Vlade Not Outsmarting Anyone

The Sacramento Kings, a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 10 years, had themselves quite a summer signing all types of players because Valde Divac, the man who fired George Karl, thought he was building a team that could surround  All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and compete. Most of Divac’s signees were NBA veterans whose best years are behind them. Arron Afflalo (31), Matt Barnes (36), Garrett Temple (30) and Ty Lawson (29) signed deals worth $62.5 million dollars. Only Lawson is on a one year deal. So, unless someone is traded, the same crew will be back next season.

Individually, Afflalo, Barnes, Temple and Lawson average over 20 minutes a game. (Garrett Temple is out for three weeks because of a hamstring injury). They are producing a collective 31.4 points and 34.5% 3-point shooting with an offensive rating of 105.5 and a defensive rating of 113.5. They are average scorers. They are terrible defenders. So…um….Valde explain yourself.

Arron Afflalo. Contract: (2 years, $25 million).

Summer Wisdom: The shooting guard who has been around the league and back (Detroit, Denver, Orlando, Portland, New York)  fills a need for the Kings. He’s a scorer who can post up, hit the three, catch and shoot, put the ball on the floor and create. He is physical and a strong defender on the perimeter. In short, he was a perfect signing for the Kings who need more experience and skill on the wing. Afflalo thrives on non-playoff teams so he should be a perfect compliment for Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins.

Reality: Afflalo is not living up to his $12.5 million contract. He’s averaging 8.0 points in 25 minutes of game play. Afflalo is shooting 43.3% and a nice 40.0% from three. He gets to the line once a game and his defensive rating is 117, a career worst and worst of all the starters. Perhaps, this is Afflalo being an old player. He was signed to be a scorer and he’s not really scoring. He looks 100 years old out there.

Matt Barnes. Contract: (2 years, $12.25 million)

Summer Wisdom: The NBA’s bad boy, hard driving, got something to say about everything, is in Sac to bring his legendary toughness. Barnes knows how to get inside players heads and he knows how to forget impulse control. But Barnes has always been a make it when you need it 3-point shot maker and he gives the team energy when he comes in. Everywhere he has played and he has played everywhere, Clippers, Knicks, 76ers, Warriors, Suns, Magic, Lakers, Grizzlies, his teammates and the fans love him. This is his second go round in Sac.

Reality: Barnes, true to his image, had off court issues. He is being charged with a third degree misdemeanor because of his behavior at a nightclub in Manhattan when the Kings were in town for a game. He is being sued by two alleged victims.

On the court, his per game output of 7.1, is irrelevant. He is in Sac for his intangibles. He’s playing almost 24 minutes a game and his rebound total of 4.8 is eye catching, considering his age and  minutes. He’s moving the ball nicely with 2.6 assists per game. Barnes is hitting a career high 81.8% of his free throws. But his shooting is an indicator that Barnes is on his last leg as a NBA player. Both this year and last year, he is hovering around the 37% field goal mark, a sign an old player doesn’t have his shooting legs anymore. His 32% from three, tied with last year, is a 6-year low. He has taken the most threes out of the trio of Afflalo, Barnes, Temple and Lawson: 174 threes, which leads the team. His offensive rating, 97, is a 12-year career low.

Garrett Temple. Contract: (3 years, $24 million)

Summer Wisdom: Temple, a journeyman player who plays hard and is an above average defender, is one of those glue guys. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well but he has toughness. Sac going defense first needs a hard nose like Temple who grinds and grinds. The LSU product was undrafted and recently had a nice stint of four years playing with John Wall and the Wizards.

Reality: Temple has been everything he was supposed to be. He’s never going to pass the eye test and wow you but he brings it every single night and makes those hustle plays. His rebounding is the same as last  year, a career high. His assist total is tied for his career high. His 43.6% shooting is a 7-year high. He has only played 80 games once. This year, even with his injury, he is on track to play 66-69 games. He had two 5 three pointer games (Milwaukee, Houston) and a 19 point game  (Milwaukee)and a 25 point game (Houston). This year he is posting the highest offensive rating of his career. His contract is modest enough that if the Kings wanted to flip him to a contender for parts they could.

Ty Lawson. Contract: (1 year, $1.3 million)

Summer Wisdom: This is an audition for the Kings. Lawson is trying to recover his career and the negative characterization of his behavior with alcohol that Lawson brought upon himself. Last year was a horrible year for Lawson, first with the Rockets and then with the Pacers. Lawson looked like a shell shocked player, a shadowy image of his former, arrogant, high octane confident self. He fits a need since Darren Collison was suspended to start the season.

Reality: Early on, Lawson looked as if he may be in Europe next year. He lost the ability to put the ball in the hole. He played in Darren Collison’s absence. But he has come on as of late but still isn’t the same Lawson. Watching little guy Isaiah Thomas destroy defenses makes you remember what Lawson used to do.  He’s shooting 42.0%. Last year, his “bad” year, Lawson shot 39.3% and that was a career low. This year his shot is still anemic. When Lawson was in Denver, he had a shooting coach. Has he forgotten everything he learned. Or is it confidence?

Lawson’s three point shooting has hit the skids, 28.2%, a career low as well. He has only made 8 threes in 18 games. He hasn’t forgotten how to pass the ball though, averaging 4.5 assists. But today’s point guards are asked to shoot and pass. The 8.6 points in 24.6 minutes is not the double digit scoring clinic Lawson used to put on. His defensive rating, 113, is second worst of the starters.

As for the team and their collective achievement, new coach or no new coach, new arena with solar power or no new arena, the only thing the Kings can boast about, what puts them in the top 10, they are 10th in steals. They can’t score though. 103.0 points a game is 22nd in the league. The Kings averaged 106.6 last year which was third best.  Their defense is typical, 21st in scoring defense,  24th in field goal percentage defense and in 3-point percentage defense 27th. Their defensive rating ranks them 25th.

The faces change. The bottom line stays the same as long as the Kings surround Boogie Cousins with C-level talent. Most will be back next year so what actually has Vlade accomplished as GM? The Kings will taunt us for the next 30 games, just two games out the 8th seed but one more DeMarcus Cousins year without a playoff appearance is among us.

Look for Vlade though to be all smiles on July 1st as he gives Cousins $200 million. The rest of us won’t be smiling. We will be waiting for a second star.

 

photo via llananba