Report Card Grades for Sacramento Kings' 2014 Offseason so Far
The Sacramento Kings have been busy this offseason. The team has added a new starting point guard, lost last year's floor general and added an exciting player in the draft.
As with all offseason moves, we'll have to see the pieces on the court to get a definitive answer of how they'll all fit together. That said, it's never too early to look at the moves a team has made and make an evaluation of how each one will pan out.
We'll be grading each of the Kings' noteworthy offseason moves, factoring in whether it's an upgrade over what was previously there, or how the contract should play out if it's a free-agent signing. In the case of trades, although there's really only one, we'll weigh the team's return in comparison to what it gave up. Then at the end, a cumulative grade for the offseason will be handed out.
Of course, keep in mind more moves may be on the horizon. There will be plenty of time to analyze those additions if they come to fruition. For now, let's grade the moves the Kings have made and how they'll work out.
Drafting Nik Stauskas with the 8th Pick
The Kings owned one pick in the draft—the eighth pick—and used it to select shooting guard Nik Stauskas from the University of Michigan.
There are a couple factors to consider when evaluating the Stauskas pick. The first part is whether he'll be a good pick. Of course, it's hard to say without any NBA regular-season action to go off. What we do have at our disposal are summer league stats.
Stauskas had a pretty strong showing in the Las Vegas Summer League. The rookie was known for his shooting ability coming out of Michigan, and he certainly didn't disappoint in Vegas, making 47.8 percent of his three-pointers. Considering the Kings only made 33 percent of their threes last season, it'd be a huge upgrade if Stauskas can post a similar percentage in the regular season.
He also got some work at point guard and did a solid job, dishing out 2.0 assists in 28.9 minutes of action. Being a floor general will never be Stauskas' bread and butter, but it'd be helpful if he can man the point for stretches of time.
One other factor to consider with the selection is the Kings selected another shooting guard, Ben McLemore, just last year. It's questionable whether the team should have gone for the same position in back-to-back years. The hope is the two of them can develop without being detrimental to each other.
An encouraging sign in this regard is that they both played the summer league together and both started in the same backcourt.
Ultimately, though, Stauskas' grade should be dependent on what he does. Whether the Kings drafted a shooting guard last year isn't his concern. He just needs to perform, and assuming he does that, the pick will be a good one.
At this juncture, we don't know what Stauskas can provide in his overall game. But his strengths as a shooter are encouraging enough to make the decision to draft him look justified.
Adding Tyrone Corbin to the Coaching Staff
Kings head coach Michael Malone is now entering his second season at the helm in Sacramento. But this time around he's added a lead assistant in Tyrone Corbin, who has experience as an NBA head coach.
Malone figured to have an experienced coach on his staff last season with his father Brendan Malone. However, the senior Malone resigned just prior to the season, leaving his son without an experienced coach to draw on. The addition of Corbin should provide that outlet.
Corbin has three-and-a-half years of NBA head coaching experience from his time with the Utah Jazz. According to him, that's one of the things he can help provide to the organization, as he told Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.
“(I bring) my experience, learning where I fit in, trying to see where I can add and change,” Corbin said. “Just trying to help this organization grow and be as good as it can be.”
It's hard to imagine the move not working out well for Malone and the Kings. Corbin has the experience Malone can draw on, but he's not going to be tasked with running the team. In short, barring something unforeseen like a clash in their personalities, whatever successes or failures the team has from a coaching perspective, will fall on Malone. In that vein, it's tough to provide a grade of how Corbin will do in the new position.
But there's no doubting the coaching staff will be stronger due to his presence.
Signing Eric Moreland for Summer League
There are so many moves when filling out a summer league roster that it's a waste of time to grade every single one of them. The fact of the matter is most of those players don't have a realistic shot of making the Kings' final roster. The exception to the rule, however, is Eric Moreland.
The power forward has provided the Kings with the one thing they lacked from their frontcourt: shot-blocking. Moreland is averaging 2.7 blocks per game, and that's only in 19.2 minutes per contest. Now, obviously he's not going to get five blocks if he averages 36 minutes in the regular season; it doesn't work out that way.
But there's no reason to think Moreland can't help out as a defensive specialist playing in spurts. That's especially true because beyond the physical capabilities, the power forward plays with incredible energy.
“It’s a tremendous thing to watch a guy play with a lot of energy and have success and helping his team win as a result of his play,” Kings summer league coach Ty Corbin said, per Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “We’ll need him to continue to do that, and that’s what he’s going to have to continue to do to have an effect in this league until he can grow into something else. A lot of guys don’t play with the energy that he has.”
His package of tools and intensity could be enough to earn Moreland a spot on the final roster, and it should be enough to earn him a training camp invite. That's more than can be said for most summer league additions.
Signing Darren Collison to a 3-Year Deal
The Kings signed Darren Collison to a three-year, $16 million deal to be the team's starting point guard, as was reported by USA Today's Sam Amick.
By itself, the signing isn't too noteworthy. Collison has been a solid player during his time in the league, and the money the Kings are paying him isn't too exorbitant. What is noteworthy, of course, was the designation that Collison would be the starter, this despite the team still, at that time, having rights to Isaiah Thomas.
It's hard not to look at the decision to sign Collison as a comparison as to whether the Kings would be better off with him or Thomas running the point. In effect, bringing in Collison prohibited Sacramento from retaining Thomas.
Without delving too deep into which player would be better, let's point out the positives of this signing. For one, while he'll assuredly be the starter this season; Collison's deal isn't so much that it prevents the team from upgrading at point guard in the future. In other words, his salary of roughly $5 million is equal to that of a quality backup, which Collison certainly is.
The duration of the contract is also a positive. At 26 years old, the Kings won't be paying Collison during any of his decline years. That means the contract shouldn't look any worse down the road. In fact, it could look even better depending on what happens in the next collective bargaining agreement.
For a modest salary, in NBA terms, the Kings are getting a player who's averaged 11.9 points and 4.9 assists for his career. He's also an upgrade defensively, as Collison held opposing point guards to a player efficiency rating of 12.9 last season, according to 82games.com.
Collison's skill set fits the team well, especially with his ability as a two-way player, and he doesn't prohibit the Kings from making upgrades at the position down the road. Through that prism, it's a solid move.
Trading Isaiah Thomas to Phoenix Suns as Part of a Sign-and-Trade
Once the Kings signed Collison, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion Isaiah Thomas would be moving on. That's what happened when the point guard reached an agreement on a four-year deal with the Phoenix Suns, causing the teams to execute a sign-and-trade.
As part of the deal, the Suns get Thomas for a four-year, $28 million deal, while the Kings received a $7 million trade exception and the rights to Alex Oriakhi.
There are a couple ways to look at this one. One viewpoint is whether the Kings should have matched the deal and kept Thomas rather than signing Collison as his replacement. To be honest, I could go either way on this one.
On the one hand, Thomas is a better player than Collison. He averaged more points and assists per 36 minutes than Collison did. He also posted a higher PER and win shares per 48 minutes than the former Los Angeles Clipper, although the two of them are fairly close in all four of the mentioned categories.
On the other hand, Thomas is making more money than Collison, and his contract runs for an additional year. So the Kings are getting a slightly inferior player, but they have less money and less years committed, providing more flexibility.
What it really comes down to is whether either one is the point guard of the future. The Kings obviously didn't feel Thomas was worthy of that designation, which meant the next-best thing was getting something in return for him.
The $7 million exception is really the prize of this transaction from Sacramento's perspective. Not having much cap space, the exception gives the Kings the flexibility to add or subtract salary in a deal. That ability to jostle with the cap was needed.
Once the Kings decided they weren't going to bring back Thomas, just getting something for him in return was a positive. The fact Sacramento got a trade exception to help alleviate some of its salary-cap concerns is even better.
The Kings have upgraded the organization with their moves this summer.
The addition of Nik Stauskas will really help the team's perimeter shooting. It would've been nice to see the team target a different position after selecting a shooting guard the year before, but the most important thing was getting a good player. If Sacramento thinks Stauskas was the best player on the board when it drafted, then it made the right move with its selection.
It still remains to be seen whether the Kings will sign Eric Moreland for training camp and give him a real shot at making the team. But he's the type of player the team needs to target. His shot-blocking ability would fill a deficiency, and Moreland's the type of player a cash-strapped team like the Kings could afford without putting much of a dent in the salary cap.
The Kings downgraded a bit at point guard, but they did so with added cap flexibility, by way of the trade exception, and a cheaper, shorter deal that shouldn't prohibit them from upgrading the position in the future. In the short term, it's a negative, but it's a move that should pay off down the road.
If your viewpoint is that Sacramento is a playoff-caliber team in 2013-14, then you're probably more pessimistic about the move. If you think the team still has at least one more year of building before making the jump to the playoffs, then the move is one you're likely to embrace. In short, this one is all about perspective, but regardless of your perspective, this shouldn't be a make-or-break deal in the team's future.
Lastly, the team fortified its coaching staff through the addition of Tyrone Corbin. Acquiring talent, which the Kings have done, is only part of the battle. The other part is putting it into a position to win, and signing Corbin should help in that regard.
What do you think? Do you like the moves the Kings have made? Let me know on Twitter @SimRisso.