COMMENTARY | With a new owner, new GM, new coach, and essentially no entrenched nucleus of talent, the Sacramento Kings are a proverbial tabula rasa right now. There was no measurable improvement between last season and the year before (they won 34% of their games in 2012 and 33% in 2011). Thus, a case can be made that they should simply scrap the existing roster and begin anew. But how? Here are three not-so-easy roster moves that would reinvent the Sacramento Kings and establish a foundation that could return them to playoff level. These moves are based upon the radical notion that the Kings should fashion themselves into a defensive minded, team-centric squad.
Step 1. Trade DeMarcus Cousins to the Milwaukee Bucks for Larry Sanders and two first round picks. I'm sure this trade scenario induces a collective gasp among those who can't fathom trading a player who has the potential to become a dominant NBA center. There will always be those who are infatuated with Cousins' ability to churn out 20 point and 10 rebound performances. The problem is it's increasingly clear that DeMarcus Cousins is a cancer. He's entering his fourth season in the league with no sign of changing his ways, and it's becoming increasingly unlikely he'll ever change. What you see is what you get with Cousins, and you simply cannot make a player with his level of immaturity the cornerstone of your franchise.
It's best to jettison Cousins now while there are still a lot of other teams in the league who are infatuated with his potential for greatness. Milwaukee, a bubble team in the Eastern Conference, might feel tempted to make a bold move as they seek to break into the top tier of the league. Would they be willing to sacrifice their own young center, Larry Sanders, along with some additional assets, to land a top talent like Cousins if he agreed to a contract extension? Assorted fillers might be necessary to balance the trade under the CBA.
Sanders will never stuff the stat box like Cousins can, but he's a fantastic shot blocker and a strong defender who could anchor the Kings front court for the next eight years.
Step 2. Overpay for Jeff Teague. A lot of Kings fans seem to be hungry for a player like Andre Iguodala in free agency. They should take a step back and ask themselves why a player like Iguodala would have any interest in signing with Sacramento. Alone he's not enough to turn them into a contender, and by the time they built a successful core, Iguodala would be too far past his prime.
If the Kings are going to land any major player via free agency, they need to look for young, restricted free agents whose current team might hesitate to sign to a max or near-max deal. In essence, they're going to have to overpay for somebody. Jeff Teague is a player who fits this profile. He shows great promise but hasn't quite produced the body of work that would dictate a massive new contract. He might use a team like the Kings to up his price on the free agent market. If the Hawks blink, it's not unthinkable to see him in a Kings uniform next season. Like Sanders, he's a hard worker and solid defensive player.
Step 3. Draft Victor Oladipo, trading up if necessary. This may very well be the least realistic move of the bunch, given that Oladipo's draft stock has continued to rise and he is likely to be off the board when the Kings make the seventh selection of the 2013 NBA draft. But in a draft where many don't see a clear pecking order, it might be possible for the Kings to move up a few spots by trading a disposable asset (e.g. Marcus Thornton).
Oladipo was a phenomenal defender in college, and while his offensive game is a little rough around the edges, he has extraordinary potential. In this scenario, he's the centerpiece of the rebuilding effort that you hope emerges into a true all-star.
Alone, these three moves aren't going to turn the Sacramento Kings into championship contenders. But a core of Sanders, Teague, and Oladipo would give the Kings a tough, defensive minded team that could take them into the playoffs. Tyreke Evans, another solid defender, could be transitioned into a sixth man role if Teague and Oladipo comprised the starting backcourt.
This isn't a flashy set of moves, but as the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers clearly proved this past year, you don't win in the playoffs with a cadre of stat stuffers and me-first players. You win with defense, grit, and a willingness to work as a cohesive unit. Sanders, Teague, and Oladipo fit the mold of what's working in the NBA today.
Doug Brockwell is a lifelong follower of NBA basketball who grew up cheering for the Denver Nuggets . After relocating to Northern California in 2008, he began to follow the Sacramento Kings , who remind him of the endearingly hapless Nuggets squads of the '90s that he endured as a kid.
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