The Clippers face a familiar foe tonight so I turned to a familiar friend, Tom Ziller, who's been writing the Sactown Royalty blog ever since Al Gore invented the interwebs it seems. Ziller answered questions about the team to help us get a better handle on them.
Steve Perrin: Mbah a Moute for Williams. Strange that this trade occurred in this crazy five day hole in the Sacramento schedule, so you've had days and days to think about Williams, without ever seeing him in a Kings uniform. Sometimes a guy like that just needs a change of scenery. Sometimes a tweener with no NBA position who's one of the biggest draft busts in history is a tweener with no NBA position who's one of the biggest draft busts in history What's your gut tell you about Derrick Williams on the Kings?
Tom Ziller: Williams' per-minute numbers as a starter on the Wolves weren't bad. Since the Kings have been so awful at forward this season, I think it presents a great opportunity for Williams to perform up to that level or beyond. In particular, the Kings lack frontcourt athletes. The front office is trying to change the team's style, as well, and he represents a step in that direction (even though we lost the team's best defender in the process). I think Williams may never be considered as someone who lived up to the No. 2 pick, but I think he can become a solid starter in the NBA. Hopefully with the Kings.
SP: Man does DeMarcus Cousins seem to hate the Clippers. Last game he dragged Isaiah Thomas off the court as IT was trying to shake hands with Chris Paul and his Seattle pal Jamal Crawford. I haven't seen that much of Cousins against other teams. Is he like that all the time, or does he have a particular loathing for the LAC? Are you cool with DMC's display of dubious sportsmanship last Saturday?
TZ: Cousins is only really like this against the Clippers, though he doesn't seem to have much love lost for the Warriors either. He really, really does not like Blake Griffin or Chris Paul. He commented on flopping a few times; he even once tweeted on an apparent CP3 flop when the Clips were playing some other team and Boogie was watching. From Cousins' standpoint, CP3 and Blake display dubious sportsmanship all game long, so he's not interested in ignoring that when the final horn sounds. It's pretty uniquely Boogie at this point. I'm fine with it because it's pretty hilarious. Seeing CP3 totally flummoxed about it is worth whatever annoyance it caused Isaiah Thomas. (And, for the record, Cousins and I.T. are pretty close.)
SP: Thomas is the leading bench scorer in the NBA at present, no matter how you slice it (total points, average, per 36, whatever). His buddy Jamal is next (206 represent!). Thomas has been spectacular, while newcomer Greivis Vasquez has been, let's say adequate. Should Thomas be starting, or at least getting a larger share of the minutes? In a related question, how is it possible that this guy averaged fewer points per minute in the Pac-12 than he is averaging in the NBA? He absolutely torments CP3; how is it possible that Lazeric Jones could slow him down in the slightest? I don't get that.
TZ: Isaiah's always been an NBA-style guard who loves to attack in transition and score out of the pick-and-roll. I didn't watch much Pac-12 ball, but based on where I.T. was drafted, I think his performance has stunned everyone. I don't think he should start for the simple reason that it's totally working right now. And while the starting lineup has problems, it's not really Vasquez. It's more iffy performance from 2-3-4. Ben McLemore has struggled quite a bit since being named starter -- he was getting awesome in a bench role. The small forward was 'solved' by Luc Mbah a Moute ... whoops! And power forward has been a mess. Keeping Isaiah where he is thriving makes the most sense to me.
SP: Jason Thompson is an interesting case study, something you rarely see. He's in his sixth season with the Kings but he's just kind of... there. He's usually the starter, but seemingly only as a last resort; he's not bad but not particularly good. Usually players like that get moved -- either the team or the player believes they can do better. The Kings have auditioned Patterson, Thomas Robinson, Hickson, Landry (twice!)... so many guys at the four. Now maybe Williams. Thompson actually played with Brad Miller for FSM's sake. I guess I'm asking, when do the Kings and JT admit it's not a love connection and move on from each other?
TZ: J.T. has been involved in trade rumors since roughly 2010. I'm a little stunned that the Maloofs allowed Geoff Petrie to re-sign him in 2012. That said, Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson were the team's only other power forwards at the time, so there wasn't much choice and the Maloofs were desperately trying to prove they weren't cheap. (They made a huge deal out of hitting the salary cap. Sound like a familiar style to you?) But J.T., as you note, has been in the crosshairs for replacement repeatedly. I think the new regime with cut him loose at the first opportunity. I think he's checked out on the franchise after such a dysfunctional first five years. I don't really blame him.
SP: How long does the Vivek honeymoon last? There's battles off the court (arena) and on (winning games) to be fought, and Ranadivé has the current advantage of NOT being a Maloof. Assuming the arena stuff all stays on track, when do you think the fan base says "Hey, where's my playoff team?" (BTW, I'd die happy if the Clippers had your owner.)
TZ: Personally, I can't see the Vivek honeymoon ending without him going totally Maloof/cheap on us or the arena going off the rails on his account. Neither seems likely. I think fans in general expect a competitive team by the time the arena opens in 2016, and I do think the front office is attuned to that expectation. My thinking on the team's progression is: bad this season, close to .500 in 2014-15, low playoff seed or just outside the playoffs in 2015-16, playoffs and perhaps high expectations in 2016-17. This draft, obviously, has a huge role in that timeline.
Thanks Tom. The Derrick Williams era in Sacramento begins in just a few hours. It's going to be huge; or possibly no big deal. One thing to remember about Williams -- his expectations in Minnesota were "second overall pick"; his expectations now can be "traded for a second round pick". That's a big difference, and maybe he'll respond better with less pressure.