Five pressing questions for the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings
Opening night is upon us and there are lots of questions still surrounding the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings. The Kings walk into the season with a revamped roster and a new mindset. But is it enough.
There are more questions than answers about this team, which is what makes this season of Kings basketball interesting. The drama of relocation and new ownership is over. It now becomes about basketball again, at least until the new arena is opened downtown.
Can the Kings survive the month of November?
The Sacramento Kings’ schedule to start the season is absolutely brutal. Here is a glimpse at their first 12 games – Warriors, Blazers, Clippers, Nuggets (twice), Suns, Thunder, Mavs, Grizzlies, Spurs, Pelicans and Bulls. It doesn’t get much easier after that, leading some to speculate that the Kings will be 10 games under .500 or more before we even get to December.
All 11 teams mentioned finished above Sacramento in the standings a year ago, with eight of those teams making their way to the playoffs. Of the three teams that didn’t make the playoffs, Denver had an injury-plagued season and looks much improved, while the Pelicans and the Suns made major additions during the offseason.
No one really knows who the Kings are coming into this season. They are a wild card that could win anywhere from 25 games to somewhere in the 40’s. They have two big-time players and a bunch of new pieces to fill the gaps. If they find chemistry early, they can compete. If they don’t, the season might be over before it even started.
Does Pete D’Alessandro make another blockbuster deal?
D’Alessandro couldn’t get through November before making a deal last season. He made another huge deal in December and then one more at the trade deadline. To say he was active would be the most ridiculous understatement of the year.
But this roster isn’t finished. There are still gaping holes that must be filled if the Kings are going to compete at the highest level. There has been a lot of talk about potential deals and D’Alessandro is as active as any GM in the league, but he may not have the assets to pull off the right deal this time around.
If the Kings get off to a slow start, as expected, D’Alessandro will be on the phone 24/7. If he finds a willing partner, it’s game on.
Can the combination of Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions make fans forget Isaiah Thomas?
Not only was Thomas a fan favorite, he averaged over 20 points and six assists per game. Neither Collison, nor Sessions are going to cover those numbers on their own, but the duo possess a set of skills that may translate to more wins. And that is the point, isn’t it?
This was a huge gamble by the Kings brass. They didn’t see Thomas as a starter, which to a certain degree was confirmed when he signed a free agent deal to come off the bench in Phoenix. But for a team lacking talent and marketability, they lost a very good basketball player and someone that made the game palatable. And they lost him to a division rival that leap-frogged them in the rebuilding process last season.
Can Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins return the Kings to relevance?
Sacramento Kings fans fought tooth and nail to keep their team from walking away to Anaheim and Seattle, despite the fact they haven’t seen playoff basketball in eight seasons. It’s a loyal group that deserves something to cheer about.
Cousins and Gay are the cornerstones of the franchise. Both spent the summer winning gold medals with Team USA and both still have a lot to prove. Cousins is trying to reinvent himself as a player and a man. A summer with the national team has to help change the national narrative about him, but after picking up two quick technical fouls in preseason, it appears that not everyone is ready to let him turn over a new leaf. This is the season that Cousins needs to produce for himself, but drag his team along for the ride.
Gay is in the same boat as Cousins, but for completely different reasons. The free agent-to-be used a solid 55-game stint in Sacramento to win over a lot of naysayers over. Gay has to be a very good second option for the Kings to succeed this season. They also need him to make the players around him better. Gay is playing for one more huge payday. Everyone knows he can score, the question is whether he can win.
Are Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas ready to handle the shooting guard spot?
D’Alessandro is gambling this season that his young shooting guards can hold their own once the games start for real. There is no question that McLemore worked tirelessly this offseason to improve his game. He looks more confident on both ends of the floor and perhaps the game is finally starting to slow down for him. The Kings don’t need him to be a star this season, but they need a consistent effort each night and improvement over what we saw in 82 games last season.
Stauskas is one of the more NBA-ready players to come out of this year’s draft. His long range shooting is an elite skill that will translate on day 1. Teams will have to guard the 21-year-old or he will eat them alive from behind the arc. As the season develops and Stauskas becomes more comfortable with his surroundings, expect to see the rookie flash a complex set of skills that will leave fans asking for more.
The duo will start the season as the first and second option at the shooting guard position, but the Kings know this a spot on the floor that can really hurt them. If they can’t hold their own early on, expect the Kings to turn to Sessions and maybe even add another wing player quickly.