Aaron Bruski

The Step-back 3

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SBT: NBA Draft Aftermath

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The 2011 NBA Draft was widely referred to as a weak draft, but like the trade deadline earlier in the year, it was a flurry of stories, reports, and ultimately draft day action. And given the vast number of unknown quantities waiting for their names to be called, sorting through the wreckage looked like a monumental task -- particularly when the Kings kicked off their pursuit of Jimmer Fredette with a curious trade swapping their No. 7 pick for the No. 10 pick to acquire John Salmons. The overwhelming theme among GMs, media types, and fans was, 'we don't know what to expect.'

Maybe that's why the draft had the best ratings it had seen in 15 years. That, or it was the fact that it might be the last official basketball activity we see for a while, but that's another story for another time and place.

When it was all said and done, and after Doctor A, Ryan Knaus, and I each lost five pounds typing at our computers – the end result delivered some pretty good storylines. So without further ado, the first Step-back 3 of the offseason is here.

For real-time updates and interactive fantasy information, follow me on Twitter.

The Step-back 3 is a place where Aaron Bruski takes a look at three issues in the world of basketball, walking the blurry line of fantasy basketball and the reality that drives it. Focusing less on daily events, the idea is to take a step back from the daily grind and try to make sense of things.

1. Let me teach you how to Jimmer

The day started off with the aforementioned Kings trade, which sat somewhere between knee-jerk reaction and playing it safe in their hunt for a small forward, as the Kings sent Beno Udrih to the Bucks in exchange for John Salmons and the No. 10 pick. As a part of the deal, the Bucks sent Corey Maggette's bad contract to Charlotte and picked up Stephen 'the pressure fornicator' Jackson and Shaun 'crazy knees' Livingston. Rounding out the deal, the Kings gave their No. 7 pick to the Bobcats.

The impetus for Sacramento moving on this deal was their infatuation with Jimmer Fredette, who may have been the most intriguing player in the draft given his climb up the boards over the past month, and for the arena-needy Kings his ability to generate buzz and sell tickets. Like Stephen Curry with a few more pieces of flair, nobody questions his shooting, his ability to put a move on someone, or his willingness to put a team on his shoulders in crunch time. But his defense, and to a lesser degree, his ability to score with the same impact against NBA defenders – are both fair question marks.

So the debate raged in the media and in war rooms, and while Jimmer had plenty of detractors, he had enough suitors in Utah, New York, Phoenix, and Sacramento to make him a lottery pick. And with their prize in hand, the Kings will now have four guys that are more shooting guard than point guard or small forward. Each will deserve minutes, and each of them holds the ball better than some NFL running backs.

This, of course, speaks to the fact that this was not just a basketball decision as some reporters with ties to the Kings have advertised on their behalf. Considering their gaping hole at SF, the correct basketball decision would have been to grab SF Kahwi Leonard out of San Diego State, who is also known as the guy the Spurs traded up-and-comer George Hill for. And while the Spurs aren't infallible, the four-time NBA champions should be taken seriously on a talent evaluation like this – though I find it ironic that due to their rapidly closing title window that they might be chasing one mistake (Richard Jefferson) by giving up too much (Hill) for his replacement.

Meanwhile, the Kings reacquired Salmons 2.0, the 4-year older version of the player they traded away years ago in a salary dump, and a guy who amplifies the shoot-now-or-forever-hold-your-breath mantra of nearly every heavy-minute player the Kings have. Team president Geoff Petrie said that the move was cap neutral, but what he doesn't mention is that the third year on Salmons' deal comes at an additional overall cost of about $9 million and an extra year. And while one can point to Udrih's better two-year deal and say the Kings have lost flexibility, that is nothing compared to the equivalent cost of Leonard's' theoretic contract at the Kings' old No. 7 slot – which would have been $3-5 million per year over the next four years, if you estimate using Greg Monroe's contract at No. 7 last season.

As for Beno, his contract isn't ideal, but it's not breaking the bank and it's hard to say definitively that they couldn't have done better in another deal. And maybe the Kings thought that teams would low-ball them once they saw the proliferation of guards on their roster, but it's way too early on the NBA trading calendar to say that with any certainty.

So the Kings basically moved down in the draft, added salary, decreased flexibility, and gambled that they couldn't have done better than John Salmons later down the road, all while missing out on the player the Spurs covet. Whether you're taking Jimmer or Kawhi, the transaction to get Salmons is being done to the sweet, soothing sounds of Benny Hill.

As for making a basketball decision with business at the forefront of the discussion, I support it fully, because in my work researching the Kings' arena situation, it is clear to me that this needed to happen. Why? Because those fans deserve to keep their team. They care, they fought when there was 0.01% chance of keeping their team, and that's really all you can ask for out of them. And if Jimmer helps sell tickets that can help the Maloofs, Kevin Johnson, and a group of forward-thinking politicians get that done – then it was the correct draft pick.

After all, it won't matter to Kings fans who they draft if they're playing in Anaheim. And say Leonard blows up and Jimmer faceplants, will it really matter to the revenue effort? Nope. Jimmer will sell more tickets as a bust than Leonard will as an All Star. Don't like it? Me neither, but it's the truth.

The good news for Kings fans and fantasy basketball owners is that the decision has just as good of a chance to succeed as it will have to fail, and assuming his new teammates don't freeze him out after Jimmer-mania takes hold of Sacramento (or takes hold of their shot attempts), this could end up being the new Golden State offense.

They're not going to win a title as currently constructed or even make the playoffs, but it will be a start. And along the way I'm excited to see what it looks like. They can run a lineup in which every guy can put the ball down on the floor and make something happen. Make no mistake, defense and field goal percentage will be a problem, but the idea of these guys breakdance fighting up and down the court -- whether it's against the other team or not -- will cause me to tune in.


Jimmer Fredette: He lands in a place where he will be encouraged to perform for both basketball and business reasons, and with Beno Udrih heading out of town he has a decent chance of running the point. Tyreke Evans could run the point and is the leader in the clubhouse until it's stated otherwise – but the Kings have given subtle hints about wanting to get Tyreke off the ball throughout all of last year.

The reason is obvious – Evans lacks the will or vision to distribute the ball. Besides, he can be nearly as effective off the ball, where he, Marcus Thornton, and John Salmons can take turns attacking in better rhythm.

So while we'll need to watch how the Kings choose to deploy Jimmer, if I have to draft today, I could see burning a pick on him around Round 8-10 for his ability to hit threes, score, and dish the ball like a poor man's Manu Ginobili. Yes, there's a chance that he won't live up to the hype, but we'll know if his minutes will be limited early in the process. If there are no red flags, his floor will be 28 mpg in a sixth man's role by New Year's Eve and his ceiling will be the starting job with a full load running the point in a high octane offense. If your fantasy team can't sustain what I expect to be a below-average FG% or his non-existent blocks, then knocking a round off of this much-too-early prediction makes sense.

Corey Maggette: I don't know if his body can hold up, or if he will care playing for a rebuilding team following a year of indifference in Milwaukee, but Charlotte had a major scoring problem even when Jackson was healthy – so needless to say Maggette's gunning ways will have found a home. This isn't the time of year to get excited, obviously, but my guess is that Maggette will be slightly undervalued after his disaster last season. Gerald Henderson also wins here with Jackson's departure, but his hip is a big question mark for a guy that showed just enough value last season to be considered on draft day. On the other hand, with some of the progress Henderson made last year I won't be sleeping on him, either.

Carlos Delfino: After missing much of the year with a concussion that the Milwaukee press corps didn't feel was newsworthy, he eventually returned to a handful of big 3-point shooting nights, but was mostly disappointing otherwise. While the first rule of Skiles Club is that you tell three people about Skiles Club (and then they tell three people and you're rich), the second rule is don't trust Scott Skiles even if he plays a tight rotation for three weeks straight. Just ask the people that got burned in the fantasy playoffs using Delfino.

That said, we have to be ready for all scenarios, and Delfino's outlook gets markedly better without Salmons around. As of now, I expect Delfino to start and play 30+ minutes per game, which puts him squarely on the radar as a good source of points and threes, with a few rebounds, steals, and assists here and there. The only downside would come if Skiles decides to play Jackson 37-40 mpg with Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, and a rotation guy or two splitting the remaining minutes at SG/SF evenly. Again, with Skiles you never know.

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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. In 2015 he was named FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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