Virtual GM: Sacramento Kings

With the Mike Bibby trade rumors heating up once again, and Ron Artest’s name still being linked in “rumorville” with the New York Knicks, we thought it would be a good time to play virtual GM and take a look at some moves that could help the Sacramento Kings pull itself out of the quicksand of mediocrity that its been stuck in the last couple of seasons.

Here’s the Kings roster as it stands today, and the number of years remaining on the contracts for each player in parenthesis:

Point Guards: Mike Bibby (2), Quincy Douby (4), Mustafa Shakur (not signed yet)
Shooting Guards: Kevin Martin (2), John Salmons (4)
Small Forwards: Ron Artest (2), Francisco Garcia (3)
Power Forwards: Mikki Moore (1), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Kenny Thomas (3), Justin Williams (1)
Centers: Brad Miller (3), Spencer Hawes (5)

Free agents: Vitaly Potapenko, Corliss Williamson

It’s safe to assume that unless they’re bundled as part of a blockbuster deal, players like Quincy Douby, Kevin Martin, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, Mikki Moore, Justin Williams, Spencer Hawes and Brad Miller probably won’t be moved this year – whether it is because of their youth, talent and/or length (and amount) of contract. Taking those players out of the equation the players the Kings could most likely look to move are Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas. Of those four, Artest and Abdur-Rahim have the most cap/trade friendly contracts, at around $8 million and $6 million per year respectively.

So, now that the stage is set, let’s put our GM caps on to work out some scenarios. The bottom line is that Mike Bibby shouldn’t even be in any trade conversations. He is, and has been, the face of the Sacramento Kings franchise for some time, and unless you’re able to get an all-star caliber player in return he shouldn’t be traded. That option, unfortunately, isn’t available to the Kings. Especially since he’s coming off a down season, this is not a sellers market when it comes to Mike Bibby. Perhaps next summer, when he’ll only have one year left on his large $14.5 million contract, someone might be interested in a solid starting point guard with an expiring contract.

So, if we’ve decided that it’s best to hold onto Mike Bibby for at least another year, Ron Artest sticks out like a sore thumb on this defense challenged squad. Reggie Theus likes for his teams to get up and down the court, so to be able to do that the Kings need a more versatile small forward that can get out on the break to fill the wings and catch-and-shoot from the 3-point range on the perimeter. They have mobile big men that can run, a point guard in Bibby that can push the ball and a premiere shooter and slasher in Kevin Martin. The Kings should build around that core and look to trade Artest and possibly one of their aging power forwards, ie. Abdur-Rahim.

There’s a ton of trade scenarios that could work for the Kings, from trading Artest for Los Angeles Clippers forward Cory Maggette, or sending him in a package to the New York Knicks for Quentin Richardson and David Lee. But, the one that makes the most sense is packaging Artest with Abdur-Rahim and sending both to the Miami Heat for James Posey, Udonis Haslem and possibly a 2009 or 2010 1st round draft pick. Heat coach Pat Riley gets the defensive small forward he desperately needs and a serviceable presence at power forward in Abdur-Rahim that can play off Shaq -- besides Riley has shown a propensity for stockpiling veterans just slightly past their glory days.

The kings end up with two players that can thrive in Theus' up and down offensive schemes -- a small forward that can hit the open 3 and a power forward that can do the dirty work in the paint and hit the boards. Sacramento would also dump the 3 years still remaining on Abdur-Rahim's contracts and the headaches that come with having a personality like Artest on your team -- and they get younger and more athletic in the process. Besides, the major problem for the Kings last year was a lack of chemistry and team identity, not talent. With this trade the Kings can regain that swagger, and go back to being one of the highest scoring and most entertaining teams in the league.

Following the trade, the Kings lineup would be as follows:

Point Guards: Mike Bibby (2), Quincy Douby (4), Mustafa Shakur (not signed yet)
Shooting Guards: Kevin Martin (2), John Salmons (4)
Small Forwards: James Posey (new contract), Francisco Garcia (3)
Power Forwards: Udonis Haslem (3), Mikki Moore (1) Kenny Thomas (3), Justin Williams (1)
Centers: Brad Miller (3), Spencer Hawes (5)

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