Could this be the year the Kings rise from the ashes or will it be another year drafting in the top ten of the lottery?
It’s hard to change a culture of a team that has struggled for years now. It’s also hard to change the culture when a struggling team doesn’t have a core-group of players who have made impacts in the NBA and been on winning teams. It’s hard for young players to grow and mature when they don’t have a veteran on the team to learn from. It’s hard to learn “how to win” when you don’t know how win. And, finally, it’s hard to break the constant habit of losing.
What I am trying to say is: times are hard in Sac-town.
But there might be light at the end of the tunnel for the Kings.
DeMarcus Cousins had a big season in 2011-2012, when he averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Kings. If he can learn to keep his head on straight, I think the Kings will have a dominant player for years to come. I think he could be an All-Star as soon as this season, that’s the kind of talent Cousins possesses. Guard Tyreke Evans has shown glimpses of brilliance in his first three seasons in the league. But little, nagging injuries have plagued Evans, and for that matter, so has a poor jumper. Evans needs to improve his outside jumpshot (25.5% from three for his career) if he is serious about becoming an All-Star-caliber two-guard. Thomas Robinson, the Kings No. 5 overall pick in 2012, has a chance to be a glass-eater and future All-Star. But from watching Robinson in the national championship and some summer league games, there is a lot he still needs to improve. He seemed to press the issue, time and time again. In the NBA, if you play within yourself and with patience, you will be successful. Robinson works extremely hard work, and that will only benefit him.
The Kings should be fine offensively, but I have my doubts defensively. They were dead last in points allowed last season (104.4 ppg). My only hope is that head coach Keith Smart saw that number and will put more emphasis on defense this season.
Point guard(s) – Isaiah Thomas: He was almost a God-send for the Kings last season. A second-round pick and only 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Thomas was lucky to make the roster. Not only did he make the roster, but he started 37 games last season and averaged 11.5 points and 4.1 assists per game. He reminds me of Damon Stoudamire, who made a nice life for himself in the NBA, despite being only 5’10. I think the Kings found their “Mighty Mouse.”
Aaron Brooks will back up Thomas.
Position Grade: C+
Shooting guard(s) – Marcus Thornton: Even though I said (Tyreke) Evans was a two-guard, Thornton is the one who starts at the shooting guard position. Thornton is a flat-out scorer, and doesn’t do much more than that. He averaged 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last season, but managed to take 15.7 shots per game. I would like to see his shots decrease, a little, and his rebound and assist numbers go up.
Jimmer Fredette will back up Thornton.
Position Grade: B-
Small forward(s) – Tyreke Evans: He is a dynamic play-maker. He has potential to become an MVP candidate; he just needs to use it. What does that mean? It means working on his jumper, staying healthy, and putting up bigger numbers that he did in his rookie season (20, 5.3, and 5.8). I believe he is that good. I just hope he still believes it.
Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt will battle for the remaining minutes.
Position Grade: B
Power forward(s) – Jason Thompson: He will get the starting job because of his experience and skill-set over the rookie (Thomas) Robinson. He is a solid player who has the potential to be another double-double guy for the Kings. For that to happen, he needs to play more minutes. But no matter how many minutes he plays, he will be efficient and usable.
Thomas Robinson will back up Thompson.
Position Grade: C+
Center(s) – DeMarcus Cousins: I already raved about him earlier. Cousins can be a dominant player if he stays focused and hungry. He needs to continue to do his job, which consists of scoring and rebounding. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for, should it?
Chuck Hayes will back up Cousins.
Position Grade: B+
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Isaiah Thomas
G: Marcus Thornton
F: Tyreke Evans
F: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Starting Lineup Grade: B-
G: Aaron Brooks
G: Jimmer Fredette
F: Thomas Robinson
F: Chuck Hayes
Bench Grade: C
Coaching Grade: C+ (Keith Smart)
The Kings will be improved, but will miss the playoffs. I have them finishing 4th in the Pacific Division.