Tuesday, October 13, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Sacramento Kings

SACRAMENTO KINGS
[] 29-53
[] Offensive Rating: 106.0 (16th)
[] Defensive Rating: 110.0 (27th)
[] Net Rating: -3.9 (25th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2006
[] Coach: George Karl

The Kings' offseason was very busy, as the front office split time between adding short-term improvements to the roster and mending what is rumored to be a broken relationship between George Karl and star big man DeMarcus Cousins.  On the personnel front, the Kings grabbed two big men who should improve a thin frontcourt, adding Willie Cauley-Stein with the 6th pick in the draft, and signing Kosta Koufos away from the Grizzlies in free agency.  They also added volatile PG Rajon Rondo on a one year deal and made a nice move by adding Marco Belinelli to bolster their bench.  The Rondo move has the potential to be a disaster, but the real sour note of the offseason was the short-minded deal that sent 2014 lottery pick Nik Stauskas and dead salary to the Sixers for draft rights and future second round picks.  Stauskas didn't live up to expectations as a rookie, but the move doesn't make sense for a team that's still in a growth phase.  On the other front, the front office appears to have, at least for now, simmered the relationship between Karl and Cousins, as the duo spent the summer denying allegations that they don't see eye to eye.  The chemistry between the two, and for the team as a whole, will be a major storyline throughout the year.  On the court, it looks like another year with no expectation of a playoff berth for Sacramento, something that hasn't happened for the franchise since 2006.
Projected Starting Five

PG: Rajon Rondo - 6'1, 175 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
68
8.9
13.5
19.5
44.8%
31.4%
.133
39.7%
.121
39.3%
23.6%

Rondo's 2014-15 season was an embarrassment, punctuated by the Mavericks pretending Rondo was injured so they didn't have to put him on the court at the end of the season and in the playoffs.  They could've just said "He sucks, and so does his attitude" instead of making up the injury thing, because that was the truth.  Rondo's horrid Mavericks tenure culminated in him signing a one year deal with the Mavericks in hopes of rejuvenating his career at age 29.  Rondo's talent obviously hasn't disappeared, but he needs to get his mind right.  I'm not sure Sacramento's the place for him to do that, but I think we'll see a version of Rondo that isn't quite his prime self, but much better than what he showed in Dallas.  The true measure of his success will be whether or not he gets his Assist Rate back into the high 40s.
  
SG: Ben McLemore - 6'5, 195 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
82
12.1
10.4
17.2%
55.2%
35.8%
.471
81.3%
.193
8.4%
13.3%

McLemore made some solid improvements in year two, particularly increasing his outside shooting to an acceptable level and taking his two point shooting from abysmal (41.9% in 2013-14) to good (50.7% in 2014-15).  His turnovers ticked up with his Usage Rate also increasing, but not to an alarming level.  McLemore's not going to be an All-Star, but I think the Kings have their SG for the next decade.

SF: Rudy Gay - 6'8, 230 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
68
21.1
19.7
27.0%
55.6%
35.9%
.197
85.8%
.352
19.0%
12.4%

Gay continues to rehab his image after a rough stretch between 2012 and 2013.  He's been very good offensively since the Kings acquired him in December 2013.  His efficiency in a high-usage role has made him an excellent Robin to DMC's Batman.  He shot the three ball above his career average, got to the FT line at a career-best rate, and was good enough inside the arc.  It's not just his scoring though.  Gay obliterated his career-high Assist Rate in 2014-15 and did that without seeing his turnovers tick up.  At 29 years old, Sacramento should get another good two or three years out of Rudy Gay.  It's a shame they haven't done more with the rest of the roster, because they stole Gay from the Raptors.

PF: DeMarcus Cousins - 6'11, 265 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
DRB%
AST%
TOV%
59
24.1
25.2
34.1%
54.5%
78.2%
.508
21.1%
30.6%
20.4%
16.3%

Thanks to some combination of his perceived attitude issues, Sacramento's struggles and his lack of national exposure, meet the league's least appreciated superstar.  Only five years into his career, Cousins is about 1.1 PPG shy of averaging 20 and 10.  He's topped the 20-10 mark in each of the last two seasons, and you're crazy if you're willing to bet he doesn't do it again this year.  Cousins has ranked among the top ten in the league in Rebound Rate in each of the last four seasons, three of which were in the top five.  His scoring efficiency isn't too shabby either when you consider that he's had one of the three highest Usage Rates in the league each of the last two years.  Cousins turned 25 this summer, so he figures to continue terrorizing opposing big men for the majority of the next decade.  Last year's performance landed Cousins a spot on the All-NBA second team squad, and I think he'll land on the first team this year.

C: Kosta Koufos - 7'0, 265 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
81
5.2
14.2
15.8%
53.0%
64.7%
.237
18.1%
10.3%
25.8%
1.7


Koufos, who signed a four year, $33M deal with the Kings this summer, is probably the best running mate that Cousins has had in the frontcourt since he was drafted.  That says more about the Kings than it does Koufos, but I think he'll be adequate here.  He's a good enough rim protector and does enough around the basket to be an improvement over the likes of Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and Reggie Evans.  Again, this says more about the Kings than it does about Koufos.

Bench

PG: Darren Collison - 6'0, 180 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
45
16.1
17.5
20.9%
57.5%
37.3%
.293
78.8%
.335
27.2%
15.1%

When healthy last year, Collison actually made for a decent starting PG for the Kings.  He's not the ideal playmaker, but he scored very efficiently and gave the Kings some appreciated outside shooting.  Unless Rajon Rondo sets the clock back a few years, I think Collison is still the Kings' best starting PG by the end of 2015-16.

G: Seth Curry - 6'2, 185 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
RPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
43
23.8
4.2
48.4
46.7%
92.6%

Saying this is Seth Curry's 3rd NBA season isn't really right, considering he's seen action in a total of four NBA games.  He's been a D-League star for the last two seasons though, and he's truly earned his shot at contributing to an NBA roster.  He should play spot minutes at both G spots, and I'm excited to see if he can shoot the ball like he did in college and the D-League.

SG: Marco Belinelli - 6'5, 195 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
62
9.2
12.4
18.8%
55.3%
37.4%
.489
84.8%
.211
10.3%
10.6%

This is the kind of signing that the Kings should be focused on from here on out.  Belinelli signed a very agreeable three year, $19M deal in the offseason, and should instantly improve the Kings' bench.  It still doesn't justify the idiotic, short-sighted deal that sent Nik Stauskas to Philly, but I like the signing.

G/F: James Anderson - 6'6, 215 - 5th NBA season (2013-14 stats)
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
80
10.1
10.9
15.9%
53.0%
32.8%
.490
72.6%
.148
9.9%
12.2%

Anderson has bounced around a bit since being made the 20th pick by San Antonio in the 2010 draft.  Anderson played the 2014-15 season with BC Zalgiris in the Euroleague where he notched 13.7 PPG.

SF: Omri Casspi - 6'9, 225 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
67
8.9
14.4
18.7%
58.0%
40.2%
.204
73.3%
.447
11.8%
14.7%

Casspi had the best season of his career last year with the Kings, setting career highs in PER, 3P% and FTr.  He needs to be good for the Kings again this year, because they don't have much depth at the SF spot.  Caron Butler is the other backup option at SF.

F: Quincy Acy -  6'7, 235 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
67
9.9
10.6
18.3%
46.6%
30.7%
.318
58.9%
.256
9.3%
9.8%

Acy returns to Sacramento, where he spent a good portion of the 2013-14 season.  He was mediocre in New York last year.

C: Eric Moreland - 6'10, 230 - 2nd NBA season (2013-14 Oregon State stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
20
8.9
10.3
2.0
50.8%
55.6%

Moreland is a raw big man who saw action in 3 NBA games last year.  He averaged a double-double in his 7 D-League performances, but it would be surprising to see him make an impact for the Kings this year.  His deal is only partially guaranteed.

C: Willie Cauley-Stein - 7'0, 235 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
39
8.9
6.4
1.7
57.2%
61.7%

The 6th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft will get the lion's share of the backup C minutes, and should get every opportunity to win the starting C gig as the year wears on.  His offensive game is raw, but his length, athleticism and ability to defend guards out of pick-and-roll action could make him an impact defender.

Outlook

The Kings' roster is probably better top-to-bottom than it was last season, but is it good enough to truly challenge for one of the final playoff spots in the unforgiving Western Conference?  It's going to take another strong year from Gay, more growth from McLemore, a resurgent year from Rondo, a surprise showing from Cauley-Stein and an MVP-caliber season from DeMarcus Cousins.  Even all of that might not be enough; remember, last year's 8th seed went to a team that had Anthony Davis obliterating the league on a nightly basis.  Even if Cousins has a dominant season, this roster isn't any better than that Pelicans team, and the Thunder are back.  I think they would be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but that's obviously not the case.  The Kings will be improved from last year's 29 win campaign, but it won't be enough; I'll call 33 wins for Sacramento this season.

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