With the Warriors facing their NorCal rivals the Sacramento Kings tonight at Arco, I thought it would be an ideal time to check in with our man Tom Ziller. TZ has the most dangerous triple threat of any hoops blogger alive with his excellence on SBN brother site Sactown Royalty, his sharps on Ballhype, and his insights on the entire association over at FanHouse.
Make the jump for his scouting report on the Kings and a few potential trade scenarios between the Warriors and Kings.
Golden State of Mind: Tell us about the Kings' young stud 2-guard Kevin Martin. Through the first 14 games of the season he's putting up 24 ppg ( 42.7% FG and 39.4% 3pt), 5 rpg, 2.2 apg, and 1.4 spg. He even has a 43 and 10 explosion against the Knicks in Sac earlier this November to add to his resume. Is he a budding superstar? Is he a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or lower option on a playoff team in the West?
Tom Ziller: Here's why we love Kevin Martin so much: He's a star, and he's still budding. He's only 24 and he'll hang around the top 10 in scoring and True Shooting percentage (which factors in the value of threes and free throws), which is nearly an impossibly feat (something limited to ultra-efficient guys like Reggie Miller and Larry Bird). No one knows how high he'll reach -- in most cases, this would be a sort-of burden; you knew Kobe and LeBron were going to be MVP candidates after their first few years, whereas with a scorer like Martin, you're rolling the dice. But the great thing, and the reason Kings fans aren't worried about him, is that there are no dice to roll: He's locked up at a reasonable salary for five more years after this one. If he becomes a first-tier star (which would mean something like 28 points on 46% shooting with 5 rebs and 3-4 assists -- he's not far now), that's fantastic. If he doesn't? There's plenty of cap space and time to work with. And there are plenty of possessions too, because he's so efficient. This will never be a Kobe situation where there aren't enough shots to keep everyone involved -- Kevin just isn't built that way, he refuses to take bad shots (which sometimes frustrates us). I think it's safe to say pairing him with a dominant big and some good role players could get this team to legit contender status.
Golden State of Mind: Before last season Brad Miller was a very good center in the big man loaded Western Conference. He even managed to sneak in two All-Star appearances (one with the Pacers and one with the Kings). Aside from the cornrows what happened to Miller? What explains the big fall? Do you think he'll be able to rebound to that level this season for the Kings or he is trade bait?
Tom Ziller: He'd be trade bait if any team would even think about taking his contract. It's big and long (where have I heard that before?), and he's clearly on the downside. But he's bounced back rather well lately; he seems to be getting his footing in Reggie Theus' mysterious offense. He won't be as bad as he looked last year (he disliked Eric Musselman's offense greatly and had some issues with the premature birth of his daughter midseason), but he's not going to be the Brad of 2002-2005. I think Kings fans would be ecstatic with 12/8/4 or something similar. And the more he can teach Spencer Hawes, the better.
Golden State of Mind: Two season ago the Warriors were heavily rumored to be in the Ron Artest sweepstakes when the Pacers had him on the block and refused to play him, but then Sacramento snatched him up in an exchange for Peja. That trade helped propel the Kings to an exciting first round date with the Spurs in the 2006 NBA Playoffs. The Kings look like they're in a different situation now and most likely aren't bound for the 2008 NBA Playoffs.
How serious do you think the rumors are that Ron Artest is on the trading block right now? Also, do you think the Kings would consider trading Ron Artest in a salary dump for the Warriors' $10 million trade exception this season? How about for a package of Monta Ellis, Marco Belinelli, Patrick O'Bryant, and Kosta Perovic if the Kings are looking to build for the future? Would Kings' fans be happy about either of these trades?
Tom Ziller: I think the Kings are more apt to listen to Artest offers than they were in the fall, solely because of the strides made by John Salmons and Francisco Garcia. But the Kings aren't going to give him away -- that's what kept Mike Bibby in Sacramento last February -- because his likely cap relief isn't negligible. Geoff Petrie is being very patient with these moves, and because Artest is so valued Petrie will especially discerning on offers which come his way. Ellis wouldn't work because the Kings couldn't resign him in the offseason (unless he wants to take the midlevel, which I doubt). The Kings are looking for cap room (O'Bryant works), picks, and young bigs (O'Bryant doesn't work terribly well for the same reason as Ellis -- the Kings would have trouble resigning him and dealing with the point guard position this offseason). The only scenarios I can conjure up with regards to Golden State and Artest would use the trade exception, the first round pick, and whatever contracts Petrie is willing to pay out this year. It might come down to Petrie trying to attach onerous contracts to Artest, and I'm not sure Chris Mullin wants to take a Kenny Thomas or Shareef Abdur-Rahim back just to rent Ron-Ron for the postseason push.
The entire GSoM crew would like to thank TZ for sharing his thoughts. Make sure to check out his work on Ballhype and FanHouse on the regular and head on over to Sactown Royalty anytime you feel like hearing the ring of digital cowbells. I will forever root for the Kings anytime they face the LA Fakers. The 2002 Western Conference Finals were rigged!