State of the Cap: Sacramento Kings
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Sacramento Kings Payroll: $56 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $1 million over cap
[img_assist|nid=3752|title=Mike Bibby|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]The Good: A disappointing season in Sacramento still had a bright side in Kevin Martin, who nearly won the most improved player award. Martin’s scoring average almost doubled, going from 10.8 last year to 20.2 this season. He also shot a decent percentage from the field (47%) and the three point line (38%). The Kings have found themselves a pure scorer that they can use as part of their future. At just $1.8 million next year, Martin will be a huge bargain, although that is the final year of his deal. Since a rebuilding plan is right around the corner, the Kings should try to extend Martin’s contract as soon as possible.
Ron Artest didn’t look that great in his first season as a King, but this season was a lot better. Artest improved his scoring by two points a game, shot a respectable 44% from the field, and even grabbed 6.5 rebounds per game, a career high. He gives great value for his contract as he is owed just $7.8 million next year and $8.4 million the year after that (a player option). Artest will always be a head case and an enigma, but his combination of defensive intensity and offensive ability is hard to find, especially at that price. Artest has also shown a willingness to stay with the team with newly hired Reggie Theus as coach.
The Bad: Brad Miller’s career is winding down at an incredible rate. Unfortunately for the Kings, they still have to pay him $34 million over the next three seasons. Miller averaged 9 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, both his lowest totals in seven years. He was also hurt this season, missing 19 games. For the incredible amount of dough that the team is paying him, Miller needs to get healthy and return to his old form in a hurry. By drafting Spencer Hawes, it seems the Kings don’t have a lot of confidence in him.
Joining Miller on the list or underperformers is Mike Bibby. The longtime point guard shot 40% from the field and dished 4.7 assists per game, both career lows. As the highest paid player on the team ($13.5 and $14.5 million the next two years), Bibby should be blowing away the competition, not fading off into obscurity. He is only 29 years old, which means Bibby does have a chance to bounce back from his terrible season.
Kenny Thomas has more than $23 million coming his way over the following three seasons. Thomas’s performance doesn’t even come close to earning that kind of money. The forward averaged just 5.3 points and 6.1 rebounds this year and to make matters worse, he only played in 62 games. Thomas seems to be in cruise control and Sacramento is paying a high price for it.
The Future: Since it now appears that the Ron Artest trade didn’t work out and that Brad Miller is crumbling to dust, it’s time for the Kings to demolish the current roster and start from scratch. Nearly the entire team is signed for the next two seasons but there is no way they can do any better than a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. Guys like Bibby and Artest still have real value and could land Sacramento a few draft picks and young players in return. Martin is definitely a keeper and Hawes is a good center prospect, but this team desperately needs an infusion of young talent. Rebuilding will be a hard pill for the Maloof brothers to swallow, but it needs to be done. Tinkering with this line-up won’t get you anywhere in the loaded Western Conference.
Free Throw: Is anyone else on the Kings capable of having a breakout year like Kevin Martin did? If I had to pick one, it would be John Salmons. The team signed Salmons to a moderate deal, roughly $5 million a year the next four years. That could prove to be an excellent contract for Sacramento. Salmons can do a little of everything and has been improving each year. He even recorded a triple-double this season when he poured in 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Nuggets. If Salmons can add some consistency to his game, he could have a great upcoming season.
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