The Sacramento Kings franchise is a mess; both on and off the court. They enter the off-season with a ton of uncertainty as to whether or not the Maloof brothers will even keep the team in Sacramento past next year. The product on the court is struggling to find the identity and chemistry needed to dig themselves out of the NBA Western Conference cellar.
Sacramento Kings (22-44 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
Much of the focus revolving around the Sacramento Kings this past season actually had nothing to do with the below average product on the court. The fight by Mayor Kevin Johnson to keep the franchise in Sac-town stole more headlines than anything the team did on the hardwood. Johnson has made every attempt possible to try and get a new arena built for the team but it appears the Maloof brothers don’t actually want to keep the team in Sacramento as they refuse to reach a middle ground with fronting the needed funds to make a new stadium possible. Therefore, the franchise’s future in California’s Capital City remains uncertain. Talk about drama…
Head coach Paul Westphal was fired seven games into the season and replaced by Keith Smart who didn’t fare much better while calling the shots. As for the actual basketball team, the youth movement the team underwent a few years ago has yet to pay dividends.
The Kings obviously have some talented young players led by Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and Marcus Thornton. However, that core has been unable to truly mesh together as a unit and Evans, once thought of as the future face of the franchise, actually regressed in his third season in the league. Cousins may actually take over that title next season as he showed maturity as a player and a person in his second year as a pro, and is lobbying to be part of Team USA at this Summer’s Olympics in London.
To try and provide some experience and leadership, Sacramento brought in veterans Chuck Hayes, John Salmons, and Travis Outlaw last off-season. However, it wasn’t enough to get the Kings even close to playoff contention. Now those three players are eating up a good chunk of cap space despite not living up to their worth. The acquisition of J.J. Hickson also backfired as the team ended up actually releasing Hickson during the season.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot and surprise this past season was the play of rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas who was taken with the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The undersized point guard worked himself into the starting line-up and provided the team with a spark as a scorer and distributor. On the contrary, lottery pick Jimmer Fredette had a disappointing first season in the league and saw sporadic playing time throughout the year.
The team finished one win shy of tying for the worst record in the Western Conference and a result, will have another high pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Adding more youth to the roster won’t help for the immediate future though. With all the questions both on and off the court, it is hard to imagine the Kings breaking their streak of six straight seasons without a playoff appearance without some sort of major shake-up.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: ^Jason Thompson/Chuck Hayes
PF: DeMarcus Cousins/Travis Outlaw/Hassan Whiteside
SF: Tyreke Evans/Francisco Garcia/*Donte Greene/Tyler Honeycutt
SG: Marcus Thornton/John Salmons
PG: Isaiah Thomas/Jimmer Fredette
NBA Free Agents:
SF-Terrence Williams (UFA)
*C-Jason Thompson (RFA)
*SF-Donte Greene (RFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $40.2 million
1. Get Defensive: The Kings were a horrendous defensive team; allowing more points and a higher opponent field percentage than any team in the NBA. When you look at their roster, it is pretty easy to see why since they have so many scoring-oriented players on their roster. Sacramento needs to make a more concerted effort to commit on the defensive end which would be helped by a shot blocking presence in the middle.
2. A Real Small Forward: This really is a position Sac-town has been trying to figure out since trading Ron Artest four summers ago. Tyreke Evans is not a true small forward but with the Kings often using a three-guard line-up, he essentially played the three. Sacramento has used a host of other players in that spot; Salmons, Garcia, Greene, Outlaw, Williams, Honeycutt. However, none of those players are really a long-term solution.
3. Distributor: The Kings have Thomas, Evans, and Fredette who are all capable of playing the point but all three of those players are score first guys. There really aren’t a ton of minutes available in the backcourt when you factor Thornton and Salmons into the equation, so I doubt Sacramento looks outside the current roster. Yet, they still need Thomas and/or Evans to become better playmakers for their teammates.
4. Figure It Out: This should probably be team need #1 but the city, Maloofs, and David Stern need to figure out a resolution to this mess of whether or not the Kings will be staying in Sacramento. Dragging it out even further is going to put even more of a dark cloud over the franchise and serve as a distraction to the real goal of any organization; winning games.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.