Semi-related development: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak tells the Los Angeles Times that the plan is to stick with the current roster rather than look to trade for a center in the wake of what could be a season-ending knee injury to Andrew Bynum. Understandable. The Lakers have the comfort of proven success with Pau Gasol at center and Lamar Odom at power forward and retain the cap flexibility with Odom's expiring contract instead of having Miller on the books through the end of next season. The risk is merely coming close to a championship again and realizing too late that another big could have made the difference. Plus, it won't be hard to deal Miller next season, as an expiring contract at a position many teams have a need.
Just conversation here. Thinking out loud. Not advocating. Exactly the opposite: The Kings should not have taken this route, they needed to move on, and this definitely would not have been moving on.
But it's at least an interesting consideration in their quicksand season:
Would the Kings be better off if they had kept Mike Bibby and Ron Artest?
Think about it. The internal mood would be terrible, but it couldn't be worse than this. The money would be about the same and cap-clearing free-agent departures would still be coming in the summer of 2009. The '08 draft standing, No. 12, would probably have been similar, if not exactly the same, so Jason Thompson might be on board anyway. (The Kings finished three games ahead of the Trail Blazers for what would have been No. 13 and 10 ahead of the Warriors for No. 14, and Golden State would have taken Anthony Randolph over Thompson even if it had been higher.)
The differences would have been in the standings, because the roster of the parallel universe would not be 11-39, and the effort, because Bibby and Artest would not have rolled over like this.
The trickle-down setback would have been in the '09 draft. Now a strong contender for the No. 1 pick and the clear consensus choice as the best prospect available, Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin, six or eight or 10 more wins would greatly decrease chances of a top-four selection.
Otherwise, the Kings could have had severe chemistry issues, a trip to the lottery and a similar financial outlook without the two major trades of the last calendar year. They might even have a better financial outlook because more fans would have come out to watch a team that at least tried every night. More energy on the court would mean more wins, more wins would probably mean more fans and more fans would mean more tickets sold, more parking at the ridiculous $10 to rent a slab of cement for a few hours, more food and concessions sold. More money.
It's impossible to guarantee that wins equals money in this economic climate. Maybe people stay away no matter what because their dollars are earmarked for the real world. But there's at least the chance. And more money would mean more to re-invest in the future roster. Say what you will about Joe Maloof/Gavin Maloof/Geoff Petrie and their actual decisions, but the Maloofs spend.
Donte Greene and Bobby Jackson, acquired from the Rockets in the Artest deal, would not be here, and neither would Houston's first-round pick in June, a selection that projects in the mid-20s. Shelden Williams, acquired from the Hawks in the Bibby deal, would not be here. Maybe Bobby Brown would not have been signed or Sean Singletary would still be a King, Brown or Singletary as the third-string point guard.
The real tough read: Beno Udrih.
If the Kings did not trade Bibby, would they have re-signed Udrih as a free agent in the summer of '08? I'll say yes, if not with the same major investment. Maybe they lose him in that case. But Petrie obviously liked him and could have kept Udrih as the backup until Bibby was traded this season or left in July as a free agent.
With that guess, the other, imagined version of the roster:
PG -- Bibby, Udrih, Brown or Singletary.
SG -- Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Quincy Douby.
SF -- Artest, John Salmons, Garcia.
PF -- Thompson, Mikki Moore, Kenny Thomas.
C -- Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes.
The reality version:
PG -- Udrih, Brown, Jackson.
SG -- Martin, Garcia, Douby.
SF -- Salmons, Garcia, Greene.
PF -- Thompson, Moore, Williams, Thomas.
C -- Miller, Hawes.
Financial impact of the other version: Bibby about to become a free agent, Artest about to become a free agent. Total potentially coming off the cap: $22.38 million.
Financial impact of the real-life version: Jackson about to become a free agent, Williams about to become a free agent. Total potentially coming off the cap: $9.88 million. (Another large portion came off with the previous departures of Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue and Lorenzen Wright, acquired in the Bibby deal.) Plus, Greene would not be on the roster at $809,300. And Douby, unrelated to the trade with Atlanta or Houston, is coming off at $1.43 million.
To have stayed with the imagined version, the original version, would have been a bad idea. But that tradeoff would have meant some positives being in place, and this situation can use some positives. More wins, more money. Less of a future. Some conversation.