Better Know: Sacramento Kings

Greivis Vasquez

Today’s installment of Better Know An Opponent focuses on the Sacramento Kings. Let’s take a look.

Projected Starting 5

Greivis Vasquez Sacramento Kings

Greivis Vasquez (Stats)

Marcus Thornton Sacramento Kings

Marcus Thornton (Stats)

DeMarcus Cousins Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus Cousins (Stats)

Patrick Patterson Sacramento Kings

Patrick Patterson (Stats)

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute Sacramento Kings

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Stats)

Key bench players: Ben McLemore, Isaiah Thomas, John Salmons, Sacramento Kings LogoW-L: 28-54
Playoffs: DNP
Offense: 103.0 points per 100 possessions (13th)
Defense: 108.6 points allowed per 100 possessions (29th)
Net: -5.6 points per 100 possessions (26th)
Pace: 96.34 possessions per game (7th)

Games vs. the Brooklyn Nets:
November 13th — Brooklyn Nets @ Sacramento Kings
March 9th — Sacramento Kings @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)

Key Additions: Mike Malone (coach), Ben McLemore (draft), Greivis Vasquez, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Carl Landry

Key Subtractions: Keith Smart (head coach), Tyreke Evans, James Johnson

Strengths: Cousins has all the tools to be an elite center in the NBA — he’s got great, strong post footwork and a penchant for rebounding. They’ve also got good shooters to surround him with; losing the poor-shooting Evans may end up a plus, especially filling his minutes with the talented Vasquez and relegating Thomas to back-up duty.

Weaknesses: Defense, defense, defense. The Sacramento Kings finished last season second-to-last in defense, and the blame for that falls squarely on Cousins’s shoulders. Cousins sometimes seems incapable of paying attention to even the most basic defensive assignments, and his lack of foot speed hurts him in an NBA that increasingly values quick big men in fast-moving rotations. The Kings also grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than any team in the NBA, and outside of Cousins and newcomer Carl Landry, they don’t have a strong rebounder on the roster.

Why you should watch:The Sacramento Kings have been in turmoil for some time. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2005-06, their last winning season. Their most well-known and best player is the league’s most notorious question mark (and poses a great matchup against Lopez). They’ve had three coaches in the last three years. So is there room for hope?

Yes and no. The Kings shed Tyreke Evans, a slash-first, shoot-second, pass-third guard who never lived up to the hype from his rookie season, and acquired the much cheaper Greivis Vasquez, who led the NBA in assists last year in a breakout season. They drafted Ben McLemore with the seventh overall pick, a guard who shot 42% from the college 3 in his freshman season. They traded for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and signed Carl Landry to bolster their depth.

they’re not contenders, and barring something freakishly unexpected, they won’t make the playoffs. But after years of bumbling around, they’ve started to put together something resembling a team. If DeMarcus Cousins can be a true centerpiece, improving his much-maligned defense and focusing on the inside game that made him such a monster at Kentucky, they could make some noise in the Western Conference.. If not, Cousins — who’s in the final year of his rookie contract — will probably garner max money somewhere else, and the Kings may be forced to blow it up once again.

Asking The Other Side: Sacramento Kings expert Jonathan Santiago of ESPN TrueHoop Sacramento Kings blog Cowbell Kingdom.

Most important move: For the future, drafting Ben McLemore. But acquiring Greivis Vasquez may wind up being the move that helps the Kings tremendously for today. They sacrificed talent by letting Tyreke Evans walk to New Orleans. However, Vasquez, a hard-working, pass-first point guard, appears to be a better fit for what the Kings need in order to improve on the court and in culture.

Expectations? Last year, I predicted they would win somewhere around 35-38 games. They clearly fell short of my expectations. This year, I think it’s reasonable to expect around 32-38 wins. The west is deep and the moves the Kings made this offseason weren’t necessarily earth shattering. If you want a firm number, I’ll say 36.

What’s the team system? Last year, they tried shifting into a motion offense under Keith Smart. This season, I can see them relying more on the pick-and-roll considering DeMarcus Cousins’ mobility and Greivis Vasquez’s passing ability. But to be frank, I’m not quite sure what their offensive identity will be. Under Malone, we know that they will focus first and foremost on improving their defense. However with Tyreke Evans gone, I do expect the offense to start and end with Cousins.

Matching up with Brooklyn: The Nets may be an older team, but experience will count for a lot against the Kings. Sacramento still has one of the youngest rosters in the league and many of their players don’t know what it’s like to play for something meaningful. Talent-wise, the Nets do have clear-cut advantages at practically every position except center. If DeMarcus Cousins is playing to his potential, Brook Lopez will have trouble containing the 23-year-old big man.

The Sacramento Kings in under 100 words:

The Kings have had plenty of young talent these last few years. But that got them nowhere the past two seasons. They may have downgraded in talent this upcoming year, but Sacramento now has a roster of players that fit better alongside each other. That should go a long way in changing the culture of a losing franchise.