Why didn’t the Kings get more for Kevin Martin?

In his post-deadline PER diem column, John Hollinger discusses how the Rockets were able to end up with a ton of assets in the three-way trade with the Kings and the Knicks.

Consider the Kings, for instance. They had a coveted star in Kevin Martin, $13 million in expiring contracts belonging to Kenny Thomas, Sergio Rodriguez, Hilton Armstrong, Ime Udoka and Sean May, and $1.6 million in cap room to do an unbalanced trade. They should have been controlling the entire game on deadline day.

Unfortunately, they didn’t choose to play. Sacramento didn’t let teams know Martin was available, and in fact insisted he wasn’t available; unlike Phoenix with Stoudemire, the Kings have no idea if Houston’s offer was the best one they could have had. In fact, there’s considerable evidence they could have done much better — possibly by bypassing the Rockets entirely.

Consider, for starters, what would have been the perfect home for Martin: Boston. The Kings could have sent Martin and little-used Andres Nocioni to the Celtics for Ray Allen and a first-round pick, and cleared $18 million in cap room (the Celtics, given their current time horizon, would have blurted out yes to this offer in a nanosecond).

They then could have used Allen and Kenny Thomas in a deal with the Knicks and walked away with the exact same trove of assets that the Rockets did. If so, Sacramento wouldn’t have Landry, but look at what they’d have instead: Jordan Hill, New York’s 2012 first-rounder, Boston’s 2011 first-rounder, the right to swap picks with New York in 2011 (admittedly, an item of more value to Houston given the two clubs’ likely records next season), and the same cap room they cleared with the Martin trade.

The only reason they don’t have those assets, it would appear, is that they didn’t ask. While the Kings fiddled, Houston forced the action and squeezed all it could from New York. When the Knicks wouldn’t flinch, the Rockets scrambled to get alternate deals in place: first an all-smoke, no-fire rumor with Chicago, and then a late deal with Sacramento that both pried Martin free and thrust the Knicks into action.

That story echoes a fairly constant background noise that’s been heard about Sacramento in recent years. The Kings have a small front office and nearly everybody in it has been there forever; one gets the impression not that they’ve lost their basketball acumen, but that they aren’t putting in the legwork anymore.

That Martin/Nocioni-for-Allen swap and subsequent trade with the Knicks is an interesting angle on this year’s trade deadline. By not making it known that Martin was available, the Kings didn’t get everyone’s best offer. Conversely, the Suns did hear everyone’s best offer or Stoudemire, and chose not to pull the trigger.

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