Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Royal Dilema

Well we are just passed the mid point of the NBA season and so far things have played out closely to what I thought would happen this year, with one very big exception, the Sacramento Kings. In my season preview I completely ripped the Kings apart for their recent draft history and lack of talent, I'll admit that I was wrong for the most part in saying this. I say for the most part because I still don't believe that the combination of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes up front is a winning front court duo and there is a chance still that Tyreke Evans is pretty close to the top of his game and may not develop much more. However, I no longer believe that last statement to be the case and even if it were true there is nothing wrong with a guard who is going to consistently give you 20-5-5 a night, this has turned out to be a much better pick for the Kings than I ever imagined it would be (also I was completely wrong on Omri Casspi but you can't blame me to much for that one because the guy never played against NBA talent and there wasn't a lot of scouting evaluation done on him). There is one thing that I refuse to back down from and that is that I do not believe that the combination of Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin can co-exist. First off Evans is not a PG, no matter what people say or do I am not going to buy into it, everything about Evans SCREAMS SG! and also everything about Marting SCREAMS SG! Evans is definitely more capable of playing the point than Martin because of his better floor vision, passing ability and leadership. But aside from his leadership, Evans skill set at the point really isn't what you need to win at the NBA level, the team needs a true PG. Let me give you some numbers from this season, through the first 5 games (before Martin got hurt) Evans was only averaging 11.2ppg 3.6apg 3.0rpg 35% from the field and a dreadful 55% from the charity stripe. During that same 5 game stretch Martin was averaging 30.6ppg 2.6apg 5.4rpg while shooting a modest 43%. The very first game that Martin was out Evans exploded for 32 points 7 assists and 3 rebounds in leading his team to a very impressive road win in Utah, from that moment on everybody knew that this was going to eventually be Tyreke's team. Since that time Evans has boosted his numbers to nearly 21-5-5, if he can keep this up and boost his assist and rebound totals by a little bit he will become only the third rookie in NBA history to average at least 20-5-5 a game, and he has some impressive company with him: Lebron James, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan are the only other rookies to accomplish this feat. With the lineup of Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans in the back court the Kings went 15-17 (0-1 without Evans). Since Martin has been back Evans has seen a drop again in his production, his scoring has been about the same but his assist, rebounding and shooting numbers have all taken a dip. Martin has not been the same since coming back averaging 12.7ppg, 3.3apg, 3.7 rpg and an embarrassing 31% from the field. Not only has Martin greatly struggled but the Kings are a miserable 2-10 with Martin in the lineup, with the one win coming at home against the Warriors who were without Monta Ellis and they still barely hung on to win that game after being up by 18 points in that game. What does this all boil down to? Martin has to go, the Kings have shown that they are clearly a better team without him, even though he has put up very impressive scoring numbers while being in Sacramento the team has struggled. On the flip side the team has shown new life with Evans being the new go-to-guy so why not ship off Martin? The team can't win with him, it would allow Evans to play off the ball (his natural position), they could get some good young talent in return and at the same time clear cap space to become a potent buyer in the most talented free agent class of all time. There are several teams who could use a scoring threat like Martin, especially teams that are either looking for a solid shooting guard to take some pressure off of their young back court or teams that are looking to give themselves that push to the elite level with the playoffs coming up. Here are five trade possibilities that I find intriguing (in no particular order) that I have come up with, with the help of NBA Trade Machine.

1. Kings send Kevin Martin to Dallas for Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois
I Like this trade for both teams because I think it gives both teams something that they lack and need in order to move forward. A lot of you are probably wonder who in the world Rodrigue Beaubois is and why in the world I would throw him into this mix. Beaubois is exactly the type of player that the Kings need, he is a rookie PG who shows tremendous upside and plays with a lot of energy. He doesn't get a lot of playing time in Dallas because of Kidd, Barea, and Terry all playing in front of him but he has made the most out of his limited playing time. I think he would do very well in Sacramento being a key role player off the bench for a year or two before developing into the starting PG. The talent level is there for Beaubois and even if the Kings decided they didn't want to move forward with him he has the youth, athleticism and talent level to be a valuable trade piece. Marion is another good fit for Sacramento, maybe not as a SF because the Kings do have good young talent at the position but I would like to see him play more PF for the team. I have never liked Spencer Hawe's game, he is just a poor man's Brad Miller, but I think he has some value coming off the bench. Jason Thompson is more than capable at being the teams starting center at 6'11" 250lbs. A starting lineup of Thompson, Marion, Casspi, Evans and Udrih may not be a star studded lineup but it is capable of over achieving I believe especially with some of the other talent they have coming of the bench. As for the Mavericks they have surprisingly struggled to score the ball consistently throughout this season. They have shown the ability to put up big offensive numbers but they have not been as consistent they need to be in order to make a deep playoff run. The one thing that Martin has shown in his career is that he can be a consistent scorer with the ability to go off on any given night. I could see him being a very good piece in Dallas to give them that consistent scoring punch to help take some of the scoring load off of an aging Dirk, especially with a PG like Kidd playing alongside side of him. A starting lineup of Dampier, Nowitzki, Howard, Martin and Kidd is going to scare a lot of teams out West and it still leaves plenty of firepower coming off the bench. This may not be a very talked about trade possibility but it is one that I could see happening, especially with Mark Cuban's willingness to make bold/controversial moves.

2. Kings send Kevin Martin to Toronto for Jose Calderon
This trade was actually proposed not to long ago by Toronto and the more I think about it the more I feel like the Kings should have pulled the trigger. Too often in the NBA GM's only focus on the individual numbers and not about what is best for the team winning games. Calderon is an extremely underrated player in this league, he doesn't put up flashy numbers but he is level headed PG that knows how to run a team. This season the Raptors seam content with handing over the reins to Jarrett Jack and letting Calderon go. Calderon has proven to be a great leader with the ball in his hand, for his CAREER he has a 4.1 assist to turnover ratio which stacks up nicely to the other elite PG's in this league, Steve Nash: 2.9 Jason Kidd: 3.0 Chris Paul: 3.9 and Deron Williams: 3.0, I could list more but you get the point. Calderon knows how to handle the ball and I really think with the Kings youth movement and addition of international basketball players that Calderon would really be a great fit for this team and would provide a huge moral and energy boost to a team that may just be a couple moves away from the playoffs (in the next couple of years). On the other hand I really don't know why the Raptors want Martin so bad, yes they could use an upgrade at the 2 but their biggest need is defense and for all the things that Martin does well (score and ummmmmm........) one of them is not playing defense, especially team defense. I think Toronto is greatly mistaken in thinking that more scoring is the answer but like I said they do need more reliability at the position and there is a crowd at the PG position so this move does make sense, but it makes more sense for the Kings which is ironic since they are the team that rejected the trade.

3. Kings send Kevin Martin to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal and Johnny Flynn(or any of the other 30 young promising PG's on that roster)
This would be an absolute dream come true for the Kings if they could pull it off, they get an upgrade from Martin (in Evans) and then still get the guy that everyone thought they should have taken in Johnny Flynn and the Kings would have one of the most exciting young back courts in the NBA. Johnny Flynn has had his inconsistencies but he is a rookie and you have to expect that, Kings fans have truly been spoiled by the consistent play by Evans, I truly believe that Flynn has a bright future in this league and I still don't believe that the Kings would have been wrong in taking Flynn in the draft because of their need for a point. Another reason I like this trade for Sacramento is that by getting Brian Cardinal they get a very nice expiring contract which gives them even more play in the 2010 sweepstakes. Imagine Flynn, Evans, Casspi, Thompson as a young core moving forward and then signing an All Star big man next year like Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer. Although it is hard to imagine a team trading away a future star PG for a one dimensional SG, the Timberwolves don't have consistent scoring from their back court at all and Martin would greatly improve that. Also it is clear that Minnesota needs to get rid of one of their young point guards and if they can work out a buyout deal to get Rubio over to America by next year than it is probably going to be Flynn that gets the boot. It is possible that you could swap the two and send Rubio's rights over to the Kings but it will depend on how quickly a deal for Rubio can be made to get him to the States. I could see Ramon Sessions being the guy too but I feel like the Wolves would have to include another young player or a draft pick and it wouldn't solve the Wolves problems of having both Rubio and Flynn at the point.

4. Kings send Kevin Martin to Charlotte for Raymond Felton, Acie Law and Alexis Ajinca
This trade hinges on one very important thing, D.J. Augustin. Augustin was the first pick made by Larry Brown as the Bobcats head coach and so you have to believe that the franchise wants to move forward with him at the point despite having a disappointing sophomore season. Although I do believe that the Bobcats want to move on with Augustin I don't think that they believe he is ready to take this team into the playoffs at this point in his career so if this trade happens then it would probably come at some point during the off season. Martin may not be the best fit for the Bobcats but he is probably the best talent they could acquire for Felton. Again I think that Felton would be a good fit in Sacramento, he has the ability to score the ball but he is an assist machine, something that the young Kings could really use. Acie Law and Alexis Ajinca aren't really going to do anything in this league, I just threw them into the trade to even out the financial burden of Martin. This was the first trade that I thought could happen for the Kings but like I said with Charlotte making a strong playoff push it is highly unlikely that this trade happens this season.

5. Kings send Kevin Martin to Golden State for Stephen Curry and Raja Bell
This would be a horrible trade for Golden State and it wouldn't make any kind of basketball sense to do it, but lets look at some of the young players that Golden State has traded away or simply let sign away with no resistance. Chris Webber, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, Vince Carter, Latrell Sprewell, and Antwan Jamison (these are just the ones that Dallas and I could come up with, by the way be looking for his blog West Coast Bias coming soon). The only move that could be considered good was trading away Carter for Jamison but then they went ahead and let Jamison go anyways. If that isn't bad enough for the Warriors not wanting good talent on their team in 1996 they passed on drafting a guy with the 11th pick by the name of Kobe Bryant, but that is ok because the next season they would have a chance at redemption as Tracy McGrady slipped to them at 8 in the 97 draft, but instead they went with superstar Adonal Foyle. This team simply doesn't like having talent and now that they have finally been building some it only makes sense for them to trade away their best prospect and future PG, especially since the trigger happy Monta Ellis has it in his head that he is a PG himself (somebody forgot to tell him that point guards are supposed to look to set up their teammates otherwise he wouldn't want to be a point guard). Also Golden State recently put EVERY SINGLE PLAYER on the trading block because it is obviously the players fault and has nothing to do with a washed up coach who hates young players and frankly doesn't care anymore. If the Kings could snag a real gem like Curry to play point then I believe that this would be a fantastic trade for them, probably the best one they could do. Raja Bell also gives them an expiring contract for free agency flexibility but with his toughness and veteran leadership it may not be a bad idea to keep him around, at a reduced price.

Obviously none of these trades are going to happen exactly like I said they would but don't be surprised to see Martin shipped sometime soon, at least if the Kings have any real sense about Basketball and I am still not sure. One year they look like geniuses and the other it seems like they are a bunch of retarded monkeys so we will see but with the 2010 free agent class being so big and talent heavy don't be surprised to see a lot of trade action happening soon to either snag some cheap talent or to clear cap space for this summer and Martin should be on the top of everybody's watch list.

(if you have any trade suggestions let me know and you can test them out using the NBA Trade Machine on ESPN http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine)

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