By Charlie O. Mallonee
Now that the draft is over, the Kings have started the search for their bench players. The real search is for who is going to play point guard and who can help the team at shooting guard.
The point guard situation has become clouded because of the situation with Darren Collison. Unfortunately, Collison has been indicted in a domestic violence case and will almost certainly face a suspension from the NBA related to the situation. When Collison will be available to play for the Kings is a major unknown at this point.
Last season’s starting point guard – Rajon Rondo – is a free agent and had a very productive year for Sacramento. The consensus is that Rondo would be open to signing another short-term contact of one to two years to stay in with the Kings. Sacramento does not have “Bird Rights” on Rondo so his salary would have to come out of this year’s cap money.
The big question is – do you want Rondo at the point again this season? There is no doubt that Rondo can produce assists and is capable of scoring in spurts. There is also no question that he will not provide the team with the type of defense the Kings are looking to establish this season.
Rondo has also become a target of the Brooklyn Nets who are looking to replace Jarrett Jack. There have to be other teams who are looking at what Rondo did last season and are thinking that he would be worth offering a big dollar-short term contract for that type of potential production for a season or two.
Who does that leave for the Kings to target for the point guard position? Ricky Rubio of the Timberwolves appears to have become expendable with Minnesota drafting Kris Dunn. Rubio averages 10.1 points and 8.3 assists per game. A trade would be necessary to bring Rubio to Sacramento. The Kings do have Kosta Koufos and Ben McLemore that could be packaged in a possible exchange. The key worry involving Rubio would be his history of injuries.
Jeremy Lin is an unrestricted free agent who spent last season in Charlotte. He averaged 11.7 points and 3.0 assists per game. Lin made $2-million last season but he will want a raise this year and some security. UPDATE: Lin signed a three-year, $36-million deal with the Brooklyn Nets. That is a $10-million a year raise over his last contract. The Lin signing also potentially affects the Rajon Rondo situation.
Ty Lawson has experience and has been a major disappointment in his last two stops in Houston and Indiana. He also earned over $12-million last season.
Mario Chalmers played for Joerger in Memphis averaging 10.3 points and 3.8 assists per game but then was waived by the club. He made just over $4-million last year.
Ish Smith has become a legitimate starter in the league for the Sixers. He averaged 12.6 points and 6.5 assists per game. Smith will certainly want a raise from his $1.1-million salary. Also is he willing to go from one bad team to another just for the money? UPDATE: Smith signed a three-year,$18-million contract with the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
The best option for the Kings may be to re-sign Seth Curry, the combo point/shooting guard who came on strong for the team in closing days of last season. The team has given Curry – a restricted free agent – a qualifying offer so they have the opportunity to match or exceed any offer Curry would receive from another team.
This would mean the Kings would have to start the season with Curry and rookie Isaiah Cousins while they wait for the Collison situation to play itself out. It would allow the Kings to spend money on shooting guards that they so desperately need plus one of those shooting guards might be able to play some limited time at the point.
The Kings may well need to embrace “positionless” basketball to compensate for the lack of a star point guard. Former head coach George Karl said the best passer on the Kings is DeMarcus Cousins. Maybe the offense will need to flow through the high post until the point guard situation can be firmed up.
The worst thing the Kings could do right now is make a knee-jerk decision and spend too much on a player that they might not need later in the season or in seasons to come.