Sacramento Kings Season Preview: Sleepless in Sacramento

Photoshop by Blake Potash

Team Capsule

 After a mess of an off-season with the lockout, the Sacramento Kings continued that trend with a horrific and complicated 2011-2012 season. First, were some questionable moves by trading Omri Casspi AND a first round draft pick for JJ Hickson along with moving all around the draft to end up with college superstar Jimmer Fredette. So far, Hickson has been waived, Jimmer has not shown up, and Tyreke Evans continues to be a disappointment after a great rookie season. After just seven games (going 2-5), Paul Westphal was relieved of his coaching duties, and was replaced by Keith Smart. The Kings ended the season at 22-44, good for second to last in the Western Conference.

It’s hard to tell what the Kings are looking for out of this season, but they have made a couple of interesting moves. With the fifth overall pick, they added size with Thomas Robinson, to form a potentially deadly post game with DeMarcus Cousins. Then they traded for James Johnson, an athletic freak of a small forward who has shown signs of being a star, but hasn’t got his head on completely straight.

The breakout of rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas gave the Kings the luxury of trying Evans at multiple positions, to see if he could regain form. The results were inconclusive, as it seems that the team and fans may be willing to let go of any hope that Evans would lead the team to the playoffs after what is now a six-year long absence.

While the on-court struggles are evident, off the hardwood, the team and city are in a complicated situation. The Maloof family has toyed with the emotions of the Sacramento faithful. With rumors spreading that the Kings could be the next team to relocate, the Maloofs and the city came to a tentative deal to build and new stadium and keep the Kings in Sacramento. Just a few weeks later, when things were looking up, the owners announced that they had cut ties with the deal, and were going to continue the relocation process. This could be one of the last seasons the Kings are in Sacramento, and it is not promising for the fans.

Biggest Strength: Rebounding and Athleticism

 Last season, the Kings led the NBA in pace, and were one of the top rebounding teams in the league (big thanks to DeMarcus Cousins). With three quality ball handlers in Marcus Thornton, Thomas, and Evans, they were able to spread the floor and run. Unfortunately, they still are not very good at turning all of those possessions into field goals, but it’s a good start. With the addition of James Johnson, they get more length and another player who can bring the ball up at times.

Cousins is just entering his third NBA season, and is already one of the premier rebounders in the league. He was third in the league in both offensive and total rebound percentage. Thomas Robinson joining Cousins down low should help the Kings become even stronger at grabbing boards.

Biggest Weakness: Youth and Immaturity

 One of the big knocks on DeMarcus Cousins is his attitude. He was second in the league with 12 technicals last season, and led in the personal fouls. His poor relationship with Paul Westphal is considered the main reason that he was fired. It has been noted that Keith Smart has a much better relationship with Cousins, and with age and experience, he should cut down on the attitude.

The Kings projected starting lineup is just under 24 years of age, on average. John Salmons, 32, is the only true veteran on the team, and isn’t really known for his leadership ability.

Player to Watch: DeMarcus Cousins

 As you can see, I am mentioning Cousins a lot so far, and it’s not by accident. Cousins is the potential superstar the Kings need to be contenders for a playoff spot. With a usage rate of 29.7%, he is focal point of this offense, and continues to grow as a player. He increased PER by over 7 points from his first season and is rebounding the ball at an incredible rate. Now, his shooting percentage is not nearly as good as it should be for a center, but he is improving. If he can get his FG% near .500 this season, all things will be looking up.

2011-2012 Record: 22-44

 Coach: Keith Smart (65-116 career record)

 Key Additions: Thomas Robinson, James Johnson

 Robinson and Johnson add much needed size to a generally small team. Both could be looking at starting spots by the end of the year.

Key Losses: None

 Trajectory: Seattle

 With the new stadium deal in Seattle, all signs point towards a Kings relocation to there. It is disappointing for Kings fans, but when you have owners like the Maloofs, there really isn’t much you can do. The team has struggled for a while now and even though it seems to be getting better, Sacramento shouldn’t hold its breath to see another playoff game in their city.

Projected Record: 25-57

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About Blake Potash
I am online, I use the interwebs, I like sports.

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