Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Danger of Not Tearing It Down

The Kings have been in purgatory for a decade.

After a tantalizing stretch of marvelous talent and playoff appearances, the Kings haven't been relevant since the early years of George W. Bush.

And now they've seemingly missed the window again to turn the corner.

Geoff Petrie attempted to rebuild the team on the fly, adding the likes of Brad Miller and Ron Artest, but it was the equivalent of rubbing dirt on a gaping wound.

The team tried coach after coach after coach, none of whom had the ability to take a team utterly lacking in talent and making it seem, well, competent.

The Maloofs finally tapped out around 2008, their bank account drained by bad casino decisions.  From then, it was bargain-basement rebuilding.

Which brings us to 2013, new owner Vivek Ranadive, and this year's frustrating assemblage of mismatched parts

New owners have a tough time being patient and Ranadive is no different.  He wants results on the floor.

In the last three weeks, the Kings made two big moves.

They traded their top defender for former No. 2 draft stud Derrick Williams, an enigmatic player without an apparent position who stands to make $6 million next season.  Can he make a difference?  Maybe.  But he's exactly the wrong type of player for the Kings.  Bad three-point shooter.  Undersized.  Lacking in defensive skills.

Then the team dealt for Rudy Gay, a no-doubt talented player whose shooting skills have vastly deteriorated over the past two seasons.  He'll be owed close to $20 million next season, but the bigger question is this:  If Gay does manage to revitalize his career with the Kings, it's gonna be a tough sell to keep him in Sacramento. ln other words, it's a bad gamble with little upside for the Kings past next year.

So what should the alternative have been?

Just look at Boston.

Danny Ainge completely tore it down.  Selling off assets for draft picks.  Positioning the team for future cap space.  Drafting solid young talent.  

The Kings should have torn it down.  To the studs.

Right now, the team is awful.  The defense is embarrassingly shoddy, starting with DeMarcus Cousins, who has yet to learn how to defend a pick-and-roll, to Ben McLemore, who looks so completely lost you want to hand him a map.

Isaiah Thomas is the team's heart and soul, but he rarely gets his teammates involved, a sin for a squad that is comprised of me-first shooters.  Marcus Thornton still thinks its the off-season.
Jason Thompson has regressed badly.  And the rest of the team, except Gay, is comprised of second-tier talent at best.

Then there's coach Mike Malone, who is still in his honeymoon period. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have any answers. 

Will they get better?  Probably marginally.  Maybe enough to drop their draft position to 10 or 11, which is not where you want to be in a year with perhaps the best selection of college talent ever.  If they drop past 12, they lose the pick entirely (to Cleveland), thanks to Petrie's awful deal for J.J. Hickson a few years back.

So that leaves the Kings in an awful position, doomed to rise to utter mediocrity and tread water for the next three or four years.

If it was my call, I would have hacked it to bits.  Dealing every veteran player.  For draft picks.  Or young talent with a defensive mentality.  Anything but high-salaried players with questionable long-term help to the team.

Even Cousins should have been dealt.  Yes, I know he's got oodles of talent, but his on-court antics are impossible to ignore.  You wonder how his teammates put up with him.

It's too late now, I suppose.

Kings fans are stuck with this mismatched, overpaid, selfish collection of players.  Maybe they'll grow into something special.

I wouldn't hold my breath.