Trade Candidate: Jason Thompson

December 20 2013 at 3:07pm CDT By Luke Adams

The Kings have been the most active team on the trade market so far this NBA season, having been involved in the only two deals consummated since opening night. Even after acquiring Derrick Williams from the Timberwolves and Rudy Gay from the Raptors, Sacramento may not be done making moves, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the franchise’s tumultuous 2013. After avoiding a move to Seattle, the Kings introduced a new coach, GM, and owner, and the club’s new leadership group is eager to give its loyal fans a winner on the court.

Typically, when a team’s front office undergoes changes, the new general manager and his basketball operations staff look forward to bringing in players they like, which might mean a change of scenery for favorites of the old regime. That’s what happened in Toronto, where new team president Masai Ujiri traded Gay to the Kings just a few months after former GM Bryan Colangelo had acquired him. And it looks like that’s what we’re seeing in Sacramento, where Pete D’Alessandro has already moved several players from the Geoff Petrie era, including pricey veterans John Salmons and Chuck Hayes. Next on the list of Petrie-era players to go may be Jason Thompson. Following the Kings’ trade with the Raptors, a report surfaced suggesting that Thompson was on the trade block.

Coming into the season, power forward looked like a position of depth for the Kings, and a spot where the team potentially had a trade chip or two. After acquiring Patrick Patterson late last season, the team went out and signed Carl Landry to a four-year contract, creating a logjam of power forwards that included Patterson, Landry, Hayes, and Thompson.

Landry suffered a hip injury that figures to keep him sidelined until January or February, and Patterson and Hayes are now Raptors, but even so, Thompson remains expendable. With the Kings employing more small-ball lineups that include Gay or Williams at the four, and Landry eventually on his way back, Thompson likely won’t receive enough playing time for Sacramento to justify paying him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $6MM.

When examining Thompson’s trade value, that contract is an important place to start. In the last two offseasons, only six free agents have signed five-year deals, and that group includes stars like Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Also among that group of six: Thompson, who inked a five-year, $30MM+ contract in July of 2012. While the final year of his deal is only partially guaranteed, he’s currently slated to remain under contract through 2017, which is a lifetime under the league’s new CBA.

Although that long-term contract may make Thompson tricky to trade, his yearly salaries are in the $5-7MM range over the life of the deal, so his price isn’t exorbitant. The 27-year-old’s upside also may be somewhat limited, but for a team that already has solid starters at the four and five, Thompson would make a solid third big man. Throwing out the numbers he’s accumulated in a reduced role and reduced minutes this season, the longtime King has career averages of 10.5 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 27.4 minutes per contest, to go along with 49.9% shooting. He’s also been extremely durable, only playing in fewer than 75 games once, when he appeared in 64 of 66 during the strike-shortened 2011/12 season.

Thompson’s skill-set and agency (CAA) would appeal to the Knicks, who have reportedly inquired. It’s hard not to mention the Rockets when a power forward hits the trade block, but Thompson isn’t quite the sort of stretch four Houston is seeking. Golden State could be a fit, if Marreese Speights continues to struggle, and the Clippers could use another reliable big. I could see the Heat, Nets, and Bobcats kicking the tires as well. And there are another handful of teams that are one frontcourt injury away from potentially having interest in a guy like Thompson.

Still, Thompson’s contract can’t be overlooked, and neither can his slow start this season. While he could be a useful piece on a contender, the former 12th overall pick doesn’t have a ton of trade value at the moment, which means that if the Kings want to a decent asset in return, they may need to pair him with a young player (perhaps Ray McCallum or Quincy Acy) or a future draft pick.

Having already completed a pair of noteworthy deals this season, the Kings likely aren’t done, and Thompson represents one of the team’s most logical remaining trade chips, along with Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton. Despite being on a long-term contract, Thompson doesn’t look to be a part of the long-term plans for the new regime in Sacramento, so if the club can find a way to extract some value for him in a trade, it may benefit everyone involved.

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