Nic Batum, Roy Hibbert, Eric Gordon and the future of the Sacramento Kings

In case you missed it, the 2011 NBA lockout has had no effect on the 2012 free agency period.  There is no rhyme or reason; this situation is 100 percent out of control.

While Sacramento Kings fans are clamoring for their team to jump into the madness, sitting this one out is the best thing they could possibly do as a franchise.

It’s not to say that Nic Batum wouldn’t look great in purple and black.  It’s just that he isn’t worth the reported four year, $50 million deal the Minnesota Timberwolves are offering.  An offer the Blazers have already said that they will match.

Can you imagine paying $50 million for a wing that averaged 14 points and less than five rebounds a game last season for a team that finished 10 games under .500?  Talk about great expectations.

Batum isn’t the only player getting paid.  There are two players that should flat out scare the Kings to death.

According to reports, Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers, a quality, young 7-foot-2 center that helped his team get to the second round of the playoffs, will sign a four year, $58 million offer sheet with the Portland Trail Blazers – an average salary of almost $15 million a year for a player that posted 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and two blocks per game.

Honestly, if Roy Hibbert is worth $15 million, what is DeMarcus Cousins going to be worth in a couple of seasons when his contract is up for renegotiation?

Eric Gordon played a total of nine games last season for the New Orleans Hornets after coming over in the Chris Paul trade with the L.A. Clippers.  He is talented, but missing 57 of 66 games due to a knee injury should at least give some folks pause.

But, not this year.  Gordon will sign a four-year $58 million deal with the Phoenix Suns, again a contract the Hornets have already said they would match.  Gordon has made it clear he wants to play for Phoenix, but that is nothing more than a very poor public relations move.  He will play out the next four seasons as a member of the Hornets.  That is, if his knee holds up.

While Cousins has two more seasons on his rookie deal, Tyreke Evans is up for a new, long-term contract after this season.  The Kings have the option to negotiate with Evans now, but after two inconsistent seasons, the team has decided to see what kind of improvements year four brings.  It’s a gamble, but Evans will still be a restricted free agent next season.

The question remains, will one season really mean anything in the grand scheme of things?  Evans is a commodity.  His versatility and ability to go at the rim make him a target for any team and trust me, there are plenty of teams out there that feel like they could turn him into the star many thought he would be after winning Rookie of the Year in 2009.

The Kings get a little relief after this season when veteran Francisco Garcia and his $6.1 million come off the books.  After next year, John Salmons and his $7.6 million contract go away, but is it enough?

Can the Kings afford for Tyreke Evans to meet his tremendous potential?  Can they afford for him not to?

What about Cousins?  Will his personality quirks knock down his value at least a little?

The answer is no.  These two players are going to get paid in full with max money contracts, whether it’s by the Kings or someone else.

What does this mean?

It means that the Kings need to make all the right moves with regards to the other 12 roster spots.  They can’t miss on players.  They need Chuck Hayes and Marcus Thornton to play up to their respective contracts.  They need Jason Thompson at the right price and they need young players like Isaiah Thomas, Thomas Robinson and Jimmer Fredette to mature and contribute at an early stage of their careers.

This is the NBA in 2012.  You either buy or build stars.  Either way, you have to pay them handsomely and hold your breath that you have hitched your ponies to the right wagon.

So let Nic Batum be a cautionary tale.  Follow the road map, it has already been written.  Roy Hibbert and Eric Gordon have told you what the future holds.  The time for gambles and missteps has passed.  The time to pay up is almost here.


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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".