With his defensive acumen, Tony Allen could be a cost-effective player the Kings could sign.
With the NBA Finals now over, free agency is right around the corner. That alone should provide some optimism for all teams, as they’ll have a chance to upgrade their squads.
This is also true for the Sacramento Kings, who are trying to start off their new regime with a bang.
However, it’s not just about adding players through free agency—it’s about adding the right players. Adding another variable to the equation is Sacramento’s cap situation, which isn’t exactly perfect.
The Kings will be anywhere from $5 million to $18 million under the cap, depending on whether they tender qualifying offers to their free agents. Sacramento also has two mid-level exceptions—the $2.5 million and the $5 million variety, plus veteran’s minimum contracts—but those options are dependent on the team’s cap situation entering free agency.
Regardless of exactly how much space they have to work with, this much is clear: The Kings need to improve their team by making some cost-effective moves.
Luckily for Sacramento, there are plenty of players out on the market who could fit that mold.
Jamaal Tinsley could be the perfect addition on the veteran’s minimum. Tinsley, now 35 years old, has been in the NBA for 10 seasons, and he’s been a productive player for much of that time.
In his early years, Tinsley was a starter, but he’s spent much of the past three seasons coming off the bench. Even in this more diminished role, he still made an impact on the game.
Tinsley would give the Kings a true facilitator, as he still averaged 8.6 assists per 36 minutes in his past three seasons. He could also help the Kings on the defensive end, providing the team an alternative to Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette, who have shown that defense is not their forte during their two seasons in the NBA.
Sacramento could probably get Anthony Morrow on the $5 million mid-level exception. It would be dependent on the Kings spending up the cap to get him, but given their salary situation, that’s entirely possible.
Morrow could really help the team by providing some offense and shooting off the bench. Because if there’s one thing he’s shown in his five seasons, it’s that he’s an excellent marksman.
Over his career, Morrow has hit 42.4 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s also been consistent as a starter or a reserve, averaging 15.8 points per 36 minutes.
He may not help much on the defensive end, but he’s versatile enough to play the 2 or 3 and can impact the game on the offensive end. Every team could use a player like that.
If Anthony Morrow helps on offense but doesn’t do much on defense, the exact opposite is true of Tony Allen. The guy can flat-out defend. Like with Morrow, Sacramento could probably net him with the $5 million mid-level exception.
Not only does Allen pass the eye test on defense, his impact also shows up on the stat sheet. His defensive rating of 101 is far superior to anyone currently on the Kings. According to 82games.com, Allen held opposing shooting guards to a PER of 11.8. Considering a PER of 15.0 is league average, it’s clear Allen is an excellent individual defender.
However, it’s not just individual defense, as his presence on the floor impacts the entire team’s defense. According to NBA.com/stats, last season with Memphis, the Grizzlies averaged a defensive rating of 94.3 when he was on the court. That number rose to 101.1 when he was on the bench.
Allen may not be flashy, but he provides the Kings with the elite perimeter defender they’re currently lacking. For that reason alone, he should be one of their main targets this offseason.
Because Chase Budinger dealt with injuries last season, the Kings could probably get him relatively cheap…maybe even below the $5 million exception. That, along with his skill set, makes him an enticing option.
Part of what makes Budinger so intriguing is his position: small forward. The 3 is Sacramento’s biggest weakness, and Budinger would provide an immediate upgrade.
He’s not a star, or a standout in any one particular skill, but he’s an excellent all-around player. His averages of 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists provide some value in multiple categories. He’s also a solid shooter, posting a career three-point percentage of .358.
On top of that, he also provides value on the defensive end, although, just like with his offense, he’s an adequate but not elite defender.
The Houston Rockets hold a team option for Carlos Delfino in 2013-14, but the team has already announced it's not picking up the option, making him an unrestricted free agent. Now available, he’d be a good grab for the Kings on the $2.5 million exception.
Delfino, like Budinger, is known for his solid all-around play. His averages of 8.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists are similar to Budinger’s. They also hold another thing in common, as Delfino is a solid marksman, posting a career three-point percentage of .365.
While Budinger provides more versatility on the offensive end, Delfino would be an upgrade over him on defense. His career defensive rating of 104 is superior to that of Budinger. According to 82games.com, he also held opposing shooting guards to a PER of 10.4 and opposing small forwards to a PER of 14.1.
Monta Ellis is the elephant in the room. Ever since Mike Malone was hired as head coach, speculation has been rampant that Ellis would join him in Sacramento. And with Monta recently deciding to opt out of his contract, it’s only grown.
In order to get Monta, the Kings would likely have to let all of their restricted free agents walk. He also wouldn’t come cheap, so the notion of signing him being cost effective might be a bit of a reach. That said, there’s no doubting that his acquisition would immensely help this team.
At 27 years old, Ellis is still in the prime of his career. He’s also proved to be a very durable player, with his main absence from the court coming in relation to his infamous mo-ped incident.
Scoring ability? Ellis has plenty of that, averaging 19.4 points per game during his career, including 19.2 points per game last season with Milwaukee.
While he’s not a lockdown defender, Ellis isn’t particularly bad. His defensive rating was a career-best 105 last season. He also held opposing shooting guards to a PER of 13.8 and point guards to a PER of 12.3, according to 82games.com.
He probably won’t come cheap, and solely swapping him with Tyreke Evans probably won’t put the Kings back in the playoffs. But Sacramento could use more effective players, so it could do worse than signing Ellis.
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