#NBARank: Who rises and falls among Sacramento Kings bigs in 2012?

Photos: Steven Chea

Photos: Steven Chea

DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans were the only Sacramento Kings to crack the top 100 of ESPN.com’s inaugural #NBARank. But where might they and their other teammates land in next year’s list? In the second installment of our three-part debate, we weigh-in on the Kings’ bigs.

What is #NBArank?

#NBArank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @NBAonESPN

How did we rank the players?

We asked 91 experts to rate each player on a 0-to-10 scale, in terms of “the current quality of each player.”

Here is the full list of voters from ESPN.com, the TrueHoop Network, TrueHoop TV, Daily Dime Live, ESPN TV, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, espnW, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider, ESPN Fantasy, ESPN Games, ESPN Dallas, ESPN Los Angeles, ESPN Chicago, ESPN New York, ESPN Stats & Information, ESPN Topics and ESPN Analytics.

Rank Player Score
Hassan Whiteside 
PF | Age: 22 | Stats

Noam Schiller:  Slight rise. Whether Whitesde’s future holds major NBA contributions remains to be seen, but no matter where he stands in 2015, he is unlikely to see much action outside of the D-League in 2011-2012. This shouldn’t be enough to rise much higher than the 450 range.

Zach Harper:  Hassan almost has to rise. Even if he just shows a promising campaign in the D-League (Kings know they can use the D-League, right?), his length and athleticism will allow him to make plays even when he’s not ready to recognize them from an experience standpoint. I can’t imagine the Kings will go two straight years without looking to see what they have with him. Give him a little time on the court and he’s sure to at least approach #400.

Jonathan Santiago:  Rises, but not by very much.  Whiteside has tremendous upside, but he may not get the playing time to get better next year.  Even if the Kings don’t re-sign Samuel Dalembert, there may not be a lot of minutes there for Whiteside with Cousins,  J.J. Hickson and Jason Thompson in the mix.  However, his potential is also a reason why I don’t see his value dropping below 470.  I say his rank could only go as high as 440 next year.

James Ham: Rises…or disappears?  Hassan Whiteside is an interesting player.  He could walk on the floor tomorrow and lead the league in blocked shots per 48 minutes.  Talent, size, timing – Whiteside has it all, but I’m not sure he can put it together.  Making the Kings roster will be challenge number one.  After that, this kid needs to show that he has the focus to succeed.

Rank Player Score
Jason Thompson
C | Age: 25 | Stats | @jtthekid 

Noam Schiller:  Push. Three years in and 25 years old, Thompson is still pretty much the same player he’s always been. I’m still hopeful he breaks out, but I wouldn’t go so far to predict it happens.

Zach Harper:  Rises.  The Kings have done a disservice to JT by not finding better ways to utilize his skills. He was having an incredible couple of months two years ago before he injured his back. Then the Kings decided using him at the small forward position just for kicks. JT is a big man and a pretty good one at that. I think we should hopefully see some time with him at center, and if he doesn’t get into foul trouble next to Cousins, he’ll definitely shoot up the ranks as a coveted big man.

Jonathan Santiago:  Rises, but not much – perhaps between the 200-210 range.  When he finally found his niche with the Kings last year, Thompson thrived.  He became more effective because he knew what Westphal wanted out of him.  His rise could only be hampered if the Kings decide to trade him.

James Ham: Rises.  Thompson really figured things out towards the end of last season.  The 6’-11” power forward/center has a great motor, can rebound and he improved his perimeter shooting greatly as the season progressed.  Like Hickson, Thompson is playing for a contract.  Unfortunately, Thompson’s success will be dictated by minutes played, something we can’t even begin to predict today.

Rank Player Score
J.J. Hickson
PF | Age: 23 | Stats | @JJHickson21

Noam Schiller:  Falls. Much like Thompson, Hickson’s is a tale of unrealized potential. If everything goes perfectly, he could be a top 50 guy, but I don’t see it happening. He’ll be better in Sacramento than he was last season in Cleveland, but he’s not starter caliber, which places him just outside the top 150.

Zach Harper:  Falls. I’ve never been a fan of Hickson’s game unless he was running a two-man game with LeBron James. Hickson is very good at scoring the ball around the rim, but outside of that he seems to be subpar in a lot of facets of the game the Kings will need. His defense is abysmal and if he can’t get into the rotation because of it, people will stop believing the luster LeBron covered him with by giving dazzling passes for dunks.

Jonathan Santiago:  Falls, but not because of decline to anywhere from 130 to 150.  I think his ranking drops because his role will be different on the Kings.  No longer will he be called on to be a first, second or even third option on this team.  He’s going to be a finisher and energy guy.  Essentially, he’ll be a more effective and consistent Jason Thompson.

James Ham:  I’m not sure Hickson was worth the #125 ranking, so I will say falls.  You have to love this kid’s motor and athleticism.  But last season was supposed to be his breakout year and that just didn’t happen.  Hickson and Thompson will fight for minutes behind Cousins and whoever the Kings chase in free agency.

Rank Player Score
Samuel Dalembert 
C | Age: 30 | Stats

Noam Schiller:  Fall. Sammy is still effective as an interior defender, but he’s also 30 years old. If he commits fully to the stopper role and doesn’t try to do too much on offense, he could stay this high.  But history says he’ll do just enough of the latter to warrant a 20-30 place drop.

Zach Harper:  Falls. Not sure Dalembert will be in a Kings uniform this season, but I am sure a lot of people will scrutinize his game a lot more under a brighter spotlight. If he signs with a contender (say… the Heat) then people will scowl at his insistence on taking fadeaway jumpers at inopportune times. I don’t think Sammy is bad, but I don’t think he’s approaching a top 100 player either.

Jonathan Santiago:  Falls to no lower than 130.  As a free agent, we’re not sure if he’ll be back next season.  But if he is, his production is going to drop because of the younger legs the Kings have at big.  With the addition of Hickson and as Cousins gets better, fewer minutes could be in store for Dalembert if he returns.

James Ham:  This is tough.  Similar to Hickson, I’m not sure that Sammy D’s 112th ranking was fair.  If Dalembert stays with the Kings (which I doubt), I think he can stay around the 110-125 mark.  If he leaves the Kings, then it’s a crapshoot.

Rank Player Score
DeMarcus Cousins 
C | Age: 21 | Stats | @boogiecousins 

Noam Schiller:  Rises. There is too much skill within Cousins to say he won’t be a top 50 player next year and keep a straight face. DMC’s mentality will determine whether he leaps to elite, top-30 status, or if he just sticks around at 50 with a “if only he gets it right” asterisk.

Zach Harper:  Rises. I’m still sold on DMC, despite the fact that he’s more difficult to deal with than a toddler with a sweet tooth. Cousins may not be very coachable or manageable or easy to keep from bursting with the wrong emotions/reactions. But DeMarcus is a monster in the paint and will find a lot more continuity playing with two great penetrators in Reke and Thornton. Cousins also will hopefully be smarter on defense this season. People will fall in love with him if he even begins to put this together.

Jonathan Santiago:  Rises to perhaps top 30-40.  He’s managed stay in shape during the lockout, which shows he’s serious about his craft.  Improving his offensive efficiency will be key.  Staying and working closer to the basket should fix that next year.  Year two could be the start of the Kings shifting offensive focus away from Evans and into Cousins.

James Ham:  Rises.  I have a lot of faith in the Kings second-year center.  By season’s end, I expect Cousins to be one of the top big men in the NBA and certainly a top-50 player.  He has been extremely active this summer, working with a strength and conditioning coach.  If DeMarcus can show that he has matured both on and off the court, the Kings will have a devastating core.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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