Remember the post about the Atlantic Division being previewed by the NBA blogosphere? Well the Pacific Division is happening over the next few days and we’re happily participating with the Kings preview (along with Sactown Royalty). Check it out:
Team Name: Sacramento Kings
Last Year’s Record: 25-57
Key Losses: Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, Jon Brockman, Sean May, Dominic McGuire, Assistant coach Bryan Gates
Key Additions: DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert, Antoine Wright, Hassan Whiteside, Pooh Jeter, Darnell Jackson
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The Spencer Hawes project is officially over. There were times in which he was extremely promising but most of the time he just couldn’t put consistent effort and positive performances in a row. The Kings decided to cut their losses relatively early on Spenny and ship him to Philadelphia with Andres Nocioni for Samuel Dalembert. While the move doesn’t completely solve the team’s pressing need for interior defense, the Kings now have the threat of an eraser to backup up their perimeter defense. Outside of that, they added the second major building block to their franchise by drafting DeMarcus Cousins, once the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves let the third best player in the draft slip past the third and fourth picks in the draft. Now the Kings have two potentially dynamic foundation pieces with Tyreke Evans and DMC to shape the team and bring this franchise back to playoff contention.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Aside from the franchise player on the perimeter entering his second year, this team’s biggest strength has to be on the boards. With a legit four-man rotation inside (Dalembert, Cousins, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson), the Kings have a steady stream of bruising big men who like to attack the glass and control the interior. Sacramento was third in the NBA in offensive rebounding last season while also finishing tenth. Now by replacing Spencer Hawes’ affinity for kicking it on the perimeter for Dalembert’s length and athleticism that hangs around the rim, you’ve got a big upgrade in veteran rebounding to go with the future double-double machine that is DeMarcus Cousins. You can definitely beat this team on the boards but you’re going to have to work your tail off to do it.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
How do the Kings fix the outside shooting and their inability to score free points at the free-throw line? The Kings finished 16th in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 34.9% and decided to upgrade the position with Antoine Wright – who had a career year with 33.5% last season in Toronto. At the charity stripe, the Kings had the 18th most attempts last season but finished 28th in free throw shooting in 2009-2010. With the attention Tyreke Evans will receive throughout each game (especially if that jumper is actually fixed) there will certainly be open shots on the perimeter and fouls on the interior to stop easy shots Evans creates. The Kings have to simply convert (especially in the fourth quarter) these easy chances to open things up for their star and create pressure on the opposing defense.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Progress is the goal. They hit rock bottom two years ago and found their potential star. Then they increased their win total by eight games last year and found another potential star. Now, the Kings have to crack 30 wins. They don’t have to make the playoffs. They don’t have to be the next Oklahoma City Thunder. The Kings just have to make more progress. And it’s not about just winning games either; it’s the way they win more games, which is the key. The Kings defense has to get better, they have to start shooting well from the outside (Omri, Donté, I’m looking at you guys) and they have to get better at fourth quarter execution. If they improve in these areas, the wins will start to come and they won’t be such a horrible road team. That’s progress.
5. How much better is the interior defense?
The acquisition of Sam Dalembert could very well be a dud for the Kings as they let his contract expire but it could also be a coup too. The Kings haven’t had a dangerous shot-blocking threat since Yogi Stewart and now they have the threat of protecting the basket that they’ve been craving the past couple years. Last year, the 76ers’ team defensive rating was 110.4 (24th in the league) but Dalembert had a defensive rating of 105. Whether he’s good or not or whether he blocks more shots than he stupidly goaltends, the evidence shows he helps the defense out immensely. The Kings need a deterrent around the hoop in order to keep teams from just rolling over them when things aren’t going well. Defense can always remain consistent if the effort is there and Sammy is capable of bringing that effort and consistency. Sacramento can’t just rely on him either. They need Thompson, Landry and Cousins to be able to hold their own inside when Dalembert isn’t on the court. If these three big men can follow Sam’s lead on defense, this team becomes a tough out every night.
Team Record Prediction: 37-45