2009-10 record: 25-57, 5th in the Pacific, 14th in the Western Conference.
Staff: Jim Eyen, Mario Elie, Truck Robinson, Pete Carril, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Otis Hughley.
Offense/Defense: 100.0 points per game (18th overall), 104.4 points per game yielded (25th overall).
Key Camp Battle: There is plenty of intrigue coming into camp due to the fact that only 7 players who finished the 2009-10 season will return for another tour. The most prevalent battle pits Donté Greene against Omri Casspi for the starting small forward spot. The third year Greene is packed with potential, but struggled with both maturity and consistency issues in his first two seasons as a pro. Casspi, the league’s first Israeli born player impressed early last season in his rookie campaign but slumped tremendously as the season and his body wore down. Both players will be counted on to play major minutes; the one who shows an ability to both play defense and consistently hit from the perimeter will win the job.
Prediction: Casspi starts, Greene plays minutes at both the small forward and shooting guard. Neither player was able to wow in Las Vegas during summer league, but Casspi continued to gain valuable experience as a member of the Israeli National team. That experience will give Omri the edge in what should be a great battle between two players loaded with talent.
Key Coaching Concern: The Kings entered the 2009-10 season with Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Kenny Thomas, Sean May and rookie John Brockman as their power forward/center group. Jason Thompson is all that remains one year later. Kings front man, Geoff Petrie made a mid-season deal to acquire talented power forward Carl Landry, giving up leading scorer Kevin Martin in the process. Petrie then dealt for defensive minded center, Samuel Dalembert, parting with the young but inconsistent Spencer Hawes and malcontent veteran Andres Nocioni. Lastly, Petrie used both of his draft picks to further to bolster the front line, selecting big man DeMarcus Cousins with the 5th overall pick and project Hassan Whiteside in the early second round after a cataclysmic draft day slide. The Kings now have the ability to match-up against any front line in the league and they should be among the elite rebounding teams in the NBA.
So where is the challenge? The combination of Dalembert, Landry, Thompson and Cousins will have to share the 96 minutes allotted to the power forward and center position. Westphal will have to get creative to keep all of these bigs happy and productive, possibly even using Landry to steal minutes from the small forward position. With both Dalembert and Landry playing out the final year of their contracts, balancing minutes and personalities will be a crucial component to coach Westphal’s job if the Kings hope to continue the building process.
*** Position by position breakdowns start Tuesday with the point guard position.