The Kings’ quest to upgrade at power forward has led them back to talks with the Detroit Pistons about Josh Smith, league sources said, though a deal is not imminent.
The Kings have several power forwards, but they do not believe they have a starter they can build around and who will help them reach the playoffs.
Smith, 28, would be an improvement, the kind of athletic presence with shot-blocking ability Sacramento covets to play next to center DeMarcus Cousins.
But acquiring Smith won’t be easy, even if the Pistons would like to shed the $40.5 million owed to him over the next three seasons.
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Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive hasn’t made spending an issue, with general manager Pete D’Alessandro saying recently that having an owner who is “willing” to spend money helps facilitate deals.
Acquiring Smith would require the Kings to move at least one of their power forwards, which they have tried to do this offseason.
Jason Thompson is a likely candidate in any deal requiring substantial salary. He’s owed $19.3 million over the next three seasons and is one of the few players remaining from the previous ownership and front-office regime.
The Kings also have Carl Landry, last season’s main offseason acquisition, under contract for three more seasons worth $20.25 million and Reggie Evans ($1.8 million) and Derrick Williams ($6.7 million) in the last years of their deals. Quincy Acy has a team option worth $915,243 that would need to be exercised by July 26 to be guaranteed for the coming season.
In addition, Sacramento would be open to trading guard Jason Terry, who is owed $5.45 million for the coming season.
Those parts might not be enough to entice Detroit, even though Smith is coming off a subpar first season with the Pistons after nine seasons in Atlanta.
Smith, 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, shot a career-low 41.9 percent while averaging 16.4 points. He also averaged 6.8 rebounds, his lowest total since his second season, 3.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals.
Smith played small forward in Detroit when grouped with big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
If Smith played power forward for Sacramento, the Kings would expect his rebounds and blocks to be closer to his career averages of 7.9 and 2.1, respectively.
The Kings were fifth in the NBA in rebound percentage – the amount of available rebounds collected by a team – at 51.9 last season, largely because of Cousins, who ranked fifth in the league with 11.7 per game. The Kings were 27th with 3.9 blocks per game.
Smith, whose athleticism has been a plus on defense throughout his career, ranked 15th in the NBA with 1.43 blocks per game and would help Cousins protect the rim. Cousins was 20th in the league at 1.28 blocks per game.
One of the Kings’ top priorities this offseason is to improve their interior defense.
Skeptics would question how Cousins, small forward Rudy Gay and Smith would work together on offense. The Kings won just 28 games last season, even though Cousins, Gay and Isaiah Thomas each averaged more than 20 points.
One of the Kings’ main problems on offense has been poor shot selection, and Smith has been criticized for that, notably attempting numerous three-pointers even though he’s only a career 27.9 percent shooter from that range (26.4 percent last season).
Sacramento plans to play at a faster pace to create opportunities for its many offensive-minded players. If the Kings do not acquire a power forward, they will have to be creative with their roster. That could include playing smaller lineups, with Gay and Williams getting minutes at power forward.