Earlier this week, the Sacramento Kings agreed to lock up former UCLA point guard Darren Collison for the mid-level tax exception of $5.3 million/year. When looking at the face value of this acquisition, this is clearly seen as a downgrade from Isaiah Thomas. But lets get real, GM Pete D’Allessandro is just plain smarter than us or clearly knows something that we don’t, right?
This signing is reflective of the Kings’ future strategy and belief in the progression of its younger scorers. While Collison isn’t nearly the same type of scorer that Thomas is, he is more than likely to prove that he is more of a true point guard. While it has been awhile since Collison led UCLA to three straight final fours, he has still proved to be a righteous floor general. As starting point guard in the absence of Chris Paul, Collison averaged 21 pts/7.5 ast/ 2.2 stl per 48 minutes for the Clippers this past season.
While Collison is still a step down from Thomas statistically speaking, the Kings want a point guard that is less of a scorer and more willing to cough up possessions to players like Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams, Ben McLemore, and Nik Stauskus. If anything, this is the Kings management putting more faith in Williams, McLemore, and Stauskus, as these players need more possessions in order to produce. This move is beginning to align with the questionable draft pick of Stauskus, because it will allow the Kings to spread the floor more on offense.
Transaction Grade: C+
The major question still stands; What will happen to Isaiah Thomas? In my personal opinion, if the Kings are going to give up the former University of Washington Husky, they better get compensated in return. Here are possible moves the Kings can make regarding Isaiah Thomas.
Sign-and-trade Thomas, paired with a current PF, for an elite defender/shot blocker
With the Collison signing bringing the Kings only $1.73 million below the tax line and $5.73 below the hard salary cap, Sacramento simply can’t afford to bring Thomas back unless they were to sign him below his market value. This will force Sacramento to trade away Thomas’ contract plus someone such as Jason Thompson or Carl Landry, for Detroit’s Josh Smith. While Smith has his faults, such as poor shot selection and a bad attitude, he is also questionably the NBA’s best defending power forward. If coach Malone could help Smith hone those defensive skills, and make it known that he should only be depended on for easy buckets, the Kings could become an eight-seed contender in 2015.
Re-sign Thomas, suffer tax consequences
Contrary to popular belief, cash money does not grow on trees. It is a luxury to stay out of the luxury tax, and the Kings will surely opt to stay out. In order for the Kings to re-sign Thomas, they would either have to 1) sign him for below his market value of $6-8 million/year, or 2) trade away a portion of the $20 million/year invested in power forwards. This would mean the Kings have to have to trade away Jason Thompson or Carl Landry’s contract, and possibly amnesty a guy like Reggie Evans. Trading shooting guard Jason Terry would also help.
The Collison signing should not be seen as Sacramento’s final stamp on this offseason. GM Pete D’Allessandro is going to continue to shake up this roster and stretch Kings fans outside their comfort zone. Expect to see a variety of transactions from the Kings camp over the coming months.