Sacramento Kings Season Preview

The stage has been set for the Kings to build a winning team.  Youthful holdovers Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere and  Willie Cauley-Stein should combine with a good draft class to provide the beginning of a growth arc that could pay dividends a few seasons from now. The influx of stars (George, Butler, Millsap, Anthony) from the Eastern Conference has strengthened an already powerful West, so the Kings are not likely to match last season’s 33 win total.  But that should be immaterial; the Kings don’t need to be chasing wins this season.  Player development should be the only goal.
What Worked Last Season:
The easy answer is that since the Kings failed to make the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season, very little worked.  However, one major midseason change was made that potentially marked the start of a long-term change to the history of futility.  Management determined that it was not going to be possible to build a winning team with DeMarcus Cousins as the centerpiece. (The Kings had very little in the way of upcoming draft picks, free agents generally did not wish to come to play alongside Cousins, and there was no one with significant trade value outside of Cousins). So DMC was traded with Omri Casspi to New Orleans at the All-Star break for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and first- and second- round 2017 draft picks. Obviously, the Kings did not receive equal talent in return, but GM Vlade Divac stated: ” It was time for a change and this was the best direction for the team. Winning begins with culture and character matters.”   Consistent with that view, the Kings soon also waived Matt Barnes.  After the trade, Hield (whose time with the Pelicans had been dismal), Labissiere and Cauley-Stein all demonstrated encouraging improvement.
What Needs Improvement
The Kings re-tool has set the stage for long-term improvement.  The team now has a collection of nice young role players and a potential future star in De’Aaron Fox.  If ownership commits to letting the front office stay with the plan of organic growth, the Kings’ future can be bright.  Avoiding chasing the fool’s gold of high-priced talent that is not a good talent- or timeline- fit will be essential to that growth.
Offseason Changes
The most important changes are rookies Fox, Frank Mason, Justin Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovich, each of whom can be key contributors this season and in the future.  Harry Giles is another player with potential but is much more of an unknown due to his injury history.  While in high school, he was considered a likely high lottery pick but injuries have drastically impacted his abilities.  If he can recover his athleticism, he could turn out to be a second-round steal.
The Kings also brought in veterans Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill, ostensibly to “mentor” the young corps and to provide some stability. It was a somewhat risky move since those three may significantly cut into the youngsters’ floor time and therefore their development.  In addition, if they add three or four wins they could jeopardize the Kings’ ability to land a top tier player in the 2018 draft, which is of paramount importance since the Kings do not have a 1st round pick in 2019.
Additions:
* George Hill
* De’Aaron Fox
* Frank Mason
* Bogdan Bogdanovic
* Justin Jackson
 *Vince Carter
* Zach Randolph
* Harry Giles
* Jack Cooley
 *JaKarr Sampson
Subtractions: 
* Aaron Afflalo
* Darren Collison
* Tyreke Evans
* Langston Galloway
* Rudy Gay
* Ty Lawson
* Ben McLemore
* Anthony Tolliver
2017-18 Prediction
Vegas has set the Kings over/under at 28 1/2, which is about right for this young team.  If the vets get significant playing time, the Kings might get to thirty wins but that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.  The key to the franchise future is player development and patience.
2018 promises to have a strong-at-the-top draft.  With Marvin Bagley III’s reclassification, there could be as many as six top-tier talents, so the Kings chances of getting one are good.  This is likely to be a season that provides answers to questions about the players the Kings would like to build around.  Is Buddy Hield a one-trick pony?  Can Skal Labissiere get strong enough to be a consistent contributor?  Can Cauley-Stein add to his offensive repertoire to go along with his defensive versatility?  Will speedy De’Aaron Fox shoot well enough to justify his lofty draft selection?  The “process” has started.  Patience is now the key.

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 3/1/17

–  Can Carlisle, New Core Carry Mavs To Playoffs? (from Adam Spinella, BBall Breakdown):

Read and watch it here:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2017/02/28/the-coaching-spin-can-carlisle-new-core-carry-mavericks-to-playoffs/

The Simple But Effective Way Klay Thompson Gets Open Off Screens  (from Chris Reichert, The Step Back):

Read and watch it here:  http://fansided.com/2017/03/01/klay-thompson-off-screen-3-pointers-open/

Thon Maker Q & A (from Alex Kennedy, Basketball Insiders):

Read it here:  http://hoopshype.com/2017/02/27/thon-maker-on-his-nba-adjustment-potential-and-learning-from-giannis-antetokounmpo/

Week 18 In Review (from Justin Willard, Nylon Calculus):

Read it here:  http://fansided.com/2017/02/28/nylon-calculus-week-18-in-review-recapping-trade-deadline-deals/

Derrick Jones’ Potential (from Chris Reichert, The Step Back):

Read and watch it here:  http://fansided.com/2017/03/01/derrick-jones-phoenix-suns-dleague-nba-potential/

Warriors See Sixers’ Promise; Kerr-McConnell Connection  (from Brian Seltzer, sixers.com):

Read it here: http://www.nba.com/sixers/news/seltzers-notebook-golden-state-sees-promise-sixers/

Monday’s Top Performers: DeMar Derozan/Seth Curry  (from Chris Almeida, The Ringer):

Read it here:  https://theringer.com/demar-derozan-hero-balled-out-against-the-knicks-72c7ac9a7d1a#.vymcn864o

Durant Injury Update (from Mike Prada, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/2017/3/1/14776038/kevin-durant-injury-update-warriors-knee

–  Gibson’s Acquisition Will Help Sabonis  (from Mark Bruty, Welcome To Loud City):

Read it here:  http://www.welcometoloudcity.com/2017/2/28/14761368/thunder-trade-taj-gibson-rookie-domantas-sabonis-2017

Gibson & McDermott: Here Comes The Cavalry  (from Eric Snyder, Thunderous Intentions):

Read it here:  http://thunderousintentions.com/2017/03/01/taj-gibson-doug-mcdermott-answer-okc-thunder-previous-road-woes/

–  Kyrie Irving’s Growth (from Justin Rowan, Fear The Sword):

Read it here:  http://www.fearthesword.com/2017/2/28/14764180/kyrie-irving-finds-balance-play-maker

–  Orlando Magic Assistant GM Scott Perry (from Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated):

Read it here:  https://theundefeated.com/features/scott-perry-lowell-perry/

Isaiah Thomas Interview (from Andrew Sharp, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2017/03/01/isaiah-thomas-boston-celtics-all-star-brad-stevens

JaVale McGee’s Small But Valuable Role For The Warriors  (from Adam Kilgore, Washington Post):

Read it here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/03/01/dont-be-fooled-javale-mccee-is-playing-a-valuable-role-for-the-warriors/

–  Has Kaminsky “Turned The Corner”?  (from Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer):

Read it here:  http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article135690418.html

Deyonta Davis Knows He’s Lucky To Be In Memphis  (from Graham Couch, Lansing State Journal):

Read it here:  http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/sports/columnists/graham-couch/2017/03/01/deyonta-davis-memphis-grizzlies-couch-column/98523520/

For Spencer Dinwiddie, Comfort And Stability Are Needed (from Sean Costello, Nothin’ But Nets):

Read it here:  http://nothinbutnets.com/2017/03/01/nets-spencer-dinwiddie-comfort-stability/

 Kings Still Adjusting Defensively After DMC Trade (from Matt Kawahara, Sacramento Bee):

Read it here:  http://www.sacbee.com/sports/nba/sacramento-kings/article135596808.html

Ibaka, Tucker Bring Defensive Identity To Raptors (from Frank Urbina, nbamath.com):

Read and watch it here:  http://nbamath.com/serge-ibaka-and-p-j-tucker-bringing-defensive-identity-to-toronto-raptors/

NBA  Africa VP Amadou Fall Q & A (from Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated):

Read it here:  https://theundefeated.com/features/nba-africa-vp-amadou-fall/

–  SVG Would Like Rule Change (from Paula Pasche, Oakland Press):

Read it here:  http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20170228/detroit-pistons-notes-van-gundy-would-like-rule-change-leuer-has-another-rough-night

How De’Aaron Fox Is Teaching Himself To Think Hoops At An NBA Level  (from Reid Forgrave, Bleacher Report):

Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693422-how-kentucky-pg-deaaron-fox-is-teaching-himself-to-think-hoops-at-an-nba-level

MIN 102, SAC 88:  6 Takeaways (from Basketball Intelligence):

    – Trading DMC provides a great opportunity to assess and give experience to the Kings’ young core.  Labissiere showed flashes of brilliance on both ends and perhaps has the potential to show how right Divac was and how wrong many others were at draft time.  He only played 13 minutes, though.  It will be interesting to watch his development with more playing time.  In is pre-game session with the media, Coach Joerger said that, for now, his plan for the team is to “compete all season and to try to get better every day.”  Post game, he stressed the importance of defensive effort in the near term since the offense will likely take longer to coalesce.

  – Willie Cauley-Stein followed his last two outings (one superb, the other sub-par) with an in-between performance: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers.  The good news for the Kings is the expanded opportunity, both in terms of role and playing time, that exists for his development going forward. He has outstanding defensive versatility and, while his offense needs considerable work, he has the physical tools to expand his game there as well.

    – While the DMC trade changes things in many ways for the Kings’ future, the plan going forward is not altogether clear.  Joerger is, with good reason, well-respected around the Association but he and  Vlade will need time to figure out the best way to proceed to build from “ground zero.”  Probably the most important emphases, now that the deck has been cleared, will be patience and continuity.  The path toward respectability and beyond is finally here.  They must not squander it by jumping at “fool’s gold.”

    – Prior to the trade, there did not appear to be any realistic path to success for the Kings. They had very little to offer with trade value, the draft picks situation was not promising and the environment was not attractive to potential free agents.  That environment has now changed significantly.  The emphasis on changing the culture is already apparent and could even be seen in the way the players carry themselves and interact.  Add to that the fact that DMC has already picked up another technical while playing for the Pelicans and the pronounced impact of the culture change is even more promising.

    – The Timberwolves’ youthful one-two punch of Wiggins (27 points)and Towns (29 points/17 rebounds/3 blocks) lived up to their billings. Bjelica and Dieng combined for 22 rebounds.  Coach Thibodeau has the Wolves moving steadily in the right direction and the future looks very bright, to be enhanced even more when LaVine recovers.  The continuing question regards how the PG situation will be resolved.  Rubio once again ran the team efficiently, garnering 11 assists, but it is unclear whether (when?) he will be supplanted any time soon by Khris Dunn. Rubio’s shooting has improved but perhaps not enough to satisfy Coach Thibs. Post-game, Thibodeau highly praised Towns’ rebounding, particularly his  reactions and quickness to the ball.

  – While they fell short on Monday, once again the Kings played their best ball when rallying from a big deficit.  That has been the pattern all season: difficulty holding big leads and remarkable comebacks when trailing by big margins.

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 2/21/17

SAC/NOP Trade: Ripple Effects  (from Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer):

Read it here:  https://theringer.com/demarcus-cousin-trade-effects-sixers-bulls-jimmy-butler-celtics-bc7e5af236ff#.s1erbqdwn

The Trade: Hard Not To Focus On The Optics  (from Mika Honkasalo, Hoops Hype):

Read it here:  http://hoopshype.com/2017/02/20/trading-demarcus-cousins-was-not-the-worst-move-in-nba-history/

Kings: The Headache Is Gone But The Disease Remains  (from Jesse Blanchard, BBall Breakdown):

Read it here:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2017/02/20/for-the-kings-the-headache-of-demarcus-cousins-is-gone-but-the-disease-remains/

(NOTE: Links to the best first day coverage of the trade are in yesterday’s Basketball Intelligence:  http://basketballintelligence.net/2017/02/20/todays-best-nba-reporting-analysis-22017/ )

Questions Before The Trade Deadline (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):

Read it here: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18727231/zach-lowe-jimmy-butler-boston-celtics-latest-nba-trade-deadline-talk

Ending Contracts To Watch At Trade Deadline  (from Steve Kyler, Basketball Insiders):

Read it here:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-am-ending-contracts-to-watch-at-the-deadline/

What To Expect From Wade Baldwin And Deyonta Davis  (from emekab, Grizzly Bear Blues):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.grizzlybearblues.com/2017/2/21/14667284/memphis-grizzlies-rookies-wade-baldwin-deyonta-davis-nba-draft

Kyle O’Quinn Is Here To Save The Knicks…If They Let Him (from Jacob Eisenberg, Medium.com):

Read it here: https://medium.com/@Eisenberg43/kyle-oquinn-is-here-to-save-the-knicks-ca248e09ca1c#.i1vt7ktqj

John Wall: Unappreciated Star  (from Eric Spyropolous, 16 Wins A Ring):

Read it here:  https://16winsaring.com/john-wall-the-unappreciated-star-1483b9cab543#.wod1dr88s

Video: Interview With Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey (from David James, kutv.com):

Watch it here:  http://kutv.com/sports/utah-jazz/utah-jazz-dennis-lindsey-part-2

David Lee is Back In Business  (from David Ramil, fansided.com):

Read it here:  http://fansided.com/2017/02/21/david-lee-spurs-warriors-home/

–  TJ MCConnell: Here To Stay  (from Michael Pina, Bleacher Report):

Read it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693385-whether-you-call-him-water-boy-or-paperboy-tj-mcconnell-is-here-to-stay

Will LBJ’s Workload Catch Up With Him This Season? (from Zach Kram, The Rinnger):

Read it here: https://theringer.com/will-lebrons-workload-finally-catch-up-to-him-this-season-1bf0a7f7e775#.jxfiq4yun

–  No Man’s Land: Charlotte Hornets  (from Brett Koremenos, Real GM):

Read it here:  http://basketball.realgm.com/article/244996/The-NBAs-No-Mans-Land-Charlotte-Hornets

The Status Of Scoring From The Low-Block  (from Frank Urbina, NBA Math):

Read it here: http://nbamath.com/the-last-of-the-nbas-post-up-scorers/

Jerry Stackhouse: Making Serious Inroads Toward Becoming NBA Coach  (from Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com):

Read it here:  http://www.nba.com/article/2017/02/14/jerry-stackhouse-improving-as-coach-nba-d-league-raptors-905

D-League: It’s Time For Axel Toupane To Return To The NBA (from Cole Shelton, Ridiculous Upside):

Read it here: http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2017/2/20/14669330/axel-toupane-nba-nbadl-toronto-raptors-raptors-905

Kyrie Wants More (Some? Any?) Defense In Future ASGs  (from Joe Vardon, cleveland.com):

Read it here: http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2017/02/kyrie_irving_said_nba_all-star.html

–  Pro Basketball Writers  Awards Announced (from PBWA):

Read it here:  http://probasketballwriters.org/armstrong-ballard-powell-skolnick-win-2016-pbwa-blumenthal-memorial-writing-contest/

 

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 2/20/17

The Winner Of The SAC/NOP Trade Isn’t Who You Think It Is  (from Howard Beck, Bleacher Report):

Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693953-the-winner-of-the-demarcus-cousins-trade-isnt-who-you-think-it-is

Trade Signals Reboot For Kings  (from Chris Mannix, Yahoo Sports):

Read it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/demarcus-cousins-trade-signals-reboot-for-kings-072616450.html

For Kings, DMC: Excuse Time Is Over  (from Tim Bontemps, Washington Post):

Read it here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/02/20/for-both-the-sacramento-kings-and-demarcus-cousins-the-time-for-excuses-is-over/?utm_term=.cb2094759002

How The SAC/NOP Trade Affects The SAC/PHI Pick Swap  (from Josh Wilson, The Sixer Sense):

Read it here: http://thesixersense.com/2017/02/20/nba-trade-rumors-how-the-kings-trade-impacts-philadelphia-76ers-pick-swap/

–  NBA Scouts Assess The Heat  (from Barry Jackson, Miami Herald):

Read it here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/article133702309.html

Leroy Richardson: A Day In The Life Of A Ref (from Ed Miller, Virginian-Pilot):

Read it here: http://pilotonline.com/sports/basketball/professional/a-ref-s-life-one-long-day-under-the-looking/article_e714c45c-fa6b-5f57-88fb-11c77fa5a15f.html

John Wall: Emerging As A Leader (from Candace Buckner, Washington Post):

Read it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wizards-insider/wp/2017/02/19/as-john-wall-proves-he-belongs-among-nba-elite-his-eye-is-on-one-final-assist/?utm_term=.cae416330a32

Sean Marks: The First 367 Days (from Charles Maniego, The Brooklyn Game):

Read it here: http://thebrooklyngame.com/sean-marks-first-367-days/

Maybe The Sixers Should Have Traded For Marcus Smart After All (from Matty Breisch, The Sixer Sense):

Read it here:  http://thesixersense.com/2017/02/20/maybe-the-philadelphia-76ers-should-have-traded-for-marcus-smart-after-all/

On A Points-Per-Touch Basis, Harrison Barnes Is One Of The Most Efficient Scorers In The Assn. (from Bobby Karalla, Mavs.com):

Read it here: https://www.mavs.com/on-a-points-per-touch-basis-harrison-barnes-is-one-of-the-most-efficient-players-in-the-league/

Mixed Results From The Lakers’ Lineup Changes  (from Harrison Faigen, Silver Screen And Roll):

Read it here:  http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2017/2/20/14654608/la-lakers-starting-lineup-change-analysis-brandon-ingram-tarik-black

Steve Kerr: ASG Coaches May Just As Well Be Propped Up Dead Bodies (from Jordan Heck, Sporting News):

Read it here:  http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/all-star-game-2017-defense-steve-kerr-dead-bodies/mp505wfb3huy1dmbrt5wr25zb

Ben Gordon Is Attempting To Come Back (from K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune):

Read it here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/ct-ben-gordon-comeback-bulls-spt-0221-20170220-story.html

–  Josh Maggette: From D-II To D-League All-Star  (from Dakota Schmidt, Ridiculous Upside):

Read it here:  http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2017/2/20/14656638/nba-dleague-josh-magette-nbadl-los-angeles-dfenders

Aleksandar Vezenkov Has Been Reborn As A Draft Prospect (from Trevor Magnotti, The Step Back):

Read and watch it here:  http://fansided.com/2017/02/20/aleksandar-vezenkov-nba-draft-prospect/

 

NBA: Sacramento Kings’ Season Preview

NBA: Sacramento Kings’ Season Preview

 

Team Name:  Sacramento Kings

Last Year’s Record:  33-49
Key Losses: Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Seth Curry, Rajon Rondo,Seth Curry
Key Additions: Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Farmar, Skal Labissiere, Ty Lawson, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Garrett Temple, Anthony Tolliver

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

 
 
The most significant move was hiring Dave Joerger as head coach.  He had a .598 winning percentage in Memphis and made the playoffs in all three of his seasons there, most recently in spite of a massive injury epidemic affecting key players. He enjoys an excellent tactical reputation at both ends of the floor. Not re-signing Rajon Rondo is likely a plus given his propensity to be an assist whore and to avoid playing meaningful defense.
In free agency, the Kings were able to sign a large number of players to shore up their depth but were unable to land any players of major significance.  The best of the lot is likely to be Arron Afflalo who can help with outside shooting, spacing and defense. The draft selections mostly duplicate the team’s strengths positionally and, while positive results may result in future seasons, the draftees are unlikely to produce much help this season.
 
 

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

 
DeMarcus Cousins is as talented an any center in the Association and for sure he will get along better with, and perform better for, new coach Joerger.  Willie Cauley-Stein’s defensive versatility is another plus.  The team is so much deeper than last season, it is fair to call the bench a strength.  And while it will take time to adjust to his preferences and incorporate his schemes, Coach Joerger may well be the biggest strength.
 
 
 

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

 
Team defense was nearly nonexistent last season.  It should be better this year as a point of emphasis by the new coach but is difficult to see how it won’t be a weakness again. And, with so many new players, it will take time to develop defensive cohesiveness.  Free Throw shooting was another weakness.  Expect some improvement there with the departure of Rondo; the addition of Afflalo, Tolliver, Lawson and Barnes; and a generally less dysfunctional milieu that will likely result in improvement in all phases of the game.  The loss of Darren Collison for an as yet undetermined number of games due to his domestic violence guilty plea seriously unsettles the team at point guard, where the best hope is that Ty Lawson can fill in if he is able to regain his pre-DUI ability of seasons past.  Rudy Gay is not happy with his role, is not a great fit next to Cousins and a trade would not surprise.
 
 
 

4. What are the goals for this team?

Once again, there is no clear answer to this question.  It seems that management’s top priority was to upgrade the roster enough to be presentable in the new state-of-the-art arena and to attempt to reduce some of the dysfunction so evident in recent seasons.  While that will be a difficult task, Joerger may be the right selection to begin the assignment.   35 wins seems a fair goal.