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2013-2014 Sacramento Kings Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 11, 2013 @ 9:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Maloof family finally decided to sell the Kings in 2012-13—to a Seattle-based group. But Mayor Kevin Johnson put together a well-regarded ownership group headed by Vivek Ranadive, which kept the team in Sacramento. Ranadive’s group hired Golden State assistant Mike Malone as coach and Denver Assistant General Manager Pete D’Allesandro to head the front office.
With the departure Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade with New Orleans, center DeMarcus Cousins assumes the clear mantle as the team’s best player. The New Orleans trade netted point guard Greivis Vasquez, while the Kings signed free agent power forward Carl Landry to a 4-year, $26 million deal. If Malone can improve the Kings’ defense and Cousins improves to All-Star caliber, the Kings could challenge for the playoffs. But the more likely outcome is more of the same from a team that went 28-54 last year.
- Nate Duncan
Additions: Greivis Vasquez, Luc Mbah a Moute, Carl Landry, Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum, Coach Mike Malone, GM Pete D’Allesandro
Subtractions: Tyreke Evans, Cole Aldrich, James Johnson, Toney Douglas
Despite the fact that they’ve had a lottery pick in each of the last seven years, the Sacramento Kings just haven’t really gotten any better. The only one of those picks they’ve really landed is DeMarcus Cousins, and even he’s had his issues. Elsewhere on this roster, Sacramento has entirely too many guards that need the ball in their hands to be effective, and obviously nowhere near enough minutes to get any single one of them in an effective rhythm. Even with Tyreke Evans gone to New Orleans, the Kings still have to find playing time and shots for Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Ben McLemore, and Marcus Thornton. They’re also thin at small forward and don’t really have any players outside of Cousins that look like breakout candidates. As stacked as the West is this year, it’s hard to even pretend like Sacramento is a playoff contender, even though Mike Malone was one of the better coaching hires of the summer.
4th Place – Pacific Division
– Joel Brigham
With a long-term future in Sacramento and new decision-makers in place to change the culture around the organization, the Kings finally have some stability. This offseason, new general manager Pete D’Alessandro did a great job bringing in team-first veterans like Greivis Vazquez, Carl Landry and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who can help the Kings become more competitive. More importantly, these vets can also help develop the Kings’ young core, which consists of DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore and Isaiah Thomas among others. Mike Malone was an excellent hire as the team’s new head coach, and he should help them improve defensively. In recent years, Malone was widely regarded as one of the top assistant coaches in the league and it’s about time he got a head coaching gig. It’s unlikely that the Kings will make a huge leap in the standings this season, but they should show some improvement from last year’s 28-54 record. The Kings have had a top-seven draft pick for six straight years and they’re hoping this is the season that they finally take a step forward.
4th Place – Pacific Division
- Alex Kennedy
The Sacramento Kings believe in Mike Malone they finally have the right head coach at the helm to lead their collection of young talent out of the lower tier of the Western Conference. That may be the case but much like the prior two campaigns the Kings’ success will largely hinge on the development of center DeMarcus Cousins. Sure Tyreke Evans departed to New Orleans in a sign-and-trade deal, but the Kings drafted promising guard Ben McLemore with the No. 7 overall pick in this year’s draft. The club also signed veteran forward Carl Landry in free agency, while acquiring Greivis Vasquez and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in separate trades. The Kings haven’t won 30 regular season games since 2008, So while playoff aspirations aren’t realistic, the team should eclipse 30 victories in 2014.
4th Place – Pacific Division
- Lang Greene
This was a monumental offseason for the Kings, but not because of any moves they made to their roster – although the acquisitions of Greivis Vasquez and Carl Landry should provide a boost at two positions they needed upgrades at. However, what really made this an important offseason for the Kings was the changeover in ownership and management, which provides newfound stability and eliminates the distraction of a potential move that has been burdening this franchise for years. Now the Kings can focus solely on the product on the court. They’re seven years removed from their last playoff appearance and that’s going to be a difficult skid to end this year barring an amazing head coaching debut from Mike Malone and a dominant campaign from DeMarcus Cousins, who is eligible for an extension and hoping for the max. The future is as bright as it has been in a very long term, but in the short-term this is still a team that lacks the weapons to finish any better than fourth in the Pacific or seriously compete for a playoff spot.
4th place – Pacific Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
This will mark the third consecutive year that the Kings begin the NBA season with a new head coach. Mike Malone hopes that his tenure will last a bit longer than his predecessors Keith Smart and Paul Westphal, though. Being that he is the first hire of the new ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive, Malone may be safe for the time being, and that is a good thing for him because it is going to be nearly impossible for Malone to keep all of his guards happy. Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and John Salmons all deserve regular rotation minutes, but rookie Ben McLemore does, as well. The jury is still out on Jimmer Fredette, too. And of course, the immature DeMarcus Cousins is expected to be the team’s anchor. Whether or not he can handle such responsibility will go a long way toward determining the Kings‘ immediate future. Ultimately, they are nowhere near the caliber of team as the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. The Los Angeles Lakers will almost certainly have them topped, as well.
4th place — Pacific Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: DeMarcus Cousins. At only 23, Cousins projects as the Kings’ offensive centerpiece. His skill level allows him to use an incredible number of possessions for a center. His next task is to boost his efficiency, as his 46.5% shooting was poor for his position. The addition of Vasquez should help Cousins get higher-quality looks and allow him to rely less on his outside shot.
Top Defensive Player: Luc Mbah a Moute. The Cameroonian native and UCLA product may start at small forward, providing the Kings with perhaps their only above-average defender in their top 8 players. In fact, Mbah a Moute is more than simply above-average, as he is one of the best wing defenders in the entire league. That skill earned him a 4-year, $18 million contract from the Milwaukee Bucks, but his offensive limitations and struggles with injuries last year made him available to the Kings in trade for the low price of a 2016 second round draft pick and the right to swap second rounders in 2018.
Top Playmaker: Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez had a breakout season for New Orleans, averaging 9 assists per game. The Venezuelan national teamer brings sorely-needed passing acumen to Sacramento, where isolation ball has been the name of the game in recent years. At 6’5, “General Greivis” can see over the defense and get the ball to scorers like Cousins, Landry, Thornton, and McLemore in their preferred spots.
Best Clutch Player: Marcus Thornton. Given the team’s struggles on the court, Sacramento fans might choose Ranadive and Mayor Johnson. That duo teamed up under significant time pressure to provide the winning bid for the Kings in competition with Seattle-based Chris Hansen’s group. But on the court, Thornton showed the ability to get his shot off in late-game situations and drain crazy threes to fuel comebacks.
The Unheralded Player: Isaiah Thomas. The 5’9 point guard out of Washington has been underrated his entire pro career. He was the 60th pick in the 2011 draft, but became the starter over 10th pick Jimmer Fredette by season’s end. Then Aaron Brooks was acquired, and Thomas beat him out as well. Now Vasquez is brought in as the projected starter, but Thomas is 2 years younger and arguably played better last year. He could surprise again.
Best New Addition: Ben McLemore. The St. Louis native has one of the prettiest jump shots to come out of college in recent years, and his athleticism should allow him to be a good defender in time. With all the other scorers on the roster, McLemore can focus on shooting 3s off the catch and attacking in transition while his weaker playmaking skills come along more slowly. His defense will likely determine whether he starts at shooting guard.
- Nate Duncan
1. Mike Malone. Vivek Ranadive took the unorthodox step of hiring Malone prior to putting the management team in place. Ranadive was enamored of Malone from their time together in Golden State, where Ranadive was a part-owner and Malone received credit for greatly improving the Warriors’ defense last year despite the lack of outstanding individual defenders. Now Malone must perform the same magic on a Kings team where only Luc Mbah a Moute has a history of above-average play on defense. If Malone can improve the Kings’ 29th ranked defense (by points per possession) to near league-average, the offense could allow the team to contend for the playoffs. That type of improvement, however, is a tall order.
2. Pete D’Alessandro. The former Denver Assistant GM was hired to reform what had become perhaps the league’s worst front office. D’Alessandro brings a familiarity with analytics and salary cap machinations to the Kings from his time in Denver and his previous work representing NBA players. At the time of his hiring, he was lauded by Ranadive as “a guy who can think four moves ahead.” Despite his solid reputation, the jury is still out on D’Alessandro’s first moves. The signing of the almost 30 year-old Landry for 4 years at $6.5 million per was a curious one, as the Kings already have two younger power forwards of similar quality on the roster in Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson. And while the Kings did well to get Vasquez for Evans once it was clear they would not match his 4-year, $44 million offer sheet in restricted free agency, the team will be in the same boat a year from now when he is a restricted free agent.
3. Jason Thompson. The 12th pick in the 2008 draft out of little-known Rider University, the 6’11 Thompson has become somewhat of a forgotten man after the team signed him to a 5-year, $30 million contract extension in 2011. Since then, the Kings drafted power forward Thomas Robinson, traded him for power forward Patrick Patterson, and signed power forward Landry. Thompson does not offer the 3-point shooting of Patterson or the post-ups of Landry, but he is a better rebounder than either and offers more potential on defense as well.
4. DeMarcus Cousins. The Kentucky product has emerged as one of the most talented young big men in the league. The number five pick in the 2010 draft is now eligible for a rookie extension, and a key decision for D’Alessandro and company is whether Cousins is worthy of the maximum contract he will likely seek. While Cousins certainly has the talent to eventually prove worthy of such a deal, his defense and shot-selection are not there yet. The Kings’ lowly defense was even worse with Cousins on the court, and winning big with a poor-defending center can be very difficult. If the team can sign Cousins for a discount before the season, an extension may be a wise move. But if he sticks to his maximum contract demands the Kings may be better served to wait and see if he refines his game this year, secure in the knowledge that they can match any offer next summer.
5. Ben McLemore. Projected as a top-three pick in the draft for much of the season, the Kansas shooting guard fell to the Kings with the seventh pick. At 20 years old, McLemore is a year older than most players drafted after their freshman year, but his jump shot and athleticism give him the potential to grow into one of the NBA’s best at perhaps the league’s weakest position.
- Nate Duncan
Believe it or not, the Kings actually ranked 12th offensively by points per possession last year. The offense is not particularly outstanding in any one area, but projects to be solid across the board. The Kings can push the ball in transition with their young legs in the backcourt, heat up from outside with shooters Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, and 7th overall pick Ben McLemore, or feed Landry and Cousins in the post. The Kings also have great depth at the big positions, with Jason Thompson, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes all established NBA performers in addition to Landry and Cousins.
- Nate Duncan
The Kings struggled in nearly every category reflective of effort and smarts. They ranked 29th in defense (by points per possession) last year. Despite plenty of beef in the frontcourt, they were 30th in defensive rebound percentage. They fouled like crazy, and were one of the worst passing teams in basketball. This year, the Kings lost Evans and acquired Landry and Vasquez, neither of whom are even average defenders. Vasquez is a pass-first point guard, so the offense should run a little more smoothly, but the defense projects to be just as bad unless Malone proves a miracle-worker.
- Nate Duncan
Who will be a part of the next great Kings team?
Of the pieces on the roster, only Cousins would seem an obvious answer to that question at this point in time. While Vasquez, Thornton, Thompson and Patterson are relatively young players who have had their moments, none have yet proven to be an above-average NBA starter. Meanwhile, McLemore arrives from Kansas with great leaping ability and a pure shooting stroke, but also questions about his ability to create offense. The Kings will not contend this year, but this season should enable the new owners and front office to determine the core pieces going forward.
- Nate Duncan
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