As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Sacramento Kings, who last year had a record of 28-54 and did not make the playoffs.
Team: Sacramento Kings
Coach: Mike Malone
General Manager: Pete D’Alessandro
2012-2013 Record: 28-54
Place in Conference: 4th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference
Leading Scorer: DeMarcus Cousins – 17.1 points per game
Key Additions: Team Owner Vivek Ranadive, GM Pete D’Alessandro, Head Coach Mike Malone, drafted Ben McLemore 7th overall, along with Ray McCallum 36th overall. Obtained pass first Point Guard Greivis Vasquez in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Added free agent Power Forward Carl Landry. Obtained forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Key Losses: Team Owners the Maloof Brothers, long time GM Geoff Petrie, Head Coach Keith Smart, lost Tyreke Evans to in a sign and trade deal with New Orleans. Lost Toney Douglas to the Golden State Warriors via free agency.
The biggest winner in Sacramento this year was city mayor Kevin Johnson, who relentlessly fought to keep the franchise based in Sacramento. Faced with the impending loss of the team to Seattle, Johnson put together an acceptable team of investors and swung a deal with the city and the state to build a new arena, in order to convince the NBA Board of Governors to keep the team locally. So even before the season starts, Johnson and the Kings fans consider themselves to have won, regardless of what they do on the floor.
The 2013-14 season will be another struggle for the Kings when it comes to playing on the hardwood. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing them will be meshing new ownership, new front office management, new coaching and several new faces on the roster into a cohesive unit that is headed in the same direction, and on the same page. With change comes hope, and there is definitely a good measure of hope to be found in Sac-Town.
Strengths: Discussing team strengths has to start with DeMarcus Cousins, the 6’11 center. Cousins has been described as immature, troubled, and selfish, but also as immensely talented. The biggest challenge for new coach Mike Malone will be to focus Cousins on becoming the best center in the NBA, which is easily within his reach. Overcoming his own demons is his biggest obstacle. The hope is that new part owner Shaquille O’Neal can help mentor DMC to ascend to the “Monster in the Middle” elite status that is certainly within his grasp.
Point guard Greivis Vasquez could also play a role in assisting DMC to reach his potential, as he will be the first “pass first” ball distributor of the Cousins era. Putting the ball in Cousins hands more often will help to maximize the King’s offensive output. Newly acquired smll forward, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a shut down defender who can help at three positions defensively. He should be a big help, as Cousins often is more focused on his offensive than playing defense. Patrick Patterson, a young power forward who was a teammate of Cousins at Kentucky, has the potential to develop into a nice player. He will help open up the middle of the floor with his outside shooting, having shot 44 percent from beyond the arc and 49 percent from midrange last season.
Weaknesses: DMC also heads the list for potential weaknesses. His temper tantrums and emotional melt downs potentially could undermine Malone’s attempt to implement a new system. Building a solid foundation is key for a team that gave up an establish coach and a long term GM to build from scratch. With Cousins locked into a new five year deal, the team’s fate is squarely in his hands. Another question is how will he react to the pressure of being the face of the franchise now that Tyreke Evans has moved on?
Another glaring question mark is that the Kings invested their lottery selection in Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, who fell to 7th in the draft. McLemore struggled mightily this summer in Las Vegas, tallying zero assists against 18 turnovers, and putting up 78 field goal attempts in just five games. Even though, McLemore’s silky smooth jump shot conjures an intoxicating vision of an inside out game with DMC, the question begs to be asked how these two will coexist. Both players clearly need the ball in their hands extensively to be effective. This is perhaps why the team chose not to match New Orleans $44 million four year offer to vans. There just aren’t enough touches to go around.
2013-2014 Season Prediction: If all goes right, Shaq will give Cousins a sounding board, and help him see the rewards of harnessing his emotions. Hopefully Shaq will refrain from discussing free throw theory with him. I look for small improvements in DMC’s maturity and floor game. McLemore will struggle like the rookie he is, but by season’s end, will have given fans reason to believe in the high ceiling predicted for his future. Coach Malone’s defensive system will be firmly established, giving the team something to build on for the future. The Kings will miss the playoffs, but could finish as high as third place in the Pacific Division, ahead of the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers. I look for a 35-47 record, placing 11th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.