As you can tell by the title, decisions are often complicated and are not necessarily just about one thing. The draft is a great example of one thing. You can tell a fan's priority by the argument they make. For instance, the argument about Trey Burke is that he's a solid pass first PG with star "potential."
The Kings were 10th in total points scored, 19th in FG%, 25th in assists, 12th in 3pt%, 13th in Offensive Rebounds, and 15th in Turnovers. Scary stuff this. Especially the assist total.
Let's look at some "other" things. Pre All-Star break, the Kings averaged 19.7 assists a night. Post All-Star break, the Kings averaged 23 assists. And while 28 games is not a large enough sample size to conclusively determine anything let alone whether you should draft a Trey Burke or, say, a Gorgui Dieng type, it does beg to question that if the Kings can't pass the ball, how on earth did they average better than 3 assists a game over a 28 game stretch as opposed to the previous 54 games? The Kings also scored nearly 10 more points a contest than they had pre All-Star break.
The things that make you go hmm.
In otherwords, the Kings offense had it kept up over the course of the season were probably a top 10 offense last season if you judge them solely by the post All-Star break numbers.
Oh, but the NBA.com/stats tool can do just that for us! Here is what I ran for the whole post All-Star break. The Kings were 2nd in points per game over that stretch. The Kings were 13th per game in assists. The Kings were 6th in 3pt% during that percentage on the 4th highest of average per game attempts in the entire NBA The FG% was 10th in the NBA during that time. The Kings had the 8th best amount of per game turnovers in that time frame.
Umm. Alrighty then. Doesn't sound too god-awful to me. But what do I know? It's just amazing how much of a correlation there is between hitting jump shots and getting assists. (Hint: It makes assist totals really rise.) Now, I've been on record for many, many years that assists are arguably the worst stat in all of professional sports.
So just understand that. Look at this and the top 7 guys in minutes (Salmons, Evans, Thomas, Cousins, Thornton, Thompson and Patterson) and an interesting pattern emerges. One is that the Kings have good 3pt shooters. Two is that most of the rotation, minus Cousins, is not turnover prone. Three, assists are generally shared and not hogged by one player.
But this is my here problem: The Kings interior defense is pathetic. Absolutely ridiculously pathetic. There are lots of reasons for that really. One is that there is no real anchor of the defense on the interior. That's the biggest reason really the Kings have been so terrible on defense.
Which is the biggest reason I'm not really for drafting Trey Burke. I do not see penetration being the Kings biggest defensive problem, I see having no backline defender the Kings can rely on as the biggest issue. That isn't what DeMarcus Cousins does. Jason Thompson is a good defender, but is not a backstop defensive anchor. Chuck Hayes can be part of a great defense, but needs much more help than he currently gets. Cole Aldrich could be that guy in time, but I'm not sure new management would feel the same way.
On one hand, the 7th overall pick is an asset you can't afford to waste. Neither are potential trades or Free Agency (even though the cap space many are saying the Kings have is of course not as true as they believe either) for that matter. They are all routes you should use to improve your team, and thus need to pursue them.
Which is one thing I definitely agree with James Ham on that he said on the CK podcast about the prolonged GM search at this point: Every day wasted is every day lost, and time is of the essence. This team and fanbase really can't afford any delay's. Although, in fairness, it's not like Vivek Ranadive and the ownership group had a whole lot of time to do this beforehand.
Now having said that, I think interior defense is something the Kings need to decide on. Let's look at the roster as it is likely to be next season.
|Point Guards||Isaiah Thomas (starter)||Toney Douglas (FA)|
|Shooting Guards||Tyreke Evans (RFA) (starter)||Marcus Thornton||Jimmer Fredette|
|Small Forwards||John Salmons (starter)||James Johnson (FA)||Travis Outlaw|
|Power Forwards||Jason Thompson (starter)||Patrick Patterson|
|Center||DeMarcus Cousins (starter)||Cole Aldrich (FA)|
|Additional assets||7th pick 2013 Draft||36th pick 2013 Draft|
|RFA = Restricted Free Agent FA= Free Agent|
|Projected Cap Space: Unknown at this time due to not knowing what the ultimate salary cap will be|
That's the list kiddies. That's your assets with Free Agents to be included. Obviously, Small Forward is a major hole, and likely will be in the coming year, too. Unless the Kings make some moves (which is of course possible), the 7th pick does not project necessarily to help the Kings much if they select Trey Burke as mock drafts such as Chad Ford and Jonathan Givony are predicting right now.
As I've said before, we shall see what will happen with the team in trades and Free Agency. But first up should be trying to get a shot blocker, interior defensive player and rebounder to help the Kings porous defensive side of the ball. I don't think getting a smart PG to cut off penetration is going to help the Kings all that much. It's really not the biggest issue the Kings have. Even if you get a great on the ball defensive guy, you still need a backline guy to keep easy shots from being had at the rim.
Nobody on this Kings team does that other than Cole Aldrich, and while I can see Aldrich sticking around, I can also see him not sticking around, too.
So in otherwords, that's why I keep stumping for Gorgui Dieng here and elsewhere. If you are insisting on using Cousins as a building block, you're going to need an interior defensive big man to compliment Cousins if you want to have anything approaching a quality NBA defense. Without that component, and Cousins won't be able to give it to you despite whatever rosy projections are made of him by the franchise, coaching staff, media or fans, the Kings defense has no chance. Penetration or no. (It's a fair point for whatever it's worth, but the biggest problem is easy shots at the rim itself. That's not just penetration as an issue, and it didn't keep Cole Aldrich from doing that a lot more often than Cousins did. He played with the same G's that Cousins did.)
My biggest preference would be to hope that a team like Utah falls in love with Trey Burke, and is willing to trade the 14th and 21st picks to get him at the 7th pick. (Assuming Burke is there.) Or another G they really like that they know won't be available at the 14th pick for instance.
If that's the case, you can use the 14th pick to nab Dieng (assuming he's still there, and that seems likely at least at this point) and the 21st pick to nab a SF (and there's multiple guys who have caught my eye) starting with Glen Rice Jr, Giannis Adetokunbo, Dario Saric, Reggie Bullock, Tony Snell, Livio Jean-Charles among others.
What might even be better is if you were able to the 21st pick on someone you know you can lock up for 4 years, and the 2nd round pick on an international guy that might be suited to come over in a year or two at worst in a Livio Jean-Charles for instance.
A new feature at Draft Express has position by position ranking, and one of the thing that this draft definitely has is a lot o depth at the SF spot. If nothing else, that could mean drafting a player at 36 who is a SF is a strong possibility. (Dieng is 3rd on Givony's list of best C's. Alex Len is #1 so there is that.)
Either way, at this point, so much is fluid with the draft still several weeks away and there isn't even a new GM for the Kings at this point. While things are starting to solidify on the coaching front (Chris Jent, Roy Rogers and Malone's father Brendan Malone are all part of the coaching staff with some hires still expected), the other part is just to see where we go from here with this roster, and everything else.
If you are going to build around DeMarcus Cousins, you are going to definitely going to need a defensive anchor. If you are retaining Tyreke Evans, or not, his cap hold becomes an interesting question along with his salary.
Like most things with the Kings these days, everything is in a state of flux. By the end of July, however, we should have a good idea what the roster will look like for the upcoming season, and that is a comforting feeling in of itself given all that has transpired to date in just this calender year alone.
Until next time then.