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NBA AM: Is It Time To Tear Down The Kings?

For the Sacramento Kings to move forward, will they have to tear things apart? … The NBA playoff picture is taking shape… Loul Deng doesn’t want to think about free agency yet

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Rebuild the Kings or Stay The Course:  Since Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl was hired, there has been a narrative that in the offseason the Kings would have to explore trading big man DeMarcus Cousins mainly because of Karl’s desired up-tempo style of play, which conflicts with the slower Cousins.

Both sides of the equation have said that simply isn’t going to happen, but when asked if his franchise big man was untradeable, Karl didn’t exactly dismiss the notion.

“I think we can make a big step next year,” Karl said to Bill Herenda of CSN Bay Area. “As an organization, we have to be aware of what if? What if we get offered (a good trade)? What if? That’s Pete (D’Alessandro) and Vlade’s (Divac) area of expertise.”

“I’ve had some great players and I’ve never had one player that I have said is untradeable,” Karl added. “You always got to be ready for the possibility of a great trade that could come your way.”

Karl seemed to understand how the comments might play, and qualified them with a little support for Cousins’ progress since he took over as head coach.

“I know I respect him (DeMarcus Cousins) a tremendous amount,” Karl said. “I think our give and take and our communication has been almost on a daily basis . . . until we can really get to a special place together, I think we’ve got to continue to communicate, what he wants and what I want.”

Karl also conceded that roster change was going to be required to turn the team around next season and more talent would need to come in.

“I think it’d be good to get one (good player) in each area,” Karl admitted. “We have excuses but excuses are for losers and we want to be a winner.”

There has also been a long running narrative that Karl would like to see a reunion with Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, who is angling to get out of Denver. It would be extremely difficult to pull off a Lawson trade without a major asset going back to Denver.

Lawson has had an on again, off again relationship with the same agency that represents Cousins, so there is some external pressures that could be applied to either marry the two players together in Sacramento, or use one to facilitate a move for the other.

There is no doubt that this will be an interesting offseason for the Kings. The question is will they really entertain Cousins trades or is the rebuild going to be more of a retool?

The Playoff Picture:  While it does seem the final playoff spots in both conferences will be decided by the final game of the regular season, the 2015 NBA Playoff picture is starting to take shape at the top and some of the matchups that seemed one-sided a few weeks ago might get a little more interesting, especially as injuries are starting to pile up.

Here is the current snap shot:

Western Conference Eastern Conference
(1) Golden State (66-15)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 0, vs. West: 1
(8) New Orleans (44-37)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. West: 1
Regular season series (Warriors lead 3-1)
(2) San Antonio (55-26)
Games remaining: 1 (0 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. West: 1
(7) Dallas (49-32)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. West: 1
Regular season series (Series tied 2-2)

(3) LA Clippers (55-26)
Games remaining: 1 (0 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 0, vs. West: 1
(6) Memphis (54-27)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 0, vs. West: 0
Regular season series (Series tied 2-2)

(4) Portland (51-30)
Games remaining: 1 (0 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. West: 1
(5) Houston (55-26)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 0, vs. West: 1
Regular season series (Trail Blazers lead 2-1)

(1) Atlanta (60-21)
Games remaining: 1 (0 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. East: 1
(8) Indiana (37-43)
Games remaining: 2 (1 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 2, vs. East: 1
Regular season series (Hawks lead 3-0)
(2) Cleveland (52-29)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. East: 1
(7) Boston (38-42)
Games remaining: 2 (1 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 2, vs. East: 2
Regular season series (Series tied 2-2)

(3) Chicago (49-32)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. East: 1
(6) Milwaukee (41-40)
Games remaining: 1 (1 Home, 0 Away)
vs. +.500: 0, vs. East: 1
Regular season series (Bulls lead 3-1)

(4) Toronto (48-32)
Games remaining: 2 (1 Home, 1 Away)
vs. +.500: 0, vs. East: 2
(5) Washington (46-34)
Games remaining: 2 (0 Home, 2 Away)
vs. +.500: 1, vs. East: 2
Regular season series (Raptors lead 3-0)

The NBA regular season ends on Wednesday April 15.

Not Ready To Talk, But It Seems Inevitable:  Miami HEAT forward Luol Deng signed a two-year, $20 million contract last summer that contains a player option worth $10.1 million for next season.

The HEAT are on the verge of elimination from the postseason; however, Deng refused to engage whether he would opt to return or explore free agency again.

“We’re talking about it early; I’m not thinking about it yet,” Deng said to Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. “We could go to Philly and win and the other teams lose and I’m here talking to you about opting in or opting out, then all of a sudden I’ve gotta get my mind right for the Atlanta series. I really don’t want to go there yet. When the season’s over and I sit down and relax, I can start thinking about that stuff.”

Deng was shopped a little around the trade deadline as the fit in Miami hasn’t been as expected, hence Deng’s hesitation. However, with what Miami’s roster looks to be next summer, Deng admits it’s an appealing situation.

“On paper, it sounds great, but at the same time it’s all about chemistry and developing together as a unit and making each other better,” Deng said. “I think it will be a little easier knowing that guys are more familiar with my game. At the same time, you’ve got (Chris) Bosh and (Josh) McRoberts coming back. Training camp will be almost like brand new because you’re starting with Hassan (Whiteside) and Goran (Dragic), if he’s back. It’s another new team. But at least guys are familiar not only with your game, but your personality and where you like to play.”

Deng has always been complimentary of the HEAT organization, especially their training staff. A number of older players have commented how much easier it is to play in warmer weather too. And while weather won’t be the only factor, Deng understands where he is at in his career.

“I love this organization,” Deng said. “It’s been top-class and everything. I’ve had one of my healthiest years. It was never anything serious. I’ve felt great about the medical staff.

“When you’ve been in the league 11 years, as soon as you start putting mileage on your body, you want a group that knows your body and you’re comfortable with them. The organization has been great.”

There could be as many as 14 NBA teams with more than $12 million to spend in free agency this summer, with a number of large-market situations. Deng will have to make his decision before knowing what guys like Dragic will do in free agency.

League sources have doubted for some time that Deng could command in free agency more than the $10.1 million he’s owed, but there is always the chance to trade the final year on the deal for a new multi-year deal, especially if the situation is right.

Deng has kept no secret that he’s looking for a chance to win a championship, the question is could it happen in Miami next season?

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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