New Faces: Ty Lawson, Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar, Skal Labissiere, Lamar Patterson, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Garrett Temple, Anthony Tolliver, Arron Afflalo, Isaiah Cousins (R)
2015-16 Regular Season Record: 33-49
2015-16 Regular Season Achievements: 3rd: Points. 4th: Assists. 5th: Steals. 6th: Free Throw Attempts. 8th: Field Goal Percentage. 10th: 3-Point Percentage., 2-Point Percentage.
Leading Scorer: DeMarcus Cousins, 26.9
Leading Rebounder: DeMarcus Cousins, 11.5
The tragedy or travesty of last season, however you choose to phrase it, was that the often laughed at Sacramento Kings were in the top-10 of every offensive category. They scored on the road and at home. They shared the ball. They were efficient from the perimeter and made shots down low. They got to the line. They did everything and I mean everything in the Offense 101 handbook. But someone forgot to tell them this wasn’t football. You don’t just quit on defense. As brilliant as their offensive game was, their defensive game was just as atrocious, in the bottom ten of every category: Field Goal Percentage Defense (24th), 3-Point Percentage Defense (23rd), 2-Point Percentage Defense (26th), Points Allowed (30th).
No team gave up more points in the NBA last year than Sacramento. Not the pathetic Lakers, not the tanking 76ers, not the young but talented T-Wolves, not the injured Suns. No one. So what do you do when you haven’t been to the playoffs in the entire Obama presidency and you are a brilliant offensive machine but teams shred you up.
You sign Matt Barnes.
Barnes, often called NBA crazy is local and brings energy and enthusiasm but at his age he doesn’t have the athleticism to be able to check perimeter scorers ten years younger. Coming west with Barnes is his coach of last year, Dave Joerger, who is skilled in getting his teams to defend. Joerger preaches toughness and that is his mantra with this team. Be physical. Grind it out. Don’t be intimidated.
But this is Sacramento so there are issues.
Rudy Gay wants out. He has said this is his last year with the Kings and so he will be out there playing for himself, regardless of how he spins it. Darren Collison, a B-level point, is suspended for 8 games to start the season for his domestic violence conviction. It was a light sentence and the two week time frame won’t hurt much.
The Kings signed used to be good once upon a time until the league labeled him an alcoholic Ty Lawson. Lawson is also out there playing for himself. He signed a one year deal and he simply must prove he hasn’t gone in the tank.
Journeymen Jordan Farmar is on the roster. His best years came playing for the Phil Jackson Lakers. Farmar had the bright idea he hated the triangle and he wanted out, despite two rings. Since then it has been all famine and no feast. Farmar can make threes but he can guard absolutely no one.
If last year the Kings were a Shakespearan drama/tragedy, this year should be quiet. Joerger is an easy going, players love him type of coach that should get the most out of Cousins but it is hard to say what “most” is. Cousins is the best center in the NBA and he has matured but he still is plagued by his emotional reactivity. He has good chemistry with Willie Cauley-Stein and they make a formidable duo. But does Cousins really want to be Kevin Garnett?
Whoever the point guard in this revolving one act play is, the setup is pretty good. Cousins down low, Gay and McLemore on the wing and Cauley-Stein to clean up the mess. The Kings have stockpiled a few players with versatility, if not much success. Gay and McLemore can drive. The addition of Arron Afflalo is huge. Afflalo is an above average talent scorer, a Californian who should thrive on the Kings. His best years have been on bad teams. Afflalo can score and he is physical. He can make catch and shoot buckets and drive to the rim. His defense should thrive under Joerger. He is a willing defender and takes it seriously. Having him out there with Cousins and Gay gives the Kings scoring talent from all positions on the floor.
Of course, the person who has to buy in from day one is Cousins. He is a rare talent who can make you love him and make you want to strangle him, all in the same possession. He takes plays off. He pouts when he thinks he’s getting jammed up by the refs. He has feuds with certain players that he allows to get in his head.
Cousins has a habit of taking questionable shots. He is a 46% career shooter, atrocious for a player who stands 6-11. Last season, 29% of Cousins shots were from 3-10 feet. 16% of his shots were long 2’s. How productive was he from those ranges? He shot 41%, 3-10 feet. He shot 35% on long two’s. Can Cousins alter this part of his game, the weakest part?
Last season, Cousins grabbed 18% of the Kings rebounds and was responsible for 17% of the assists. His PER was 23.6, eleventh best, just behind Enes Kanter and ahead of Jonas Valanciunas. He was tenth in rebounds. He made 601 field goals, the 12th most. He took 1,332 shots, the thirteenth most. He missed 731 shots, the 13th most. But his defense was often mediocre because Cousins has issues playing hard on every single play and then there is the maturity issue. You can bet that once during the game he’s going to overreact and lose all sense of responsibility. Sensitive to a fault, Cousins takes everything personally which is an asset and a liability.
There are so many new faces in Sacramento, the chemistry will take a couple of months to get right. Joerger’s biggest challenge is the rotation. Unfortunately for the Kings, their early schedule is brutal. They play the Spurs for the home opener and first game at Golden 1 Center. Then they are on the road at Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Milwaukee and Toronto. Five days later they go to Portland and then they play the Spurs again. The Clippers, Raptors, Thunder, Rockets are in town before they go east. Their last game of November is in Philly, a break.
The Kings haven’t made the playoffs in a decade. Though they have a nice compliment of scorers, it’s going to take a while to get the machine up and running and by that time they will be far behind and not good enough to go on a 12-2 run. Matt Barnes will keep everyone on edge and Afflalo will give the Kings an additional weapon if Rudy Gay checks out mentally. The new arena and its solar power will be something to experience when the product on the floor is mediocre.
photo via llananba