Ever since the Kings got screwed by Tim Donaghy in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, they’ve made countless questionable decisions that have slowly brought them to the bottom of the West Conference. They’ve become one of the laughingstocks of the league in the past few years. So when they signed Darren Collison to a 3 year/$16 million deal today, heads turned around the league. Last year’s starting point guard Isaiah Thomas is a restricted free agent, and they had yet to re-sign him.
Now, Thomas is one of the more confusing players in the league. He was the last pick of the 2011 draft, pretty much exclusively because of his lack of height. Being just 5’9,” which might even be a stretch, Thomas’ biggest problem is defense. He’s a liability defensively, going up against opposing guards that have a couple of inches on him. But offensively, Thomas is very effective. He puts up nearly identical numbers to Kyrie Irving. You might assume that Thomas was just chucking and putting up great stats on a bad team. Sure, his stats are impressive and his team was pretty bad, but his efficiency numbers were incredible too. So it’s not like he’s just stat-hunting, gunning his way to 20 points per game.
The signing of Collison leaves the Kings in an awkward position. They’ve insinuated to Collison that he’ll be the starter next season. But the Kings haven’t made a move on Thomas, yet still have the ability to match any offer he gets from other teams. So as Sam Amick puts it, Thomas can either settle for a lesser salary on a bad Kings team, or he can pursue the first real payday of his career elsewhere. And Thomas certainly deserves that payday. The Kings are looking to improve their perimeter defense with the Collison signing. Problem is that Collison is not much of a defender! And having signed Collison now, the Kings are unlikely to give Thomas the payday he wants and deserves. That would thrust them into the luxury tax. Whenever a 30-win team is in the luxury tax, that’s not good.
Here are the knocks on Thomas: he’s small, thus is not a good defender, and is a point guard that shoots a lot. Okay, so what’s Collison? He’s undersized, albeit not as much as Thomas, he’s a poor defender, and he’s a shoot-first point guard. Oh, and he’s older than Thomas too! I’m not one of those believers in Thomas that only sees his 20 and 6 stat line, and insists he’s worth a hefty deal. But it’s safe to say he’s a better player than Collison.
Here’s to hoping the Kings don’t match whatever offer Thomas gets, only to stick him on the bench. He’s earned his spot in the league. Maybe he’s not an All-Star, but he’s a starting point guard in this league. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d rather see him go to the Heat than be underutilized on an incompetent team.