Sacramento Kings come out of the gate hot
Three games is a miniscule sample size. It’s a weekend in Vegas. The real length of a 24-hour bug. It represents less than four percent of an NBA season, but for Sacramento Kings fans, it means 2-1. Not 0-3 or 1-2.
There are plenty of positives to take away from the first three games. But there are also a few issues that need to be ironed out. Here is a quick look at what is working and what is not.
In his second season, Malone has his team drinking the kool-aid. Despite a vicious schedule, Malone has his troops playing stellar defense and he has found a way to piece a rotation together. When a player comes in flat or a group of players are struggling, Malone has pulled the trigger quickly. He is relying heavily on DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison, but almost out of necessity. He’s going to need to get more out of a handful of players to sustain the early success, but the Kings are on the radar and a lot of that is due to the job that Malone is doing. The national media is already taking notice, ranking the Kings anywhere from 17th, all the way to 8th after the first week of the season.
In game one, Gay was on a long list of Kings players who tried to take the game into their own hands. The result was a 5-for-15 shooting night and a 95-77 loss for his team.
Gay bounced back in game two by dropping 40 points on the Trail Blazers on 13-of-19 shooting. He wasn’t just the Kings’ best player, he was the best player on the floor. He backed that up with a 25-point, 6-assist, 7-rebound performance on Sunday afternoon and comes into game four averaging 26.3 points, 2.3 assists and eight rebounds.
The 24-year-old center is ascending to super star status. He struggled with his shot in the opener, but stayed aggressive and earned 18 shots from the free throw line. In game two, Cousins played second fiddle to Gay, but he anchored the defensive effort and helped the Kings come away with the win.
On the big stage Sunday against the Clippers, Cousins dominated a very good frontline, finishing with 34 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Through three games, Cousins is averaging 23.7 points, 2.3 assists, 12.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. On the downside, Cousins is also averaging 4.7 fouls per game and is turning the ball over four times per contest.
The Sacramento Kings have quickly developed a new big three. Collison has been everything the Kings hoped for and more. Through three games, Collison is averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals in 37.7 minutes a night. He’s shooting just 36.8 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from long range, but his defense on Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul has been exceptional.
Despite averaging just 2.7 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes a night, Thompson is making a huge impact on the game. The Kings are holding their opponents to just 93.7 points per game (sixth-best in the NBA) and have a defensive rating of 99.1 (seventh-best in NBA). Thompson helped hold LaMarcus Aldridge to 7-of-18 shooting on Friday, and Blake Griffin finished 6-for-20 on Sunday. Thompson is a career 50 percent shooter from the field. His 30.8 percent shooting thus far will improve, but it’s not easy to get a rhythm when you have a usage percentage of 10.8.
Omri Casspi has provided energy, versatility and solid play off the bench. Carl Landry is bringing leadership and his per 36 minute stats are solid as he plays himself back into NBA shape.
Sessions is struggling. The argument could be made that the veteran point guard needs more than 10 minutes a night to get things going, but he has given Malone nothing so far. Sessions is 1-of-9 on the season to start. He has as many turnovers as he does points and the second unit is struggling mightily with him at the helm.
The second-year guard looks lost. He’s in the lineup for his defense, which on paper looks solid, but the tape tells a different story. He continues to leave his man open on the perimeter and his rebounding numbers are Spud Webb-esque. In 26 minutes per night, he is averaging 3.3 points, 0.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds. The 21-year-old guard has hit a total of three shots in three games and is currently shooting 21.4 percent from the field and 28.6 from 3-point range. If Sessions wasn’t just as lost and Nik Stauskas wasn’t a rookie, McLemore’s job would be on the line. As it stands, he is losing crunch time minutes to Casspi, a combo forward.
Derrick Williams is a non-factor after losing his spot in the rotation to Casspi. Reggie Evans is 2-of-10 from the field to start the season, but he’s not an offensive weapon. Stauskas is off to a rough shooting start, but gets a free pass early in his rookie season.