Early into the 2010-11 season it was questionable if Jason Thompson would finish the season with the Kings.
Thompson was behind DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert and Carl Landry for playing time. Coach Paul Westphal even experimented with Thompson as a small forward.
Now Thompson has played himself into a role with the Kings for the immediate future. Thompson wasn't given a contract extension this season, but Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie has been impressed with how Thompson has performed this season.
Thompson is a reason the Kings were comfortable buying out J.J. Hickson -- who figured to be a starter this season -- on Monday.
"At some point if you go back to the beginning of the season we were going to have to make a decision on both of those players in regards to a qualifying offer or not to give them a qualifying offer," Petrie said. "We felt we were going to qualify Jason and his play continues to be in the home improvement aisle."
The qualifying offer will make Thompson a restricted free agent in the offseason and give the Kings the right to match any offer for him.
Thompson is averaging 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds, but 9.5 points and eight rebounds as a starter.
Thompson beat out Hickson for the starting job after Chuck Hayes was injured in January and Hickson didn't show much to justify taking playing time from Thompson after losing the starting job.
The Kings had no intention of keeping Hickson, who was acquired last June for forward Omri Casspi and a conditional first-round draft choice.
The hope was Hickson, who was coming the best season of his career, would emerge as the starting power forward and provide an athletic complement to Cousins.
Hickson, however, played center a lot for Cleveland last season and never looked comfortable with the Kings.
"Sometimes things look good on paper but the reality turns out to be different," Petrie said. "That's true about a lot of things."
Hickson is shooting a career-worst 37 percent this season.
Rather than drag out a situation that was going to end with Hickson leaving after the season, the Kings can now get a closer look at another potential restricted free agent, Donte' Greene.
"Looking ahead and looking at the way things had gone at this point of the season we just didn't feel the longer term future was going to work for (Hickson) or work for us," Petrie said. "So we had to make a decision about what's the best that you can do in a situation that didn't work out.
*As for that first-round pick that is part of the trade, here are the conditions:
Lottery protected in 2012
Top-13 protected in 2013
Top-12 protected in 2014
Top-10 protected from 2015-17
If the Cavaliers don't receive a first-round pick by 2017, they will receive a second-round pick.