TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Season Preview: Kings

Last Year’s Record: 17-65

Crystal Ball
The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Cowbell Kingdom.

Crowd Says: 22-60
Cowbell Kingdom Says: 28-54

Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

While last season’s Sacramento Kings often looked like a basketball team that had very little talent or direction, the 2009-10 version will be the beginning of
a distant memory of the 17-win disaster. There are three things this year’s Kings have that last year’s team didn’t: a competitive culture of basketball, a threat at the point guard position and a healthy Kevin Martin.

We all know about the dangerous scoring ability of Kevin Martin. He’s the epitome of efficiency with the basketball in a day and age when quality control
has never been examined more closely by NBA analysts. He rarely makes a move towards the basket that doesn’t result in a high likelihood of scoring. He
racks up above-60 percent seasons in the True Shooting Percentage category like Mitch Richmond recorded 20-point per game seasons. Martin missed 31
games last year and 52 games over the past two seasons. However, now that his ankle is completely healthy, his quickness and athleticism should bolster a team that needs quick, easy points to keep up with the competition.

For anyone that witnessed Reggie Theus’ season and a half tenure as the head coach of the Kings, it’s easy to see why the team always seemed to regress. After the Kings cut bait with Theus, they decided to get much more serious with their sideline direction and hired Paul
Westphal this offseason. All Westphal has ever done in the NBA is win the overwhelming majority of his games (267-159, 62.7 percent). Now, he’ll try to show this group of young assets how to be successful.

And finally, the point guard position has been an issue with this team since Mike Bibby was jettisoned for cap-friendly pieces. The rise and fall of Beno Udrih has encompassed two seasons of subpar performances at the point. Enter Tyreke Evans – a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose.

This Kings team will not set the basketball world on fire by any means. But the culture has changed in a positive way and they’ll no longer be a team over-
looked by their opponents.

No You Can’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

“What’s the thinking behind the NBA’s worst defensive team’s offseason transactions of note consist of adding rookies Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi, worthy rehabilitation effort but defensively limited Sean May, and Sergio Rodriguez? Things can’t get any worse? Successful team defense depends on taxpayer subsidies? Hopes of turning the team’s attempt to break the NBA single-season record for most free throws attempted by opponents (3076, 1970-71 Philadelphia 76ers) into a morbid gate attraction?”
– Bret LaGree, Hoopinion

All-A-Twitter
A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

“Just finished up my son name. Bout 2 go get my arms waxed for da photo shoot. Lol monarchs game 2nite.”

The top tweeter on the team is easily Donte Greene (@DonteGreene). You never know what he’s going to say to his fans or anyone following his updates. From putting his infant son on Twitter (@liltae20) to screaming at Francisco Garcia to tweet in English to answering questions that his fans ask him on a daily basis, Donte Greene seems to completely understand how to connect with his fans.

On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

“This is just frustrating going through things like this. We can’t keep making excuses. That’s just it. I’m embarrassed. I hope everybody else is embarrassed,
too. That was just ridiculous, the way we came out and competed tonight. I wouldn’t even say competed. We didn’t even show up.”

- Bobby Jackson after the Kings lost to the Celtics 108-63 in December. The recently retired Bobby Jackson was one of the veteran voices last year that the Kings needed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the coach to turn those words into something meaningful. This year, they’ll need one of the younger players to step into that role and work with coach Westphal on keeping this team motivated.

The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 25th
Defense: 30th
Pace: 7th

Team Factor Strength(s): Free Throws (5th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Shooting Allowed (29th), Defensive Rebounding (29th), Free Throws Allowed (27th)

The Play
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

With the team down one and less than ten seconds to go, the Kings should run a pick and roll play with Kevin Martin as the point man and Spencer Hawes as the screener. Martin is the best player on the team at getting to the free throw line and scoring the ball. If he gets a solid screen and any hesitation from the defense, he’ll easily get a high-percentage scoring attempt. And with Hawes as the screener, you have the option to roll him to the basket or pop out to the perimeter.

The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Omri Casspi will be the player all of the fans want to see on the court. The log- jam at small forward means the Kings will struggle to find time for the first Israeli NBA player but fans will be anxious to see his development.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

Beno Udrih’s contract is the biggest issue for the Kings over the next four years. He’s owed just under $27 million during that time. Udrih is of diminishing use in this rebuilding process, which makes his contract an albatross to the financially strapped Kings. The best hope for a resolution to this situation is for the presence of Sergio Rodriguez to push Beno to prove that he still belongs in an NBA rotation.

comments