When you’re a 28-win team, like the Sacramento Kings were in 2012-13, you simply need to add good players, regardless of position. Therefore, it shouldn’t have come as much surprise when they drafted shooting guard Ben McLemore at No. 7 and point guard Ray McCallum at No. 36.
The Kings simply needed better players, and they assessed that McLemore and McCallum were the two best options to improve their team when it was their turn to pick. However, bringing in the two additional guards to what already figured to be a crowded backcourt has only exacerbated the issue, and now the Kings are left to sort it all out.
As it currently stands, Sacramento has five guards under contract. But that doesn’t include Tyreke Evans, who may or may not come back after reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $44 million contract offer from the New Orleans Pelicans . Evans is a restricted free agent, meaning the Kings could match the offer and Evans would stay in Sacramento.
With or without Evans, having five guards under contract is a difficult situation to navigate. There simply wouldn’t be enough playing time to go around, so the Kings are in a situation where they must try and rework their roster.
If the Kings decide not to match the offer on Tyreke Evans, one option would be to complete a sign-and-trade; at least that way Sacramento would recoup some value in losing Evans. One possible target, pointed out by Sam Amick of USA Today, is Greivis Vasquez.
Vasquez, like Evans, is a guard. So while Vasquez would provide an upgrade over the point guards currently on the roster, acquiring him wouldn’t alleviate the crowded backcourt.
Another option would have been to let Evans leave for New Orleans, only to allocate that money elsewhere. It appeared as if the Kings were trying to do just that when they did a full-court press to sign free-agent small forward Andre Iguodala to a lucrative four-year deal.
But Iguodala didn’t accept the offer quickly enough to Sacramento’s liking, causing the team to pull it off the table.
So the Kings were left in the same situation as before: with too many guards already under contract, and an upcoming decision on whether to retain another one in Tyreke Evans.
While it ultimately remains to be seen as to what the Kings will decide on Evans, the speculation is that they’re unlikely to match the offer. Sacramento has until July 13 to make a final decision. And as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee points out, the team is not required to inform Evans of its decision beforehand.
If it were up to me, and the options were to match the four-year, $44 million offer or let Evans walk while getting nothing in return, I’d match the offer. I think the deal overvalues his worth, but I also think the Kings are a better team with Evans than they are without him.
However, I also think Sacramento needs to play Evans more at point guard, as it did during his rookie campaign, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards even if the team retains him.
But let’s assume for a second that the Kings do decide to match the offer, and Evans returns to the team. Under that scenario, the Kings would have five guards under contract, and here’s how I’d prefer they sort it out.
The Kings should have a starting backcourt of Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, with McLemore starting at the 2 and Evans starting at the 1. This doesn’t mean the Kings would have to run with this lineup for all 48 minutes of a game, but this alignment would put their two best guards in the backcourt at the same time.
It would displace Isaiah Thomas from the starting lineup, but in an ideal scenario, Thomas would be an excellent sixth man.
This would still leave Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and Ray McCallum to dig through. Since ideally the Kings wouldn’t have more than four or five guards, at least one of those players would have to be moved.
Of those three, McCallum would be the most attractive going forward for a couple different reasons. First, while McCallum is an asset worth having, he doesn’t hold the same value as Fredette and Thornton in a trade because he’s an unproven commodity. And second, with Evans not being a pure point guard, McCallum would give the team another option there.
With Tyreke Evans' flexibility, he could also play shooting guard and small forward, giving the Kings another option behind McLemore.
From there, the Kings could flip Fredette and Thornton for more help in the frontcourt and help fill a deficiency on the roster, or they could trade them for future draft considerations. Either way, the idea is clear space on the roster.
But if the Kings don’t decide to match the offer for Evans, a whole new scenario comes into play. In that situation, only five guards would be under contract.
Of those five, Sacramento would be best suited rolling with Thomas starting at the 1 and McLemore at the 2. Essentially, the Kings would still be left to decide who they want to keep between Fredette, McCallum and Thornton.
Of the three, McCallum would still be a necessity. First, for his lack of trade value, but secondly because he would provide the only backup capable of manning the point for long periods of time.
That still leaves Fredette and Thornton, and ideally the Kings would only keep one of them. Knowing who would bring more in a trade is difficult to assess.
Thornton is clearly a superior player to Fredette, but he’s also due $16 million-plus over the next two years, whereas Fredette is due $5 million-plus with his 2014-15 contract being a team option.
It would depend on who’s making the trade, but Fredette might be easier to move simply because Thornton’s contract could be a deal-breaker for some teams.
So the Kings could either deal Fredette for future draft considerations or for a player to help bolster the frontcourt. But again, the idea is to free up roster spots, so the trade would be as much about roster flexibility as it would be about what Sacramento got in return.
A third option would be to use the amnesty clause, which the Kings reportedly haven’t ruled out.
But in that situation, the team would be best off amnestying John Salmons, even though he’s not a guard, because he’s currently due the most money on the team and he’s not providing on-court value anywhere close to what he’s being paid.
All of those scenarios are obviously speculation on my part. Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen to sort out the backcourt.
The only things that seem to be certainties at this point are that the Kings are invested in the future of Ben McLemore as their shooting guard and there are too many players in the backcourt.
It’s certainly not the ideal situation to be in. But that’s what happens when you’re a 28-win team. You draft the best players available, position be damned, and sort the rest out later.
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