Chase Budinger could be a good option for the Kings.
With the NBA playoffs continuously plodding along, free agency will soon be upon us. That means teams that didn’t make postseason play, like the Sacramento Kings, should be using this time to evaluate the free-agent market. This way, when free agency starts, they’ll already be ahead of the game.
Sacramento is one of those teams that could clearly upgrade its squad this summer. However, it will also come down to some prudent decisions that help the franchise in the short term but don’t limit its options in the long term. After all, minus something drastic and unforeseen happening, the Kings won’t have a squad capable of qualifying for the playoffs next season. Therefore, they don’t want to hinder their chances in future years.
Making the situation even murkier for Sacramento is its lack of cap space. What exactly can be accomplished is unknown, but the Kings can look at themselves as a cautionary tale of what happens when your decisions don’t pan out.
So while the team needs to add players, it also needs to make sure it’s adding the right players...and to the right contracts.
(Note: When compiling this list, I considered a couple of different factors. First off, I considered the Kings’ cap situation and juxtaposed it with how much money a player figures to command on the open market. So you won’t find max players like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul on this list. To a smaller degree, I also weighed a player's wishes. For example, Sacramento might be able to afford established veterans like Chauncey Billups, Antawn Jamison or Chris Andersen based on the contracts they most recently signed, but those players will want to play for a team that gives them a chance to win a title.)
All contract info and free-agency status comes via Hoopsworld.com.
The Kings already have two young point guards under contract next season in Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette. Both players are making strides, but neither of them is entrenched as the team's point guard of the future.
However, they’re capable enough of manning the position, at least from an offensive standpoint, that Sacramento doesn't need to make a starting-caliber point guard its No. 1 priority.
Yet both Fredette and Thomas leave a lot to be desired on defense.
They’re both well below-average defenders, and that’s not likely to drastically improve—even with more experience. For that reason, whoever the Kings sign at point guard should have the ability to play solid defense; it’s something they wouldn’t get otherwise.
The best fit on the market figures to be Jamaal Tinsley.
For one, the veteran only commanded $1.35 million last season, meaning he should be affordable for the Kings. He would also provide Sacramento the best of both worlds: solid defense and a capable floor general.
Tinsley averages 8.3 assists per 36 minutes. That’s a solid upgrade over what Thomas (5.5 assists) and Fredette (3.4 assists) post. Tinsley also has a career defensive rating of 104. That’s clearly better than the 115 that both Fredette and Thomas put up last season.
It all could be a moot point if Sacramento retains Toney Douglas, who is a restricted free agent. But since we don't know what will happen on that front, Tinsley is it.
The Pick: Jamaal Tinsley
Shooting guard was the easiest position to pinpoint. That’s because the Kings should focus on retaining their own free-agent shooting guard: Tyreke Evans. As a restricted free agent, Sacramento has the option of matching any offer he receives. And while Tyreke is sure to draw some interest on the market, he likely won’t get anything that puts him out of the Kings’ reach.
Retaining Evans should be Sacramento’s No. 1 priority in free agency, regardless of position. He’s still young (23), and he showed last season that he’s still improving as a player.
The Pick: Tyreke Evans
With John Salmons still under contract for $7.58 million in 2013-14, the Kings are kind of limited in their options at small forward.
Granted, the team could sign someone and have Salmons come off the bench, but he’s in the last year of his deal, so it might be better served just signing a solid player and waiting until 2014-15 to find a long-term solution at small forward.
Salmons, like Thomas and Fredette, did not do much on the defensive end. Therefore, bringing in a player who can provide on defense should be a priority.
Remember, the Kings tried to do that last season with James Johnson, except Johnson was so bad on offense that they couldn’t overcome his defense. So providing a player who can help on both sides of the ball will be key.
One such option is Chase Budinger.
Budinger was hurt much of last season and only played in 23 games. However, he’s got a track record of solid overall health and play. Furthermore, he’s solid on both offense and defense. His career PER of 14.2 puts him as an average offensive player. Budinger’s 109 career defensive rating is also a clear upgrade over the 114 Salmons averaged the last two seasons.
Another player worth considering is Carlos Delfino.
Delfino’s still under contract with Houston, but it isn’t guaranteed for 2013-14. If the Rockets let him go, the Kings could swoop in and sign him. Delfino provides more defense than Budinger (career defensive rating of 104); Budinger brings more on offense (only 12.6 career PER for Delfino).
At 24 years old, Budinger is considerably younger than Delfino (30), making him a better option for the Kings. Yet Sacramento really couldn’t go wrong with either one.
The Pick: Chase Budinger
It would seem that Patrick Patterson or Jason Thompson could assume the role of starting power forward next season. However, Patterson is a restricted free agent following 2013-14, so it may not hurt to look at some options to caddy with Thompson for the future.
One player who looks like he could be a steal is Al-Farouq Aminu from the New Orleans Pelicans. The former top-10 pick didn’t live up to his draft stock initially, but he’s been coming on in recent years.
In fact, Aminu has seen increases in his field-goal percentage, PER, offensive rating, total rebound percentage, block percentage, total win shares and win shares per 48 minutes every year he’s been in the league.
With averages of only 9.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2012-13, Aminu still has a ways to go to be an above-average starter in the NBA. But given his improvements every year and his youth (22), he could be a player worth signing in hopes that he continues to develop.
The Pick: Al-Farouq Aminu
The Kings are seemingly set at center with DeMarcus Cousins. Because of that, any center the team signs will likely be a role player. When looking at what roles Sacramento could use help at in the frontcourt, it’s clear the franchise could use a center with some defensive acumen.
One player who fits that bill is Timofey Mozgov.
The 7-footer certainly has plenty of ability on defense, even if his offensive game is still raw. Mozgov averages 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes, showing he has the ability to affect shots. He’s also seen his total rebound percentage climb every year he’s been in the league.
However, it’s worth noting that Mozgov is only a restricted free agent. Therefore, the Denver Nuggets could retain him by matching any offer he receives. In that case, having a backup plan wouldn’t hurt.
The one player who could fit as a backup plan is Cole Aldrich.
I know Aldrich doesn’t fill up a stat sheet like some other centers, but that’s not what the Kings need. With Cousins getting the lion’s share of the minutes, they just need someone who can do the little things.
As Aldrich showed during his time in Sacramento last season, that’s something he’s more than capable of doing.
He gave the Kings a productive bench player capable of spelling DMC. The team also played inexplicably well when he was on the court, as I outlined in a previous article. Aldrich would also come relatively cheap, providing the franchise some flexibility going forward.
The Pick: Timofey Mozgov
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