2011-2012 Sacramento Kings Season Preview
Little by little, the Kings continue to work on their roster. This season they welcome three rookies – guard Jimmer Fredette, forward Tyler Honeycutt and guard Isaiah Thomas – new signings guard John Salmons and forwards J.J. Hickson and Travis Outlaw…and say goodbye to Samuel Dalembert, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi, Marquis Daniels, Darnell Jackson and Pooh Jeter. Sadly, Chuck Hayes’ contract was recently voided since he failed his medical exam.
New faces aren’t just limited to the players; coach Paul Westphal kept only one existing assistant coach and added three: Keith Smart, Bobby Jackson and Jim Todd.
The Kings won one less game than the previous season (25-57 in 2009-10), which certainly wasn’t the direction they were hoping to head. Last year’s 24-58 record placed them 14th in the Western Conference and in last place in the Pacific Division.
With all the new pieces, what can we expect this year?
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2011-2012 Sacramento Kings.:
|Five Guys Think…|
There are a lot of good things going on in Sacramento, especially when you look at the young talent on the roster. Guys like Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and J.J. Hickson form a really nice core with veterans John Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Travis Outlaw there to balance out the youth with some experience. There’s a lot of growth that needs to occur that hasn’t yet, though. They were just 24-58 last year and have yet to gain a proper grasp on what needs to be done night in and night out to win in the league, on the defensive end in particular. This franchise is definitely on the right track and positioned really nicely under the salary cap, but their wins and losses won’t necessarily reflect all that this season.
5th Place, Pacific Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
You’d be hard pressed to find a more talented young team in the NBA than the Sacramento Kings, with a nod to the Minnesota Timberwolves. With depth at every position and players with high ceilings all over the roster, the Kings look like a team that could be a true powerhouse in two or three years. There are some maturity issues, and Jimmer Fredette needs to turn into a solid NBA contributor, but the Kings are a team on the rise. If they could add a veteran for leadership it would no doubt advance their improvement process immensely.
5th Place – Pacific Division
- Bill Ingram
To be fair, there really is a lot of talent on this roster. The problem is that most of that talent plays the same position. Jimmer Fredette, Tyreke Evans, and the newly-extended and now-overpaid Marcus Thornton all essentially do the same sorts of things, and those are three of the four best players on the team. DeMarcus Cousins seems primed for a breakout year, and players like J.J. Hickson and Jason Thompson still have plenty of upside, but this still feels like a pretty mediocre team despite all that. There doesn’t seem to be any real master plan with this roster, just an amassing of talent that looks good on paper but considerably worse on the court. The only guy who did make sense for them, Chuck Hayes, had a heart issue and ended up getting his contract voided. That can’t be construed as a sign of optimism for the rest of the season to come.
5th Place, Pacific Division
- Joel Brigham
The Sacramento Kings have accumulated a decent collection of talented youth. Tyreke Evans, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, will be counted on to bounce back strong after an inconsistent and injury plagued sophomore campaign. On the inside center DeMarcus Cousins has the tools to become a force on the low block if he can play with poise. The club also re-signed the high scoring Marcus Thornton which will seemingly allow rookie guard Jimmer Fredette time to develop without increased pressure. Questions remain whether head coach Paul Westphal is the right guy at the controls of the team as there were plenty reports of locker room turmoil during the 2011 season. The Kings are a long way away from sniffing the postseason.
5th Place Pacific Division
- Lang Greene
The Sacramento Kings won’t have any trouble scoring the ball this year. With Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons, they have plenty of players who can create their own shot and score when the ball is in their hands. They also have a talented young frontcourt centered around DeMarcus Cousins and J.J. Hickson. Sacramento has a long way to go before they can compete in the Pacific Division, but they definitely have the potential to be one of the best up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference.
5th Place, Pacific Division
- Alex Kennedy
|Top Of The List|
Top Offensive Player: Marcus Thornton. Raise your hand if you expected Thornton to post these numbers in 27 games with Sacramento: 21.3 points, 2.0 three-pointers, 1.7 steals, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 38.1 minutes. Those first three stats were team-high figures. Defensive concerns led the New Orleans Hornets to cut Thornton’s average playing time by nearly ten minutes per game last season following a head-turning offensive effort in his rookie year. Things weren’t looking so good for him, but a mid-season trade to Sacramento for Carl Landry changed everything. The Kings believe in the pure scorer and re-signed him to a $33 million four-year deal immediately after the lockout ended.
Top Defensive Player: DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins was the leading rebounder, at 8.6 per game, on the team (and second in the league among rookies) while Dalembert pretty much took top defensive honors elsewhere. The Kings were league-ranked fourth in total rebounds and second in total offensive rebounds. The two did tie in Defensive Rating, and Cousins had a slightly higher Defensive Win Shares number. With unrestricted free agent Dalembert not returning, the onus falls on 21-year-old Cousins to become that defensive beast we all believe lurks deep inside. Cousins, named to last years’ All-Rookie First Team, reported to camp with a slimmer physique. Here’s hoping he also lost some of that attitude; control of his emotions and growing maturity would go a long way in taking the next step.
Top Playmaker: Tyreke Evans. It’s true Evans numbers fell nearly across the board last season from his 2009-10 rookie season. More than just a sophomore slump, Evans played through pain much of the year, missing 25 games and continually struggling with conditioning issues. Despite the challenges, he managed to log 17.8 points, 5.6 assists (team high), 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals, but he clearly was not the same player. This year a healthier Evans is primed to return to his penetrating ways and hopefully make that third-year jump. The departure of Udrih leaves this squad without a true point guard, so look for Evans’ playmaking skills to be on display.
Top Clutch Player: Marcus Thornton. With an extremely small sample size, Thornton jumps out ahead of his teammates in clutch performance. He frequently turns it on in the fourth quarter; in fact, he placed 15th in clutch scoring average among all players in the league.
Top Unheralded Player: Francisco Garcia. You don’t hear Garcia’s name much (except for that freak accident with the exercise ball which pretty much ruined his 2009-10 season), but he’s valuable to this team. He enters his seventh year with the Kings – longest of any current player – who drafted him 23rd in 2005. Those amnesty rumors turned out to be false. Whether he starts or comes off the bench…plays minutes or not…Garcia serves as a great example to his young teammates in the concept of “team”. He’ll accept any role given to him. He’s consistent and brings energy when he’s on the floor. He’s reliable outside (career 1.1 per game in three-pointers) and at the foul line (career .808) and can defend.
Best New Addition: Jimmer Fredette. We imagine the NBA-ready tenth pick in the 2011 draft will be the first player off the bench. He should see minutes at both guard spots. The guy can drain it from anywhere; we know that from watching him light it up at BYU. In his senior year, he averaged 28.9 points, 4.3 assists and an incredible 3.4 three-pointers per game. The concern is an under-developed defense. Among the best things Fredette brings to the Kings is interest and boosted ticket sales in a market that’s fighting to hang on to their team. People are curious about Jimmer; his likability factor is strong.
- Susan Bible
|Who We Like|
1. Tyreke Evans: Evans has so much potential. The 2009-10 Rookie of the Year player seemingly regressed last year; it’s time to show that it was largely attributable to medical struggles. Perhaps part of it was mental. In any case, the reins have been handed to him – with Cousins as his sidekick – as the core players of a rebuilding team.
2. Mayor Kevin Johnson: We’re stepping outside the box for a moment. This Mayor has led the charge, doing absolutely everything within his power, to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Seemingly on the verge of a move to Anaheim not too long ago (who can forget the heart-wrenching goodbye inside then-called ARCO Arena on April 13th?), the owners elected to stay put for this season. Things appear to be going better than expected; the original March 1st, 2012 deadline for a new arena is now “flexible” as new ideas on how to keep the Kings from relocating are developing.
3. Isaiah Thomas: At just 5’9” without shoes, countless people are already rooting for the Kings’ 60th draft pick to succeed. He feeds our fantasies about a normal-sized person (like us) actually playing in the NBA. Thomas just may see some court time behind Evans and Fredette. He performed well at Washington last season in his junior year (16.8 ppg/6.1 apg); if he develops at this level, he may turn into that pass-first point guard the team needs.
4. New veteran leadership in John Salmons and Travis Outlaw. Salmons returns to Sacramento with nine years’ experience behind him; at 32, he’s the oldest player on the team. Outlaw, 27, begins his eighth year in the league. He had hand surgery during the lockout and isn’t quite 100% yet. He’ll be asked to play both the small and power forward positions. Both players are expected to provide veteran voices to the multitude of young players in efforts to aid the maturation process.
5. Cap Space: We’re optimistic we’re going to like whichever defensive guy the Kings add with their approximate $13 million cap space.
– Susan Bible
The Kings have considerable offensive strength going into the new season with a good number of players able to score at least 20 points in any given game. The cornerstones of the franchise are Evans and Cousins; both should see steady progression of their games.
The average age of the entire roster is 24.1; youth is most definitely on their side. This is an athletic team that can run. Expect high-scoring fun..
- Susan Bible
It’s going to be tough for this group, full of new faces, to find chemistry or even an identity. This issue would have been mitigated to some extent had a regular training camp and preseason occurred. All six new players figure in the team’s plans; four of them should see significant minutes.
The Kings have one of the toughest schedules in the league to start this jam-packed 66-game season: only 13 of the first 34 games are played in front of their home crowd.
The roster has plenty of talented players, but they all want the ball. There is an abundance of shooting guards, and guys that can play the position very well, but they certainly lack a true distributor. The team was league-ranked 23rd in assists. Last seasons’ assisted shots numbers for Evans and Cousins were among the lowest.
What is the defensive plan now that Dalembert isn’t returning?
Sacramento placed in the bottom ten of the league in these categories: field-goal percentage (23rd at .449 and 26th in effective FG), three-pointers (25th), three-point percentage (26th at .335), free throws (21st), free throw percentage (28th at .734), most turnovers (28th), personal fouls (23rd), opponents points per game (25th), margin of victory (25th) and offensive rating (25th). Enough said.
- Susan Bible
|The Coach’s Chair By Anthony Macri|
Our goal is to take one step at a time throughout the season, get our individual players better, and use this year to prepare to be competitive in the future. The way to do that is to really start improving the way we pass the ball. We have great individual talent, but it has simply not fit together. That works, but it isn’t as efficient as it could be, and it doesn’t allow us to be as good as we could possibly be. From a raw talent perspective, there might not be a better duo in the league with as much youth and promise as us. Tyreke, DeMarcus, if you guys can fit your games together better, folks need to watch out. Marcus, we’ll need you to continue producing at the level you did after the trade last year, and all of us will have to really commit to learning how to play defense in the NBA. It’s all about incremental steps forward.
- Anthony Macri
|The Burning Question|
Can the Kings come together as a team?
There are actually many burning questions – Will Evans make the leap? Has Cousins grown up? What’s the deal with so many scorers? Are they moving or not? – but since we had to choose one, we went with a broad one. It’s not going to be easy for the new and existing players, not to mention, the new coaching staff, to integrate schemes and make needed adjustments for quick success.
How do you see the Kings this season, leave your comments below…