With all of the golf coverage from this last weekend, we got away from the morning cup o’ Kings. Today, we are back and since it’s his birthday, we will look into some old footage of Kings power forward/center Jason Thompson as a senior at Rider University.
Kings President of Basketball Operations, Geoff Petrie, became known for his ability to mine talent in Europe through the late 90′s and early 2000′s. Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu became crucial pieces during the glory years of Kings basketball, both drafted as young European prospects by Petrie and his staff. Following the European invasion, Petrie turned to players from small U.S. colleges such as Western Carolina, Rutgers and Rider. Like his European picks, Petrie found success, first with Kevin Martin and most recently with Jason Thompson.
Thompson started out hot as a rookie, joining Spencer Hawes in a promising front line. But the hope that a Spencer Hawes/Jason Thompson front court could return the Kings to the playoffs dissipated quickly. Before last season, Hawes was traded to Philadelphia with Andres Nocioni for center Samuel Dalembert, clearing minutes for rookie DeMarcus Cousins. Lost in a four man rotation of Dalembert, Cousins and Carl Landry, Thompson struggled in his transition to a role player. After starting 114 games his first two seasons, JT started only 39 games last season and saw his minutes drop from 31.4 in year two to just 23.3 in his third year as a pro.
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Following the trade deadline, which saw veteran Carl Landry shipped to New Orleans for Marcus Thornton, Thompson received more minutes and his production improved. JT also found ways to fit with both Samuel Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins down the stretch, using his jumper from the top of the key to really open up the post for his fellow bigs. At 6′-11″ and 250-pounds, the 25-year-old Thompson can play either the center or the power forward position, making him valuable to any team. There is no telling what role Jason will have with the Kings next season, but he is in the final year of his rookie contract and playing for a new contract. Carl Landry is a distant memory, but the Kings already made a move to acquire athletic big man JJ Hickson from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Kings also have close to $28 million to spend in free agency and have their eyes set on a front line power player that would again clog the Kings front court.
While there is no guarantee that Jason Thompson will be a Sacramento King beyond this season, it is hard not to see him being an NBA fixture for the next decade. A high motor, blue collar worker, Thompson brings his lunch pail to work every night, has great size and is a great character guy in the locker room. It’s not often that you see an NBA player with so much uncertainty. Thompson might start alongside DeMarcus Cousins. He might be the first big off the bench, or he could be fighting for minutes in a crowded front court. Only time will tell.