Unlike recent wild speculation about Steve Nash trades, Jason Thompson of the Sacramento Kings has been reported to be on the trade blocks, according to two actual reporters with a known history of being reliable about such things. That's not to say he WILL be traded, but when Sam Amick (AOL Fanhouse) and Marc Stein (ESPN) both report he's being shopped, it's worth taking seriously.
You also don't have to look much past the Kings stats this season to see that Thompson, who is 24 and drafted in the same 2008 class as Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic, went from being a 30 mpg starter last year to 15 mpg bench guy this year. Last night against the Suns, he recorded his first ever DNP-CD as a pro.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Thompson has fallen behind Carl Landry and Darnell Jackson in the Kings power forward depth chart. They've tried to get him some minutes at small forward, but that's not a natural fit for the 6-11, 250 pound big man who has decent mid-range touch and can put the ball on the deck a bit, but simply does not have the skill set of a small forward. In fact, he's more likely to play center than small forward.
The Suns, of course, very much need a legit power forward and there was a time last year and even in his rookie season when JT looked like he was on track to be a very good one. It's troubling, however, to see him lose his job not only to Landry, but to Darnell Jackson.
Jackson, in case you weren't aware, was drafted 52nd in the same 2008 draft as Thompson and has done very little in his first few years in Cleveland (2008, 2009) and Milwaukee (2009). I can only imagine (but will certainly be asking Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty) that the Kings want a guy on the floor who doesn't need the ball as much as JT does. They are probably struggling enough with leadership and ball-sharing issues between Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and their wing gunners (Casspi and Garcia).
Thompson was known as a good defensive rebounder, an average defender, and a pretty good offensive player who had both inside and mid-range skills. He averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in 31 minutes per game last year. His defensive rebounding rate of 20.3% compares well to Warrick (12.8%), Stoudemire (18.9%), and Robin Lopez (15.6%).
As for his defense, here's what Ziller wrote last May:
Is Jason Thompson a Good Defender? - Sactown Royalty
The Kings defense was 1.6 points per 100 possessions better with J.T. on the floor than when he was not. As the two highest-minute big men (Thompson and Hawes) rotated between the starting line-up and bench, unadjusted plus-minus is less problematic than it normally would be. That the team would be better defensive with Thompson on the floor isn't surprising. But Synergy's data lets us go deeper. So we know about J.T.'s iso defense: it was damn good this season. What about in the post, where he defended 203 plays? Opponets scored 0.9 points per possessions against J.T. there. That's about middle of the pack for the NBA. Opponents shot 47% on J.T. in the post, and he committed a shooting foul on 11% of these plays.
Offensively, Thompson is built a lot like Channing Frye, but is a bit more athletic and mobile and much more inclined to play inside out, than outside in. He's also much more of a natural roll man on the pick-and-roll, although that's hard to say for sure since he's never played with an elite (or even decent) point guard.
A four man rotation of Lopez, Frye, Warrick and Thompson would be solid and give Gentry a lot of options depending on match ups and who's playing well.
Thompson's a decent guy who I think would thrive with the opportunity to play for a good team and not the young hot mess that is Sacramento.
So what should the Suns do?
It's hard to imagine the Suns not being a better team with Jason Thompson on the roster. The problem, of course, is making room for him. Obviously, the Suns already are struggling to find minutes for the 10 guys playing now and the Kings aren't stupid, either. They know that Thompson has value on the market and are not going to just give him up for nothing.
Sorry, Earl Clark for Jason Thompson isn't happening.
The salaries, however, are fairly easy since JT is still on a rookie deal. He's owed about $2m this year and about $3m next year. He will be up for an extension next October.
The new Suns front office has zero track record for us to go on. We have no idea what they might do since there's no history to judge from. This is all uncharted waters, but you better believe somewhere in those offices they are wondering what it would take to get Thompson. They are too smart to not at least consider the options. Here's what I would think the options look like.
What do the Kings need? You have to start any trade discussion with that question. We know they have Cousins and Dalembert at center and also rookie 7-footer Hassan Whiteside. They seem to be happy with Landry and Jackson at the four, as well. At small forward, they are leaning heavily on second-year Omri Casspi and the ho-hum Francisco Garcia, who's a 2/3 combo. That's certainly a need.
Point guard is an issue, but Udrih is playing well again and, with Evans needing the ball, it would be a mistake to fill that position with too strong of a player. Look how poorly Andre Miller has fit with Brandon Roy.
They also have a need for leadership and character guys.
So, what could the Suns offer?
1) Grant Hill for Thompson. This is pretty much sacrilege to even suggest and while Hill, in theory, would be a good fit on the Kings team, it really doesn't make sense for them at this stage in their franchise's development to bring on a guy like Grant. The Suns also would risk huge backlash from the team and fans if Hill as moved, and rightly so.
2) Jared Dudley for Thompson. This is the deal that, on paper, makes the most sense for the Kings. They get a defensive three who can stretch the floor. He's a high character guy that the Kings need and, with his new extension, is locked up at a good number for awhile. I could see the Kings agreeing to this, but would you really want to see the Suns lose JD? No more JMZ. No more big hustle plays. It would be hard to swallow, but you have to give up something to get something.
3) Josh Childress for Thompson and salary filler. Josh can't be be traded until December 15th, but aside from that, are you really ready to give up a guy who is such a good fit long term? With Hill coming to the close of his career and Jason Richardson's contract expiring, JChill gives the Suns a good core player for the long term. For the Kings, he adds defensive depth and on the wing, but doesn't help spread the floor for Evans. I could see he and Evans in the back court together at times, however, and that would be pretty solid. Moving Josh creates space for Dragic to get more minutes at the backup SG, which is probably a good thing as well.
3) Earl Clark and Gani Lawal and the Suns 2011 first round pick for Jason Thompson. This would be a dream scenario for the Suns. It would create an even bigger log jam for minutes, but you wouldn't be giving up too much. Lawal has potential, but that's still a long ways off and Earl ... well, what more can be said about Earl? The Suns will pick would likely be in the 15-25 range, which has value, but is worth giving up to get JT. I don't see the Kings doing this unless they are really soured on Thompson.
I am sure people are are going to suggest Hedo for Thompson, but aside from the salaries being way off and the Kings not having any expiring contracts to fill the gap, the Suns aren't going to move him this soon. And while he might be a decent fit for the Kings, where he can play the three and give them another playmaker, it's hard to imagine them accepting that contract. Warrick for Thompson makes no sense, either. If Thompson isn't getting playing time for the Kings, why would they want Hakim (or Frye for that matter)?
The bottom line: I don't see this happening. I don't think the Suns should be (or are) in a hurry to start messing with their current roster and unless the Kings are willing to take Clark, Lawal and a pick, Thompson isn't worth giving up Dudley or Childress.
What would you do?