Even during a lackluster 4-9 start to the 2013-14 campaign, the Sacramento Kings have given their fans something to cheer about.
Well, two things, since Sleep Train Arena did set the world record for the loudest sound produced in an indoor arena. But that's not the topic of conversation here, as the trade that sent Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Derrick Williams is now the center of attention.
By acquiring Williams, the Kings are finally getting on the right track. This is a young forward who drew the following praise from Sacramento general manager Pete D'Alessandro, according to the Associated Press via ESPN,
We're excited to acquire a player with Derrick's skill set. He will add size, length and serve as a scoring threat in our frontcourt. We also want to thank Luc for his contributions during the short time he was a King. We wish him the best.
But the more relevant quote actually comes from the GM of the 'Wolves. Flip Saunders described the former No. 2 draft pick by saying, "Derrick's still young and still has that potential. Unfortunately, many times for that potential to be able to marinate and develop, sometimes they have to get extended minutes."
And that's why Williams was acquired by the Kings. He has "that potential."
The Typical Path of New Ownership
There's often a win-now mentality when new ownership takes over an NBA franchise, even if it comes at the expense of future flexibility and long-term benefits. The men and women in charge wish to imbue their fanbase with positive feelings and the understanding that those in the front office are committed to winning.
Maybe they go out and trade for a quality veteran. Maybe they make a few free-agent signings that cost a lot of money.
Whatever they do, the ultimate goal is to win right then and there. Patience isn't part of the vocabulary, as management almost assumes that it can't be a word the fanbase is familiar with.
Take the Brooklyn Nets, for example.
Mikhail Prokhorov, the infamous Russian billionaire who cares not for the rules of the CBA, made moves like firing Lawrence Frank when he originally acquired the New Jersey Nets, but let's gloss over that. Instead, focus on what's happened since the team moved to Brooklyn, as that's a similarly big move that requires winning over a new fanbase.
The team immediately traded for Joe Johnson, giving up plenty of players, expiring contracts and draft picks in the process. This offseason, the mega-trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was completed, and the entire franchise's future was mortgaged thanks to the humongous salaries on the roster.
It's just one example of the win-now mentality after a change, but it's by no means the only one.
How about Tom Benson and the New Orleans Pelicans?
Although it helps to have someone like Anthony Davis on your side (see B/R's Josh Martin on that below), Benson has created by the bayou a similarly present-focused mentality ever since acquiring the franchise in April of 2012.
His first move was to trade Gustavo Ayon (an unknown commodity) for Ryan Anderson (a known one). That mindset didn't change during the past offseason, when Benson's franchise decided to ship off Nerlens Noel and a pick in the stacked 2014 NBA draft for Jrue Holiday, then bring aboard Tyreke Evans via a sign-and-trade deal.
It was all about winning now.
But that's not what's happening in Sac-Town, and it's a positive change.
Trading Surety for Potential
In a vacuum, which of these two players would you rather have based on the per-game stats?
It's not even close. Player B is clearly superior, especially when I tell you that he's one of the better wing defenders in the league and Player A...is not.
But let's add in a little more information:
- Player A is 22 years old. He was a No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA draft and is still oozing with potential, even if he hasn't been used in the right system up to this point of his career.
- Player B is 27 years old. While he's still in his athletic prime, the former second-round pick has just about maxed out his basketball value. He's never going to be much more than a defensive stopper who makes the occasional offensive contribution.
Well now it's not so easy to figure out which player you'd rather have on the roster. Except it was for the Kings.
Given the context and overall topic of the article, you've probably figured out which player is which. But just in case you haven't, Player A is Derrick Williams and Player B is Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Knowing that they had no need for a defensive stopper with limited potential, the Kings pulled the trigger on a deal and acquired a high-upside guy with star potential. And that's what it should be all about right now.
Fans, believe it or not, can be smart.
And it sucks. Trust me. As a Hawks fan, I'm well aware of this.
The Kings' strategy needs to center around acquiring star power, even if it comes at the expense of the hordes of mediocre role players they've stockpiled over the years.
DeMarcus Cousins is clearly going to be a star, and he's already been locked up. Ben McLemore has similar potential, and the Kings have undeniable control over the early portion of his career. But beyond that—and you could make an unconvincing argument for Isaiah Thomas—there isn't much to write home about on the roster.
That changes now, even if Williams never amounted to much other than a draft bust for the Timberwolves.
Good Future Outlook?
All of a sudden, the future in Sacramento got a little bit brighter.
While it was far-fetched to see a lineup featuring LRMBAM take over the league, its not so difficult to look at this potential starting five in a positive light.
Down the road, the Kings could be featuring a first unit composed of Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, a standout small forward acquired in the draft (think Jabari Parker/Andrew Wiggins level), Derrick Williams and DeMarcus Cousins. That may not be a competitive lineup right now, but down the road?
Well, that's an entirely different story.
On top of that, the Kings now have $46.9 million committed for the 2014-15 season, according to Spotrac.com, and that's assuming management picks up the non-guaranteed salaries of Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Thomas.
While they don't have room for a max deal, that's still enough space to add another quality player or two if the money is spent wisely.
This franchise has potential for the future, and it's clear that everyone involved is now acting accordingly. Things haven't looked good in Sac-Town for a while, but that's quickly changing.
Something tells me that Pete D'Alessandro's name is going to be on the lips of quite a few Kings fans when they list what they're thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner. He's actually turning this beleaguered organization around.
With a playoff drought dating back to the 2005-06 season, when Mike Bibby and Co. were knocked out in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs, even hope is a positive.
And to think that it would come in the form of Derrick Williams...