a little limited for Demarcus Cousins, but nobody saw him signing with the Warriors for $5.3 million.

The cap spike of 2016 continues to fuck over teams and players. Instead of blaming Michele Roberts and the rest of the NBPA like we’ve been doing, we should probably blame these general managers for the insane contracts they gave out. As of now, only the Kings have significant cap space anymore. And that’s partially because of them forcing the Bulls to match a pricey contract for Zach Lavine. Speaking of Lavine, he had to pivot from “Sacramento wanted me more” when he signed their offer sheet to “I always wanted to be in Chicago” after the Bulls matched. It was an inelegant exercise in pre-emptive expressions of loyalty. He tried to make it sound like he just wanted to be wanted, instead of acknowledging that he was trying to get as much as he could have, which is not just his right but also his responsibility, coming off an ACL tear.

Next year is the year those 2016 contracts come off the books and cap space opens up for a lot more teams. Some of those teams, like the Pacers, will be one max-level player away from true contention. According to Spotrac, about 9 teams will have enough practical cap space to outright sign a max guy, depending on the guy’s years of service. That includes the Pacers, the Clippers, the Knicks, and the Lakers. The Kings are also there, but they lose all the leverage they have this year if there are other choices.

The Kings, for their part, still operate on a completely different level than anyone else. Not in a good way, either. They passed on Luka Doncic to avoid taking the ball out of De’aaron Fox’s hands, according to Vlade Divac. They then…offered Zach Lavine 4 years and $80 million. There are no rumors that they were even players in the kind of trade that Denver engaged the Nets in that offloaded two expiring contracts and a first-round pick to Brooklyn in exchange for basically cap space. The Kings will have more cap space than anyone besides Brooklyn next year unless Vlade Divac gets a wild hair up his ass and signs another washed ass veteran.

Quick aside: a lot of Kings fans only saw this as adding two more power forwards to a team overloaded with them and thus not worth the pick. To which I say: do you not know that a team like the Kings can waive players like this and still have the cap space next year anyway? Speaking of which, today the Kings traded away Garrett Temple, the team’s best defender and a stunning example of on- and off-court leadership, to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Deyonta Davis and two old friends: Ben McLemore and Cash Considerations.

THIS SMELLS LIKE MALOOFERY

Apparently, the cash is to give the Kings extra leeway to buy out the two bootsy-ass players they received, so the Kings basically traded Temple for yet another second round pick and freed up an extra $900,000 thousand in cap space for a team already below the salary floor.

Which begs the question: *extremely irritated George Carlin voice* WHYYYYYYYYYY? Did Temple want out? I can’t blame him. But there wasn’t another team aching for a strong 3-and-D guy on an expiring contract who could have given a better asset?

Kings shill du jour Grant Napear assures that the team has a plan, but do they really? If the plan was to wait for the free agency boom of 2019, why offer Zach Lavine a giant contract? Because he’s young? Wouldn’t he take the ball out of the hands of Fox (and Bogdan Bogdanovich and Buddy Hield who also should get the ball)? More importantly, does Vlade Divac understand that draft picks have immense value? Does he understand that the more teams with cap space, the less leverage the Kings have on the open market because they’re total ass and no one wants to play there?

Does anymore offseason chicanery await us?

The Kawhi Situation and the Clint Capela/Daryl Morey standoff have yet to be resolved, but other than that there isn’t much I can think of that has the potential for fireworks. But that’s the best part of this league; it’s always what you don’t expect that yields the funniest results.

Marvin Bagley has to be better than Luka Doncic

 

The Kings made their pick. They made a lot of their fans angry or despondent. Read Kings Twitter or Sactown Royalty message boards and you can glean that the fanbase is as low as it’s been in the Vivek era. Luka Doncic was the consensus smart pick among fans, pundits, and draft experts. Some had him has the best player in the draft due to his skillset, polish, and accomplishments at such a young age.

But the Kings decided on Marvin Bagley III. In the post-draft press conference, General Manager Vlade Divac defended the selection.

“Marvin for us is better fit, better player and great talent. So, it was an easy choice for us,” Divac said. Divac also believes that Bagley can play the 3, a position no one on the team is currently equipped to do, and that with Bagley the Kings “will play smart and fast.”

I have questions:

  • If it was an easy choice, why were there numerous reports they were considering Porter Jr. and Doncic?
  • Why would Bagley play the 3 when he never played it in college and is projected to be a power forward or center by, oh I don’t know, everyone else?
  • Does Dave Joeger know they’re going to play fast? The Kings had the lowest pace in the league last year. And that team had De’Aaron Fox!

If you want to give this team the benefit of the doubt, you go ahead. But I would ask you to use this little thing called your brain to wonder why they deserve it. It’s not like they have a sterling record, even in the draft. Even Fox, the best pick Vlade has made, doesn’t look like a surefire all-star. And according to Carmichael Dave, one of the reasons they passed on Doncic was because they didn’t want to take the ball out of Fox’s hands. First of all, Dave Joeger will make sure it comes out anyway when he calls for a dozen dump-offs to Zach Randolph’s embalmed corpse in the post. And secondly, what about Fox’s rookie season made you think that this guy should dominate the ball so much? I like Fox a lot, but you don’t pass on a talent like Doncic for Fox. Even then, you could have multiple high level playmakers on the court if they both pan out. The league demands that amount of playmaking anyway.

As for Bagley, he is a good prospect; he’s super athletic (like seriously, he apparently jumps like four times before other dudes get up for a second jump) and he has a high motor, according to the scouts. He averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in his lone season at Duke. I’m sure Dave Joeger had his input on this pick, considering his fetish for playing two big men at once, which runs contrary to pretty much every good team in the league. Bagley also contributed to a defense so porous, Duke had to switch up their scheme. A big who sucks at defense and only uses his dominant hand doesn’t scream “nba star” to me. But again, I’m just some asshole with a blog nobody reads. Doncic has his weaknesses, too.

But he has far more skills more translatable to the modern league and he was the favorite among pretty much everyone else, like I said. Bagley has to be better than him to justify this risk. He has a lot of work to do, not just because of his flaws but because of the team’s fucked up structure. They are still woefully short on wings, with Justin Jackson being the only guy with the size and length to play small forward. This team’s defense is going to likely be godawful for a while.

All this negativity being said, I’ll still root for the guy. It’d be a dick move to root against a 19 year-old who, by all accounts, is a high-character guy just trying to make his living. And if he turns out to be a baller, then I will gleefully admit I was wrong and adopt him as my child (Buddy Hield is the only competitor for that so far).

But if Doncic is everything we thought he’d be over the next couple years, and Bagley underperforms, then I will cry a river of tears for what could have been for my sweet Slovenian Son.

The Prophecy has been Shunned.

More Draft Notes

 

  • The Hawks traded down from 3 to 5 and grabbed an additional first round pick from Dallas, who picked Luka Doncic while the Hawks picked Trae Young. This isn’t a bad move for either team, to be honest. Atlanta gets the worse prospect, but an additional pick in a long rebuild.
    • I WISH THE KINGS FUCKING TRIED SOMETHING LIKE THAT, GODDAMNIT
  • Michael Porter Jr., the guy the Kings had at the top of their board until like a few days ago, slipped all the way to Denver at 14. Porter is a fine gamble for a team that’s already got most of its pieces and could use another stud scorer.
    • As a guy with chronic back pain himself, I hope it works out for MPJ, because I know it sucks but also because I might need surgery, too.
  • Vince Staples, who is the best fucking follow on Twitter by the way, killed the draft by threatening to kill his favorite team’s coach…and @’d him in the process
  • The real winner of the draft was Woj, who undercut ESPN’s demand for him to not spoil picks by spoiling picks in increasingly creative ways

The stove is on fire, the Kings are going to kill me, and Ed Werder is trippin

Over the past week, rumors have abounded that the Kings will pass on Luka Doncic, the most accomplished European prospect ever with the skillset tailor-made for the modern NBA, for one of the two following prospects: Marvin Bagley III, who plays defense like he’s a more athletic Jahlil Okafor (meaning NOT GOOD AT ALL) and Michael Porter Jr., who had to cancel a private workout showcase because of crippling back and hip pain that kept him in bed.

Before Porter Jr.’s back injury was revealed, he was reported as a potential No.1 pick due to his scoring prowess. Then, in his first game for Missouri, he pulled himself out, underwent back surgery, revealed that he hurt himself in 10th grade, and refused to give medical info to the NBA combine.

Luka Doncic led a team of grown-ass men in the second-best basketball league in the world to a championship and won MVP at 19.

Marvin Bagley III was part of a defensive team so bad, Coach K had to switch to a zone defense for the first time ever.

Luka Doncic is leading his team to a deep playoff run in a different league RIGHT NOW and put up 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers in his most recent game as of this writing, all in 25 minutes.

But Doncic didn’t workout against a chair or an empty gym, like Porter Jr. and Bagley did.

All of this leads me to believe the Kings are going to fuck this up. It sounds like they have already made the Porter pick, but they’re desperately seeking validation for it from medical pros to justify it. Jaren Jackson Jr. is the only non-Doncic pick I personally want, but he hasn’t even been linked to the team. Of course, I could be wrong and this could all be a smokescreen, or it could turn out that whatever pick they make, that isn’t Doncic, still turns out great. Problem is, based on the information we have now, with Bagley’s weaknesses and Porter Jr.’s trick back, seems like the Kings are just passing on the obvious choice.

The draft is only three days away and I am literally dying with anxiety about it (and other things) (and about the inexorable creep of Satan’s grasp).

Kawhi Gone

Kawhi Leonard is out and we have some solid information as to why but a whole of questions about as to where. Reportedly, the relationship has been frayed beyond all reconciliation. Pop throwing his group under the bus didn’t seem to sit well with Kawhi. Or with his group.

Who is actually pulling the strings here? Is it Kawhi Leonard? Is it this enigmatic Uncle who clearly has some weird power over him according to this ESPN piece? Kawhi never talks so we can’t really get it from his mouth, but it’s reasonable to believe that he didn’t actually want to be the Next Duncan, as he was so commonly christened, because he’s a different human being. Maybe all those jokes about him being a basketball robot that Gregg Popovich built in a lab didn’t sit well with him. Maybe he saw them handing out huge contracts to Pau Gasol while Chris Paul and Lebron James were each one summer away from free agency and thought they had lost their damn minds (my current favorite conspiracy theory).

My confusion comes from the reports about his preferred destination and reports about how he feels about money and fame. As it is every fucking year with the best name on the market, Kawhi is rumored to want to go the Lakers, that illustrious franchise that has no real operative difference from the Sacramento Kings, except for the fact that it is located in Los Angeles. But Kawhi also apparently doesn’t care about money as much as most, which is why he’s leaving $70 million on the table. But he, or his camp, were upset at the small deal he had with Jordan Brand. He also was last heard driving a ’97 chevrolet and using coupons (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/03/16/kawhi-leonard-drives-a-97-tahoe-and-hoards-coupons-for-free-wings/ ). This all paints a contradictory portrait of a man who prefers to remain low-key but also yearns for the league’s most illustrious franchise in a city of celebrities.

Or maybe he’s not the one leaking rumors to press and stonewalling the Spurs organization. Maybe money isn’t that much of a concern to him. We don’t know. I sure as hell don’t. But I do suspect that Kawhi has taken a backseat to the rest of this process, if only because going to the Lakers isn’t a basketball decision, it’s a business decision.

And did you read in that ESPN piece about all those businesses his Uncle has going on?

The offseason has begun and it is already burning our retinas.

 

Ed Werder wyd, bro?

Add ESPN’s Ed Werder to the list of “white dudes mad that white dudes don’t get enough love.” Eddie misinterpreted a tweet by Charlotte Wilder of SI when she advocated for people to apply for a job at her outlet “especially if you’re a woman trying to get into sports.” Werder, outing himself as a moron, took that as saying “So men need not apply?”

She didn’t say “IF YOU’RE A WOMAN,” she said “especially,” because sports journalism is a heavily male-dominated industry and sports fandom is full of toxic men and boys (and Britt McHenry’s stupid ass) and that maybe women need a little extra encouragement to get in on the game. But no, Eddy chose to get BIG MAD. She didn’t even exclude anyone with her language. Edwerd is a writer, right? He knows what words mean, doesn’t he?

Anyway, ICE and the HHS are intentionally splitting kids up at the border from their parents who just want them to have a better life in America as a matter of policy. This country isn’t Rome, it’s more like Nazi Germany. Tell your reps to cut this shit out if they have any fucking guts.

Good night and good luck.