After 20 games, the Kings are still lacking an identity
While some expected the Sacramento Kings to make the playoffs in what was supposed to be a turnaround season, the odds of them being stiffed out of the postseason are exceptionally high.
Through the first 20 games of the season, the Kings have gone (7-13) with an estimated full season record of (32-49). With three overtime defeats and five losses by 10 points or fewer, the Kings are evermore searching for their identity a quarter of the way through the season.
Despite the under .500 start, Rudy Gay has been able to average 18.4 points while shooting 46 percent from the field in what is a showcase year since his player option is coming up at the end of the season.
The clock on Gay’s fate with Sacramento started before the tip of the season when he respectfully declined to pick up his player option with the Kings for the 2017-2018 campaign.
Alongside Gay, DeMarcus Cousins’ fate isn’t that clear as well in a Kings uniform. Cousins has individually dominated this season and has solidified himself as one of the NBA’s elite. Cousins is the NBA’s third leading scorer averaging 29.1 points per game and ranks 11th in rebounds at 10.5 per game.
Although he has scored 30 points or more points in half of the contests this season, with the good comes the bad. Cousins has stayed true to his character and sits at the top of the NBA in technical fouls at six total. And more recently after the December 4th game against the Knicks, Cousins was allegedly involved in a physical altercation at a nightclub in New York City.
With a contract that expires after the 2017-2018 season, his name has been in and out of the trade rumor mill for months. Cousins has assured the critics and media that Sacramento is his home but the thought of him leaving could stir up a mix in the league.
The seven wins that the Kings have collected have not been that convincing except for one. The most convincing win has been against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Winning by 15 points, Cousins led the Kings with 36 points and they held Westbrook under a triple double.
Two of the Kings wins have come against the second place eastern conference Toronto Raptors. One of those wins came on a second day of a back-to-back in Toronto after losing in a walk away game the day prior to Milwaukee.
In those wins, Sacramento was able to hold DeMar DeRozan to 7-of-20 shooting and 3-of-15 shooting holding him under the 30-point mark. DeRozan has been a tough mark this season across the league and maybe the Kings are his kryptonite.
The other four wins have come against teams that all have less wins than the Kings and are in the same situation or worse with their respective teams; New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With 13 losses and seven wins that’s good for 11th in the Western Conference, which might look bad on paper but is average in the better conference. Through 20 games, the Kings have been on two separate road trips (five game and current six game) with both resulting in one-win records.
The first road trip consisted of the Kings dropping four straight in Atlanta, Miami (OT), Orlando followed by the blowout in Milwaukee. And the second has resulted in a win in Brooklyn, followed by three scrappy losses against the Wizards, Knicks and Celtics combined with a postponed game in Philadelphia.
Eight of Sacramento’s losses have come on the road with three of those being OT losses. The Kings have had four back to backs splitting three of the contests and suffered a loss on one.
The 13-loss record doesn’t do the justice in exemplifying the teams effort and hard work so far this season. Each game has been a close contest throughout three quarters but the biggest downfall has been the fourth quarter performances. Cousins has been huge in fourth quarters but the help has been stagnant.
Collison being the reliable third scorer at 12.9 points per game has not came into his full form with the new roster as he was suspended for the first eight games of the season due to the NBA’s domestic violence policy.
The Help/ Supporting Cast
The Kings brought in veterans in Ty Lawson, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo and Garrett Temple, but the struggle for the four to remain consistent and apart of the rotation has not been fluid. Each player has been called upon when others are down but have not been the answer Sacramento has needed through the first 20 games.
Omri Casspi experienced some early season trouble when his playing time was depleted but has been able to work his way back into the rotation as of late.
The Kings’ two first round draft picks in Ben McLemore and Willie Cauley-Stein have not seen the court as much as they would like. After starting for the majority of his career, McLemore has seen a huge decrease in minutes at 15.5 per game. Cauley-Stein had been struggling through the first 15 games of the season but has earned playing time and has produced efficiently through the last five games.
Head coach Dave Joerger was assumed to be able to come in and turn around the system in Sacramento but so far the record doesn’t do the justice. The work ethic is there, the intensity is sometimes there but the attitude and demeanor of Cousins and others has reflected the poor record.
The ability to keep things cool in Sacramento for the remaining 62 games looks like it’s going to be a roller coaster ride. The ability and mental strength of Cousins will be a huge factor in Sacramento’s success if they would like to see an above .500 record for the first time in over a decade.