|Back in the lottery after a one year hiatus is the Sacramento
Kings. They have as their net GM:
I. Team Needs/History Last year was very disappointing for the Kings and their fans. After making the playoffs the season before, for the first time in roughly 10 years, expectations were high that the Kings were an up an coming team. But injuries and uninspired play left the Kings back out of the playoffs and questioning whether it's time to rebuild once again by trading their best player, Mitch Richmond. In addition to the poor season on the court, there was also talk of the team moving from Sacramento, if the owners didn't receive a loan to refinance the debt on Arco Arena. Luckily, that situation appears to be solved, and the front office can concentrate on trying to improve the team. The team's biggest needs are what they've always been: a point guard with some size, a big physical center, and more athleticism in general. It is difficult, at this point, to project what changes the Kings will make, because GM Geoff Petrie remains so tight-lipped. The team's 2nd best player, PF Brian Grant is a free-agent and needs to be re-signed. Beyond that, speculation has ranged from keeping the core of the team intact, with a few minor changes, to a complete re-structuring, involving dealing Richmond. If the Kings want to make major changes, they'll have to do it via trades, because they have little salary cap flexibility this season. II. Players A. Center Olden Polynice: Polynice is the best center the Kings have had since they've been in Sacramento, which says a lot about the state of this team. Polynice has definite flaws. He's moody and difficult in the lockeroom. And he gets out-muscled by big centers. Also, he's not much of a shot-blocker. But still, he gets you 12-13 points and 10 rebounds a night, which probably puts him in the middle of the pack of NBA centers. He also runs the floor very well on the break, when motivated. Kevin Salvadori: Salvadori, the former Carolina center, is definitely a project. He was carried on the King's injured list for much of the year. However, towards the end of the season he was activated, and showed something to the coaching staff. His offensive game is limited, but he did show willingness to bang, grab rebounds, and block shots. He'll probably stick with the team as a third center. Duane Causwell: He's a F/A and definitely won't be brought back. I'm not sure what he did to piss the team off, but about a month before the season ended, he was put on the injured list, and told to clean out his locker and don't come back. He can block shots, but do little else, but that's probably enough to catch on with another team. Synopsis: Polynice is a serviceable NBA center. The coaching staff doesn't always like his attitude and effort, but when he's motivated he can play very well. The fact is, the odds of getting a top 10 NBA center are slim, so Polynice will be brought back. Although, I think the team would love to add a bigger, more physical center to push Polynice, either through the draft (Cato, maybe Foyle if he's still around) or free-agency (I'd love for them to go after Chris Dudley, but they probably don't have the cap room). B. Power Forward Brian Grant: he's a F/A who needs to be re-signed. The Kings franchise started to turn around3 years ago when Grant and Smith were drafted. Grant is extremely athletic, intense and physical. He missed virtually the entire season with a shoulder injury, and is a huge reason why the King's missed the playoffs. He's good for about 15 points and 8 rebounds, but he also has the skills and potential to improve on that. Grant runs the floor well, has good hands and soft touch, but he needs to work on his low post moves, and passing out of double-teams. Also, he's very foul-prone. Michael Smith: the "Animal" is the heart and soul of the team. He's a tremendous rebounder and low-post defender. He plays very physical and throws his body into the stands for every loose ball. When pressed into starting duty because of Grant's injury, Smith grabbed 10 boards a game, but he's much better providing energy off the bench. On the downside, his offensive game is limited to dunks and put-backs and he's a wretched free-throw shooter. Corliss Williamson: see Small Forward. Synopsis: if Grant re-signs, the Kings young PF's remain a big stength of the team. If not, Smith can take over, but they'd need to look for low-post scoring elsewhere. C. Small Forward Corliss Williamson: a lot of people seem to be down on Corliss, after his rookie season was ruined by a back surgery. But this past season, Corliss slimmed-down, worked on his ball-handling and outside shot and switched to SF. After gaining the starting spot, later in the season, Corliss played extremely well, averaging over 16 ppg as a starter. He needs to continue working on his outside game, but there's very few SF's in the league that can stop him down low. He's a big piece of the team's future. Billy Owens: What can you say about Owens? He has tremendous all-around skills: he's a great passer and rebounder for a SF, and has a solid low-post game. On the other hand, he constantly sits out with supposed "injuries" and his play is inconsistent. One night he gets 25 pts and 12 boards, the next 5 pts and 3 boards. He is definitely on the trade block, but who'll take his contract? the rest: Lionel Simmons has never recovered from his various knee injuries. He's still a very smart player that can help the team off the bench, in spots. But his lack of athleticism hurts him. Kevin Gamble played well, providing scoring and 3 pt. shooting off the bench, and will likely be back. Synopsis: Corliss will probably be the starter and should continue to improve. Who knows what will happen with Owens? The Kings could use an athletic young swingman that can shoot the 3. That's why they took Stojakovich last year, but he's probably another year away from the NBA. D. Shooting Guard Mitch Richmond: The Rock is the franchise. Richmond probably had his best season last year, and has averaged over 21 ppg every year he's been in the league. He combines a powerful low-post game with a smooth outside jumper. Richmond also plays excellent physical defense, frustrating his opponents by keeping them away from the basket. Richmond expressed some anger over his contract (he's in the same boat as Kemp and Pippen), but under the new cba, it can't be re-done. There's been a lot of talk of him supposedly demanding to be traded, but Richmond's never gone public with any such demands, and he's too classy to walk-out on teammmates and fans like Kemp did. So bottom line is, if the Kings can deal him for a YOUNG player with star potential, they might. But odds are he'll be a King for the remainder of his contract at least. Synopsis: Richmond is an All-NBA player, but the Kings don't have much behind him. MAR plays some off-guard behind him, but the Kings really need a bigger PG if they want to play Rauf more extensively at the 2. Kings could use a young swingman, and might look for one in this draft. E. Point Guard Bobby Hurley: Hurley's career was reborn under new coach Eddie Jordan. He took over the starting job late in the season, and showed a great ability to run the team. Hurley's at his best pushing the team on the break, where he can display his great passing ability. But he's also very good at getting people the ball in the right spot in the half-court offense. However, his inconsistent shot is a problem, becasue teams sag off him, and clog up the passing lanes. Also, his size is a problem on defense against bigger pg's. Hurley likely will go into camp as the starter. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: Rauf showed flashes of his brilliance last year, but for much of the season, he seemed unwilling to aggressively look for his shot, and defered to Richmond a lot. Still, the Kings need his point production, whether off the bench or as a starter. He was much more comfortable later in the season. The Kings envision him as an instant-offense 6th man, backing up at both SG and PG. They'd like to get another PG with some size, so when Rauf plays the 2, their back-court isn't so tiny. Tyus Edney: Edney's a F/A who likely won't be brought back. He regressed last season from a good rookie year, and was burried behind Hurley at the end of the season. Edney's lack of a consistent outside shot hurts him, as well as his lack of size. Still, Edney is excellent on the break. He could have a long career as a sparkplug off the bench, ala Spud Webb, but he seemed to have an attitude about coming off the bench last year. The bottom line is, the Kings have to many small PG's, and Edney's the odd man out. III. My Selection Kelvin Cato, C, Iowa St. As discussed earlier, the Kings could really use a shot-blocking, physical center to come in and push/replace Polynice. Cato would fill the bill nicely, though I'd be surprised if he's still there when the Kings pick. IV. Others Considered Olivier Saint-Jean: The Kings could use a young athletic swingman to back up at both SF and SG. They also need more scoring punch. St.Jean would fill the bill nicely. I saw him play several times in college and he could be the most athletic player in the draft. Derrick Anderson: I considered him for much the same reasons as St.Jean. However, St. Jean's size ranks him slightly ahead of Anderson, IMO. Jacque Vaughn: the Kings need a PG, and he's the next best one left. But he doesn't really give them the 6'4" size they need. Danny Fortson: a lot of people compare him to Corliss, but Corliss was much more athletic in college. I can't see Fortson transitioning to SF the way Corliss is. Which means he'll be an undersized PF, and he doesn't have the leaping ability or skills of a Barkley or LJ, to be a great, undersized PF. V. Who the team will likely take At the eleventh pick, they no doubt will take the "best player available," which means they'll have to wait and see who goes before. They'd love one of the 2 big PG's (Billups or Daniels) but they'll both be gone. The big centers, including Cato will probably be gone as well. They probably won't take Fortson for the reasons described above. I think that Brevin Knight will still be available, but they'll likely pass on another tiny PG. They'd love to trade the pick for someone who can provide more immediate help, but if they can't, I think they'd likely be looking at a group of swingmen, including McGrady, Saint-Jean, and Anderson. Unless a big PG or C should fall in their lap. VI. Other moves It's difficult to speculate at this point. F/A's include: Grant, Edney, Causwell. Grant needs to be brought back; the other 2 probably won't be. Hurley and MAR have the option to become FA's and both said they won't exercize it. There have been Richmond trade rumors involving Duncan and Kemp, but San Antonio doesn't seem eager to trade Duncan and who knows what's going on with Kemp? The Kings couldn't restructure Kemp's deal anyway, so it's not worth the headache. I doubt Richmond will go anywhere. With Richmond and a healthy group of young, improving forwards, the Kings could be decent next year. As for other possible trades, they'd love to deal Owens and his bad attitude elsewhere, but I doubt there are any takers. Polynice couild be dealt, if they could find a better C elsewhere which is doubtful. As for possible FA signings, the Kings are capped out except for the $1m exemption. They'd love to bring in a physical backup C like Chris Dudley, but they probably don't have the cap space available to do it, unless they can get rid of Owens. So depending on what they draft, or trade their pick for, they could use that $1m on a pg with some size (maybe Eric Strickland or Eric Snow?) or a swingman (Hubert Davis is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.) Before the Kings do anything, including the draft, they need to decide what they're going to do about their 2 best players: Mitch Richmond and Brian Grant.
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