It’s Time To Wake Up, Mr. West, Mr. West
During the Las Vegas Summer League, I wrote about the Kings rebuilding plan on the Daily Dime. In it I mentioned how the Kings have taken advantage of opportunities in which players inexplicably fell to them in the draft. The Kings have been fortuitous and intelligent enough to take these players despite the preexisting concerns about what these players (DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans) could or couldn’t mean to a franchise.
In taking these players, the Kings have shown the confidence and desperation to throw caution to the wind and make these guys a part of their organization and plan for rebuilding. They feel they can mold these players into the foundation of a franchise.
With the news that Delonte West has been jettisoned from Cleveland and now waived for financial and cap purposes in Minnesota, the Kings now have the chance to capitalize on this type of situation once again. I’m not proposing the Kings give Delonte West a huge contract offer to eat up a ton of cap space over the next two years. But they can offer him a great platform to get his still promising career back on track.
Basketball-wise, Delonte West is exactly what the Kings need on this roster. I don’t see a legitimate starting shooting guard on this team (this is where someone who watched the Kings for less than 10 minutes last year suggests Tyreke Evans can’t play point and should be a shooting guard). The Kings went huge with Donté Greene as the shooting guard quite a few games last year and while the results weren’t terrible, Greene is out of place on the court as a shooting guard. You can start Beno at the 2 like the Kings did plenty of times last season but if they’re serious about getting better and winning this year, that strategy isn’t going to work.
So that leaves this idea of trying to add Delonte West to the roster. The two parties mutually need each other. Delonte’s reputation has taken a bit of a hit over the past few months with wild rumors flying around and his play declining after a great role-playing season in 2008-09. He’s also had a recent run-in with the law last year when he was pulled over on his motorcycle carrying enough guns and artillery to hold up in the mall when the zombies take over the Earth.
On the Kings side of it, they desperately need a guy with his game and pedigree to make a run at the playoffs this season. Granted, even with Delonte playing at his best the Kings probably won’t make the playoffs. But with West they could definitely get invaluable experience by making a playoff push and playing in some games that provided pressure past the month of December.
Delonte does everything the Kings need. First off, he’s a tenacious defender. He’s probably one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire NBA when he has his head in the game. He provides incredible ball pressure against both point and shooting guards and it’s hard to shake free of him. He funnels opponents well into help defense and challenges shots extremely well. He’s not afraid to guard guys like Kobe Bryant and he does a pretty good job on him too. According to 82games.com, the Cavs had a defensive rating of 93.7 when he was playing point guard and 91.7 when he was playing shooting guard last season. While you can chalk a lot of that up to LeBron James and the defensive-minded system of Mike Brown, guys like Delonte West also play a huge part in it. He doesn’t confuse his ability with his role on the team.
Delonte is very talented and skilled. He theoretically could be one of those awkward Ricky Davis-type star-role player tweeners who uses his considerable ability to justify hijacking shots, possessions and sometimes games. Instead, he tries to fit seamlessly into the flow of everything and plays well off of his teammates. West would be another reliable ball-handler on the court and allow the Kings to be much deeper with Beno coming off the bench. He’s also pretty adept at creating for his teammates. He has a career assist percentage of 21, which isn’t spectacular but it shows he does a great job of creating for his teammates.
West also gives the Kings something they were sorely lacking last year – crunch time shooting. Other than Omri and Donté (who both did a nice job percentage-wise shooting in the clutch), the Kings really struggled with their clutch shooting last season. Beno and Tyreke were surprisingly bad at it and nobody else really stepped up consistently. Delonte isn’t a go-to scorer in the clutch by any means but he was someone that consistently knocks down jumpers when it counts. Aside from a horrendous season of clutchness (made up the word) in 2008-09, Delonte has been pretty deadly at the end of close games.
In the 2007-08 season, Delonte West had a clutch time field goal percentage of 57.1 and an efficient field goal percentage of 71.4. He played 17% of the clutch minutes for the Cavs. In the 2008-09 season, he regressed a lot with low percentages of 25% (field goal) and 29.2% (eFG) while playing 50% of the crunch time minutes. But he bounced back dramatically last season by shooting an absurd 66.7% from the field and had an even absurder eFG of 83.3% while playing 50% of the minutes.
Not only was he deadly but also he just didn’t miss with his jumper. 78% of his shots in the clutch were jumpers and he had an eFG of 92.9% on those jumpers. Think about that for a second. Is there anything you can do with 92.9% accuracy? There’s nothing I can do with 92.9% accuracy. So when you see that he was on one of the best teams in the league with so much pressure and intensity slapping him in the face with each shot, it makes the 92% all that more impressive. 92%, yo! (Audio NSFW)
With what the Kings will run this season in the fourth quarter, you need that kind of threat in the corner to knock down big shots. While I would never make the comparison of LeBron to Tyreke, they do get similar sets run for them at the end of games. Having a guy that the defense can’t leave in the corner and a post player (Cousins) they can’t afford to let get loose around the basket when Tyreke is driving by will be a tough combination to start. Throw in an improved jumper from Evans and you’ve got a deadly situation for opposing teams at the end of games.
The problem might be trying to convince Delonte that this is the place for him. Apparently the Mavs are in contention to sign him and the Kings simply can’t compete with that situation. As good as the Maloofs are at owning the team and the amenities they can offer with connections, you could argue Mark Cuban is just as good if not better. The team is much better, the arena is better and the market is bigger.
But the Kings can offer more money — a lot more money. The Mavericks can still offer the mid-level exception but the Kings have roughly $14 million. They could offer a three-year, $21 million contract with the third year as a player option for West. That’s not a bad contract for a legit, defensive-minded starter who just turned 27 years old. I’d even up it to $24 million if it means getting him on the Kings.
Maybe you can say that’s too risky considering his history off the court but at the same time, the Kings are financially set for the next few years. They have only $28 million committed to the books next off-season and are set up better than any other team in terms of cap room heading into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. So adding $7 million for a couple of seasons doesn’t really impact them at all. They’d still have a ton of cap room and flexibility with the roster before they have to worry about contract extensions for their young stars.
Now it’s up to the Kings again to take advantage of an opportunity falling into their laps. Delonte West isn’t the final piece to the puzzle but if you can get him to come to Sacramento and prove that his next contract should be with a championship contender then it’s a win-win for both sides.
And who knows? Maybe that next contract he signs with championship contender in a couple years is a deal to re-up with the Kings.