The post-lockout free agency period has seen teams throw gobs of money at Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, and Nene, but out in Sactown they’re showing some impressive restraint. The Kings aren’t in any rush to substantial salary commitments to their books, but in their efforts to build up their roster and meet the league’s payroll floor, Sacramento has (according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports) signed Chuck Hayes to a smart, four-year deal worth just a shade over $21 million.
Hayes, who stands just 6-6, has spent the entirety of his career thus far playing center for the Houston Rockets. Don’t let the lack of size fool you, though; Hayes is an impressive, physical defender with great intuition. He rotates beautifully, he counters any unstoppable post force by being an immovable object, and he rebounds well on top of it all. Plus, over the last few seasons, Hayes has actually become a reasonably effective offensive player — or at least good enough to avoid being an on-court liability.
Hayes is more or less a complete product, but he’d be a great rotation big man for virtually any NBA team. Sacramento was able to secure his services, and Hayes will likely be paired with bigs like DeMarcus Cousins and J.J. Hickson in order to help mask their defensive deficiencies.
Kudos to the Kings for letting the core of their team — Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and the recently drafted Jimmer Fredette — develop at its own pace without being lured into substantial spending. That’s especially true for a team with so many versatile, interesting pieces; Sacramento is still in the process of figuring out how all of these young players fit together to form a coherent team, which makes roster flexibility absolutely essential. Build slowly. Evaluate and adjust. Assemble useful pieces. But above all, maintain financial freedom in anticipation of a key move to come, even as other teams indulge in huge free agent signings.