Sactown Royalty - Sacramento Kings 2014-15 Preview - SBNation.com
There are several goals for this Kings team as they try to improve enough to end what is likely to be a 9 year playoff drought after this season. Sacramento has won just 28 games in each of the least two seasons and haven't won 30 games since 2007-08. Even with two stars in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, this team probably doesn't have what it takes to make the 20 or so game jump that is necessary to make the playoffs in the West. Still, that doesn't mean the team can't make steps toward improving.
One of the stated goals by the Kings front office this offseason has been to push the pace and increase the ball movement this year. Last year the Kings were about average in terms of pace but were dead last in assists. The Kings were a rare team with three 20+ point scorers on the same team in Cousins, Gay and Thomas, but aside from those three, the offense was lacking. The Kings want a more balanced approach this year.
Michael Malone will also want to see this team take another step forward defensively, although he still doesn't have many players he can rely on for this end of the court.
Basketball Intelligence - Sacramento Kings 2014-15 Preview
The Kings have been a poor defensive team for many years. There is a lot of blame to go around. For example, Cousins’ contributions have mostly come on offense. He has often appeared not to even try on defense. If all the praise he has received for his play with Team USA is indicative of some maturation, perhaps we will see a much greater effort from him defensively. He has the tools to be much better than he has shown in past seasons. The Kings are also counting on new-acquisition Darren Collison to supply more ball pressure than Isaiah Thomas, which could help. In addition to his exemplary rebounding, Reggie Evans is a high-energy defender. His minutes are generally limited though, since, when he is in the game, the Kings’ offense almost plays four-on-five.
2013-14 IN REVIEW
4th in Pacific Division - 13th in Western Conference
First year head coach Mike Malone had his work cut out for him when he accepted the Sacramento job last summer, as the Kings were coming off of five straight seasons with 28 wins or less. Kings fans were hopeful and supportive as always, but they knew their young squad was going to be in for another long year.
On the bright side, they had plenty talent to get excited about and multiple guys stepped up to show large signs of progression. DeMarcus Cousins established himself as one of the best big men in the NBA, putting up career highs in scoring (22.7 PPG), rebounding (11.7 RPG) and assists (2.9 APG) on the most efficient year of his four-year career at 50% from the field. Possibly due to Sacramento's losing record, "Boogie" Cousins was snubbed from the Western Conference All-Star squad but he was just as deserving as some of the guys who made it.
It's time the media puts an end to painting the picture of Cousins' "maturity" as some kind of factor that is holding him back. Cousins is an emotional guy, sure, but he is the real deal on the court and he is just starting to come into his own as a star in the NBA. Look out.
Sacramento gave Cousins a sidekick by acquiring Rudy Gay from Toronto in a deal that also sent them Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray in return for a package of Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons. Gay was terrific for the Kings, scoring 20.1 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds on 48% shooting through the rest of the season.
Isiah Thomas 2.0 played his best basketball to date, as well, as the 5'9" point guard excelled in the starting role after the Kings traded Greivis Vasquez to Toronto as part of the Rudy Gay deal. Thomas was one of the most improved players in the NBA last season, jumping to 20.3 points per game to go along with 6.3 assists. As small as he may be in comparison to the rest of the league, he is an outstanding shot creator and pick n' roll point guard that gets better every year.
The Kings also had the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, where they took Kansas two-guard Ben McLemore. While many pegged him to perform as a Rookie of the Year candidate, McLemore experienced some growing pains and struggled at times. He showed plenty of flashes of his high potential, but was very inconsistent and was moved in an out of the starting lineup. McLemore shot just 37.6% from the field in his rookie season, scoring 8.8 points per game. He is promising, but it will be a few years before we can truly judge what he can become.
In a deal to shake up the rotation and free up extra developmental playing time for McLemore, Sacramento traded Marcus Thornton to Brooklyn for Reggie Evans and Jason Terry, who would never put on his Kings uniform and was eventually dealt to Houston this summer.
Sacramento saw a lot of steady progression out of their young players, but couldn't compete with the top clubs in the Western Conference. The Kings missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year and finished the season 28-54, good for the seventh-worst record in the NBA.
The Kings have some good things going for them, but they have a long way to go before SleepTrain Arena gets as live as Arco used to be.
SUMMER OF 2014
Key Additions - Darren Collison, Nik Stauskas, Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi
Key Losses - Isiah Thomas, Travis Outlaw
Rudy Gay decided to exercise his $19.3 million player option for the 2014-15 season, making him a free agent next summer. Gay is an excellent fit in Sacramento, as he gives them the go-to wing scorer that they desperately needed. We'll see what he decides to do as an unrestricted 2015 free agent, but he remains the best perimeter player on the Kings for the time being.
Sacramento lost a big time contributor when Isiah Thomas signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Phoenix Suns. As the Kings moved to a different direction at the point guard spot, they utilized some of their cap space to bring in a pair of quality veterans on the free agent market.
The Kings signed Darren Collison to a three-year deal worth more than $16 million with the plan to make him their new starting point guard. Collison is coming off of an excellent season with the Clippers and is anxious to re-assume a full time starter's role. Backing him up will be productive combo guard Ramon Sessions, who signed with the Kings for two years at a total of $4.2 million. After being traded to Milwaukee more than halfway through last season, Sessions put up 15.8 points and 4.8 assists in 28 games for the Bucks and he will provide a nice spark off the Sacramento bench this year.
Another guy that will make things happen off the bench is Nik Stauskas, who the Kings selected with the eighth overall pick in this year's draft. Stauskas is a lights out jump shooter with a strong feel for the game, and at 6'6" with a 35" vertical leap, he's more athletic than he looks. Expect him to develop into a good all-around player that will have a chance to put together a long career as a key rotation wing.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - DeMarcus Cousins / Ryan Hollins
PF - Jason Thompson / Carl Landry / Reggie Evans
SF - Rudy Gay / Derrick Williams / Omri Casspi
SG - Ben McLemore / Nik Stauskas / Scottie Hopson
PG - Darren Collison / Ramon Sessions / Ray McCallum
X-FACTOR - Darren Collison
The Kings will be the fifth team Darren Collison will play for in his first six years in the NBA. While he has been a relatively good player that has had some outstanding stretches, teams have been reluctant to marry the idea of him as their long-term solution at point guard. The Kings will give him another shot at propelling his brand, and he has proven that he can handle a starting role.
Starting in 37 games in his rookie year, Collison put up 18.8 points and 9.1 assists per game, and last season he found himself as stepping into the same situation starting in place of an injured Chris Paul. Through 35 starts in 2013-14, Collison averaged 14.8 points and 5.3 assists per contest, stepping up big when the team needed him most.
If Collison can play the most consistent ball of his career, the Kings may have a chance of winning more games than people expect.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2014-15
The Kings are going to be fun to watch, but they will have a tough time making the playoffs out west. There is certainly a realistic scenario where they improve off of last season; despite losing a player as productive as Isiah Thomas, they are a deeper team. However, the Western Conference is stacked and in all likelihood, the Kings aren't quite ready to make the jump back into the postseason.
At the same time, they have an excellent mix of young talent and it will be fun to watch them progress going forward. DeMarcus Cousins may very well break the barrier to become an All-Star, Rudy Gay isn't too far off either and the backcourt should be interesting with a mix of four quality players that are different from one another.
Sacramento is likely to miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, but they have a chance to get better and continue to head in the right direction.
5th - Pacific Division
14th - Western Conference