Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming. Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players. Still, The Sports Bank will break down all thirty NBA teams over the next six weeks to see what areas they need to address in the off-season.
The Sacramento Kings continue their youth movement this summer but also have more cap space to spend in free agency than any other team in the NBA. Here is a look at what areas they should try to up-grade this off-season.
By: David Kay
Sacramento Kings (24-58 last season)
2010-2011 Season Summary:
Amid speculation that the franchise could be moving from Sacramento to Anaheim or somewhere else, the Kings did not show much growth in the second year of their youth movement. A big reason for that was the injury issues second year guard Tyreke Evans struggled through, costing him 25 games this past season resulting in a dip in production.
Evans is obviously the foundation of the franchise, but the Kings seemingly found a reliable scoring threat inside. 2010 first round pick DeMarcus Cousins put together a solid rookie season, proving that he was the most talented low post scorer in last year’s draft class. Some of the red flags that surrounded him coming out of Kentucky did arise in his rookie campaign as his emotions often got the best of him. Still, he has the potential to be a special post player if he can mature with time.
Outside of Evans and Cousins, the roster was somewhat scrambled. Samuel Dalembert, Jason Thompson, and Carl Landry shared minutes in the frontcourt. Dalembert brought some size and defense to the paint while Thompson was not nearly as effective as he was during his first two seasons in the league, primarily due to a decrease in playing time but did seem to return to his old form late in the season.
The biggest surprise of the season came when Landry was dealt to New Orleans for second year shooting guard Marcus Thornton. Thornton found himself strapped to the bench early in the season with the Hornets, but made the most of his opportunity in Sacramento, averaging 21.3 points per game and providing the Kings with an outside threat.
The grass is slowly turning from brown to green for this franchise especially now that they know the team is staying in Sacramento for at least one more season. There are a few young pieces that form an encouraging core but the Kings are still quite a long way from having the best lawn in the neighborhood.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Jason Thompson
PF: DeMarcus Cousins/#Darnell Jackson/Hassan Whiteside
SF: Omri Casspi/Donte Greene
SG: Tyreke Evans/Francisco Garcia/^Jermaine Taylor
PG: Beno Udrih/*Pooh Jeter
C-Samuel Dalmbert (UFA)
SG-Marcus Thornton (UFA)
SG-Luther Head (UFA)
SG-Marquis Daniels (UFA)
#PF-Darnell Jackson (RFA)
*PG-Pooh Jeter (TO)
^SG-Jermaine Taylor (TO)
’11-’12 Team Salary: approximately $27.6 million
1. Stick to the Script
The re-building effort in Sacramento continues this off-season. Management has done a solid in job in drafting talented young players and putting their team in an enviable position of having the most salary cap flexibility in free agency. The Kings need to stick to that script and not jump the gun by doing anything insanely stupid like over-signing a mid-level type free agent to a monster deal that cripples their future cap space. They will add at least one key player through the draft, but they must be wise and not reckless in spending money during free agency.
2. Backcourt Mate for Tyreke
The Kings will be looking for a guard who can shoot the rock and play alongside Tyreke Evans. Sacramento may have found that player at the end of this past season in Thornton, but he is a free agent. He was a great fit next to Evans since Evans operates at his best when the ball is in his hands and Thornton is a threat with his ability to shoot the rock. He likely earned a nice payday this off-season and if it is a reasonable price, expect the Kings to bring him back especially since he will only be 24 years old at the start of next season.
If Thornton does not return, Sacramento still needs an up-grade from Beno Udrih and Francisco Garcia. There should be some talented guards available in the NBA Draft with the Kings lottery pick or they could also use a chunk of their cap space to fill this need.
3. Defensive-minded Big
Samuel Dalembert was the only player on the Kings roster to average more than one blocked shot per game and provided the team with a true defensive presence in the middle. Dalembert is a free agent this off-season and could want to join a playoff contender rather than return to a team in the midst of re-building. DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson are both talented players in their own right, but neither offer the rim protection that Dalembert does. If Sacramento is unable to re-sign Dalembert, they need to pursue a shot blocker to replace what he brought to the floor.
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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.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.