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Fall from Royalty, Part Two: The Decline of the Sacramento Kings

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Fall from Royalty, Part Two: The Decline of the Sacramento Kings

By the 2000-2001 season, Geoff Petrie had assembled a championship quality team from the ground up and turned water into wine in the Sacramento Valley. 

For the next four seasons, the Kings played in the Western Conference semi-finals or finals and won at least 55 games a year. 

What has King Geoff done lately?  How has the 2002-2003 team, which returned 11 players, evolved into the current roster following the Bibby deal?  In this three-part article, I will go through the major deals, ignoring the Rodney Bufords and Ronny Prices of the world.

Part one described five key moves throughout the 2005 deadline deal of Chris Webber.  Now on to part two...

 

Step 6: Draft Francisco Garcia (Summer 2005)

Following the Webber deal, the Kings went 16-12 the rest of the '04-'05 season but got blown away 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs by Ray Allen and the third-seeded Sonics.  The loss marked the end of a four-year streak of reaching the semi finals and was a signal that things needed to change.

The Kings' 50-win season left them with the 23rd pick in the draft. 

In a draft with a surprising number of solid late-first and second-round players—Monta Ellis, David Lee, Rony Turiaf, Andray Blatche, Jason Maxiell, Lou Williams, Linas Kleiza, Ryan Gomes, Luther Head—Garcia has taken his time in impacting his team's success.

Garcia wasn't a terrible 23rd overall pick because he can flat out shoot and has a pretty decent all-around game.  But man, wouldn't a guy like Ellis have been a nice change of pace for Bibby (especially considering Step 7 below)?

Petrie could have done better in the draft, but aside from Ellis and Lee it's not that obvious, so you have to give him some credit for finding decent value.

 

Step 7: Trade Bobby Jackson for Bonzi Wells (August 2005)

Given the years of beating, Petrie believed that it was time to sell high on BoJax, plus with Mobley leaving town, there was no one to start at the two. 

However, the fact that the Kings only had Bonzi for one season because his agent blew the opportunity for him to sign with the Kings was a huge fiasco.

I am on record as calling Bonzi a poor-man's Charles Barkley.  He brought attitude, rebounding (8 RPG, tied for team lead with Brad Miller), scoring (14 PPG), and a high FG percentage because of his ability to post up every SG in the league (46% FG).

The positives of Bonzi's year in Sacramento:

  1. Bonzi's injuries in '05-'06 allowed Kevin Martin to start 41 games.
  2. His playoff performance against the Spurs (23-12-61 FG%-63 3FG%) put the Kings a Brent Barry three in Game Two from putting the first-ranked Spurs in a 3-1 game hole.  How the Kings could not resign him after that effort and...
  3. His contribution to the run the Kings made with Artest (see more in Step 9), the Kings were 19-26 when he returned from injury a few days after Artest arrived and were 25-12 with Wells and Artest in the lineup.

As for Jackson?  He hasn't shot over 40 percent since he left Sacramento.  A steep fall for a guy who shot over 43 percent in each of his five years as a King.

Again, Petrie seems to have timed another player's demise.

Then Petrie offered Bonzi a reasonable extension to which Bonzi's agent said no.  Bonzi fired his agent for making incompetent decisions and for the fact that it cost him an opportunity to stay with the Kings.

So, in the end, it's not Petrie's fault that Bonzi didn't stick around to battle guys for the last two years.

Edge: Petrie.

 

Step 8: Sign Shareef Abdur-Rahim (August 2005)

A botched knee exam during the summer of 2005 cost the Blazers and Nets a deal that would have paid SAR $39 million for six seasons.  At the time he was 28, had career averages of 20 and eight and seemed like a huge bargain for the Kings at the mid-level exception for five seasons.

Well, given that the Nets wouldn't take him in exchange for a trade exception, one has to wonder.  But SAR played well in '05-'06 before starting a steep decline that has him buried on Reggie Theus' bench alongside his one-time rival Kenny Thomas. 

With $12.8 million to pay over the next two years and SAR "earning" $5.8 million this year while shooting 21percent (!!) from the field, this deal looks awful in hindsight.  

While the Maloofs pay out $13 million to Thomas and SAR, Theus gives most of his PF time to career journeyman Mikki Moore or goes with SFs Artest and Garcia in small-ball lineups.

 

Step 9: Trade Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest (January 2006)

With the once-mighty Kings holding onto an 18-24 record, Petrie and the Maloofs made a controversial deal to get Ron Artest from the Pacers.  Despite receiving huge criticism for dealing for the focus of "the Brawl" and a guy who seemed as interested in selling records as playing his trademark lock-down defense, this deal has been positive for the Kings.

Peja has moved on from Indiana for $12 million per, while Artest continues to do everything right (on the court at least).  Now, let's admit that Artest is not the greatest person in the world, but the guy is a "Tru Warier" on the basketball court.

Artest's arrival (coupled with the return of Bonzi) led the Kings to a 26-14 record in the second half of '05-'06 and got them to the playoffs. 

Artest started every game that season and played 40 minutes.  If he had played at all during the first half of the season for the Pacers and somehow erased the Palace memories, Artest would have been considered an MVP candidate for the absolute transformation he orchestrated that season.

As a King, Artest has played 39 MPG in 148 games and posted 19 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG, 2.1 SPG, 43% FG, and 34% 3FG%.

As a Pacer and Hornet, Peja has played 35 MPG in 102 games and posted 18 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 45% FG , and 44% 3FG%.

Is there even a question of who has made out better?  Well, how about this—Artest has made $22 million since '05-'06.  Peja has made $30 million and the Hornets are on the hook for $42 million after this season!

Here's another tidbit many have forgotten about Ron Ron. 

Artest was an All-Star, defensive player of the year, and third team All-NBA player in '03-'04. 

That means that he was among the 11-15 best players in the NBA as a 24-year old—he was BAD!  Then the Palace happened and he will be on discount from here on out. 

The Kings would be crazy to deal him as I've said a couple times over the last week and year.

If Artest stays with the Kings long-term, this deal is the best that Petrie has pulled off since Bibby for Williams.  Even if Artest leaves, this deal leaves absolutely no blemishes on Petrie's record.

 

Look for the third installment later this week.

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