This season has been disappointing to say the least. I don't think we should blow up the team (e.g. trade Cousins and Evans). I like what I have seen out of Evans this season so far and he looks like he has found a way to play with Cousins in the half court set. For that reason, along with many other, we should keep Cousins and Evans. For some of you, I am coming off as a broken record, but there have been some on this forum who have advocated cleaning house.
With that being said, I have constructed a plan that begins with what we should do this year all the way through to the 2014 season. I tried to make it as realistic as I could, but obviously a plan that lasts a couple years is going to have some assumptions here and there.
Our team still needs a PG who is a good ball handler, playmaker, 3pt shooter, and defender. We have Brooks who I would say is a good ball handler and 3pt shooter, but I would prefer someone who is a better playmaker and defender.
Our team still needs a SF who is unselfish and is a good 3pt shooter and defender. We have Salmons who is a good defender, but he is not unselfish and his 3pt shooting (especially his spot up 3pt shooting) has been erratic. On top of that, he is undersized for the position.
Our team still needs a PF who is athletic, big, and is a good shot-blocker, defender, rebounder, finisher, and jump shooter. We have Thompson who is athletic, big, and a good rebounder and jump shooter, but his defense and shot-blocking are not good enough for what we need out of that position.
So here we go...
The Kings should start this process off with a trade that involves the Pacers.
Why the Pacers do this trade:
In my opinion, the Pacers are stuck in that "make the playoffs, but never contend for a championship" mode. The Pacers have a lot of good pieces but they really only have one go-to scorer (Granger). In this trade, the Pacers get Thornton who can be another go-to scorer next to Granger. He is another guy who can average 18-20 PPG for them.
Pacers are giving up West and Augustin, but their contracts are expiring. There is no guarantee the Pacers bring them back. Augustin has played poorly thus far which doesn't warrant a resigning by the Pacers, and there has been questions whether West is in the Pacer's long term plans considering he is 32. The census on Pacer forums is that they would prefer to trade him this year and try to get some young pieces in return.
With that being said, the Pacers get Fredette who has shown nice improvements this year. He is shooting 46.3% from the floor and 41.7% from three. He is averagiing 21.6 PPG and 4.9 APG per 36 minutes. He would be a nice, young asset that would give them more production than Augustin has been giving them so far. Given Fredette's work ethic, it is not out of the question that he could wrestle the starting position away from Hill. For now, he would give us a nice scoring punch off the bench on a very affordable rookie contract.
In addition, the Pacers receive Robinson who would immediately become their PF of the future. He has good potential which is evident by being selected in the top 5 this year. His skills would compliment Hibbert very well. Hibbert would bring size, shot-blocking, defense, rebounding, and a post-up game. Robinson would bring athleticism, defense, rebounding, and a face-up game. They would be a very nice duo to build around.
The Pacers get some young assets to work with (Thornton - 25 years, Fredette - 23 years, Robinson - 21 years) and they all have significant time left on their contracts (Thornton - 3 years, Fredette - 4 years, Robinson - 5 years). I think this trade sets them up for the future, and leaves them in a good position.
Here is the Pacers rotation after the trade:
PG - Hill/Fredette/Hansbrough
SG - Thornton/Stephenson/Johnson
SF - Granger/Green/Young/Outlaw
PF - Robinson/Hansbrough/Pendergraph
C - Hibbert/Mahinmi
Why the Kings do this trade:
The Kings have a log jam at shooting guard right now. Two of the King's three best players (Cousins, Evans, Thornton) play the same position. We need to move Thornton so Evans can play all of his minutes at SG rather than having him play PG and SF to accommodate for Thornton's minutes at SG.
What the Kings really need is a SF who can play defense and hit the 3. George fits that perfectly. He would be our third option behind Cousins and Evans which will take the offensive pressure off of George and allow him to relax and let the game come to him again.
The Kings also get 2 expiring contracts in Augustin and West which they can let go at the end of the year which will give them more cap flexibility to extend Cousins and Evans as well as add any additional pieces we want.
Lastly, we get Plumlee who is a project. It is possible that he could eventually develop into an athletic, rebounding 4th big, but I don't really see any more potential than that.
Here is the Kings rotation after the trade:
PG - Brooks/Augustin/Thomas
SG - Evans/Salmons/Garcia
SF - George/Johnson/Honeycutt
PF - West/Thompson/Hayes
C - Cousins/Plumlee
The Kings have some decisions to make coming into the offseason. The biggest one would be extending Evans. From what I have seen so far from Evans, I think it would be a mistake if we didn't extend him. His jump shot seems to be coming along and he is playing excellent defense. In this situation, I am going to say we sign him to a max deal.
Now after signing Evans, we have Augustin, Thomas, Garcia, Honeycutt, Johnson, and West as possible players we could let go. I suggest we pick up the options on Thomas and Honeycutt and release everyone else.
I am going to assume that Brooks picks up his player option with us because of the amount of playing time he gets and that he has a starter's role on this team. That leaves us with this rotation:
PG - Brooks/Thomas
SG - Evans/Salmons
SF - George/Honeycutt
PF - Thompson/Hayes
C - Cousins/Plumlee
With the cap room we have, I think it would be wise to sign a backup SG, for when we release Salmons next year, and a backup SF, because Honeycutt will mostly likely need more time to develop. I would like to see us go after Reggie Williams or Jodie Meeks as a backup SG and Dorell Wright as a backup SF. We could probably get Williams or Meeks for around 2 mil a year and Wright for around 4 mil.
Considering how we have been playing so far, I'm guessing we will be in the top 5 or top 10 in the draft next year. There are many shot-blocking bigs to choose from this year. For this post, I am going to assume that we get the 5th pick once again and select Rudy Gobert. I will use Robinson's salary as a benchmark for how much we would be paying Gobert. This leaves us with a total payroll of around 56-57 mil.
This is what our roster would look like going into the 2013 season:
PG - Brooks/Thomas
SG - Evans/Williams/Salmons
SF - George/Wright/Honeycutt
PF - Thompson/Hayes
C - Cousins/Gobert/Plumlee