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NBA 2015-16 Team Previews: Sacramento Kings – Royal Turmoil

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Sacramento Kings

Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews continues with the Pacific Division. Next up it’s time to break down the Sacramento Kings:

Record:  (29-53) 13th in the Western Conference, 4th in Pacific Division, Failed to make playoffs
Rank: Offense: 102.5 (16)   Defense:106.5 (27)  Differential/Net: minus -4.0 (25) (13th) Pace: 97.9 (8)

2014-15

Key Stats:

  • After taking over the reigns last season George Karl posted a 11-19 record
  • DeMarcus Cousins posted 47 Double-Doubles in 2014-15 ranking 3rd in NBA and that was with him missing 23 games!
  • Sacramento allowed a league high 16.8 fast break points last season (their 3rd of 4th years doing so).  John Schuhmann notes the Kings haven’t ranked better than 20th in defensive efficiency for the past 9 seasons. Interestingly while George Karl had solid top 10 defensive teams in Denver and Seattle, the Kings were actually worse (allowing more fast break points) defensively then they were under Mike Malone or Tyrone Corbin.

Off Season Moves

Key Areas Needing Addressing:

  • Transition Defense
  • Overall Defense
  • Better floor spacing and ball movement

Draft:  Willie Cauley-Stein selected 6th in the first round

Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:

Players Exiting:

2015-16

Core Players:   Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos

Key Reserves:   Darren Collison, Marco Belinelli, Willie Cauley-Stein

Outlook

Rising Star:  Willie Cauley-Stein looks very good and while he’s still a rookie he looks to have the capacity to develop into a Tyson Chandler type player with added offense (if he works at that part of his game).  If the Kings stumble early he’ll get additional time on the court, but if they are competing for a playoff spot then Cauley-Stein will have to be patient utilizing practice and the summer to develop his game. He’ll be the starting center, but will that happen this year or next?

On The Bubble:  Rajon Rondo  The manner in which Rondo left the court and turned his back on his team in Dallas left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, mine included. Ask yourself if you were a GM whose job it was to compile a roster based on “TEAM” if you would want to take a chance on this guy.

I recall during the Big 3/Big 4 Celtic era many pundits were asking the question of whether Rondo would be as good without 3 future Hall of Fame players at his side. So far the answer is unequivocally NO! This season he’ll need to demonstrate he is a team player and one who can get the best out of his teammates. Get your magnifying glasses out to see what happens the minute Rondo disagrees with coach Karl or star Cousins as that will determine how the team rolls moving forward.

X-Factor:  DeMarcus Cousins:   Normally I’d be dropping in Marco Belinelli in this spot given his 3-point shooting prowess and the winning attitude he’s bringing from San Antonio, but given the rumored friction between Karl and Boogie I went another direction. Ask any fan who watches their share (okay too much) basketball and they’ll recall nights when Cousins literally manhandled their team scoring at will, dishing assists big men aren’t supposed to be capable of, destroying the boards and even leading fast breaks all while never seeming to break a sweat.

While some scoffed at his suggestion he was going to win MVP there is precedent for him to believe that. In fact, he may be the one front court player that can equal Anthony Davis and possibly stop him defensively. Has the bad rap he’s received of a spoiled petulant over indulged athlete in the media been warranted? Or is he a misunderstood player who has suffered through 5 seasons with 5 different coaches and an ownership that treats him more like the water boy than it’s franchise star? Perhaps it’s a little of both, but I guarantee you if he’d played in another market he definitely would have been treated with much more respect.

Best Case: Karl says they need to win 80% of their November home games. That’s a pretty aggressive target given who’ll they’ll face. In the first 8 games of their season they play LA Clippers (x2),  the Lakers, Memphis, Phoenix, Houston, Golden State and the Spurs (6 of those are at home). Chemistry is an intangible that can’t be predicted and perhaps the new additions to the squad will translate into a winning formula. If Karl, Cousins and Rondo can mesh emotionally then this team could be in the playoff mix anywhere from the 6th to 8th seed.

Worst Case:

Zach Lowe alluded to the tension within the Sacramento Kings ownership

30. Tension Emerges Among the Owners in Sacramento

The franchise’s minority owners have been having pointed conversations over the last few months about Vivek Ranadivé’s stewardship, per league sources, but they are powerless to do anything under the franchise’s governing documents — unless Ranadivé accepts an offer to sell his controlling stake. If the Kings continue to be unstable, look for some of this noise to become public.

It’s no secret these issues have been raging for months heck longer. Looking at simple matters like maybe telling your franchise star you are firing his beloved coach (Mike Malone) just the day before you return from an extended illness. Or better still that you are hiring George Karl who by the way, wants to trade you come to mind. Further the manner in which the Kings conducted their free agency was also disconcerting. They sent young talented potential in Nik Stauskas to Philly with 2 others in a salary dump just in the hopes they might land Wesley Matthews who told them no thanks. Then signed the one player who thumbed his nose at his team during the playoffs to take control of a team already in flux.

Bottom line they simply haven’t navigated their business or public relations very well and it’s hard to believe that won’t inevitably end up seeping on to the court. Despite denials of friction it’s doubtful anyone will be surprised to hear of another rift between Karl and Cousins or Rondo for that matter and it says here that 80% November home winning percentage goal is more than lofty. Further, after the Kings lose 3 or 4 in a row to the better teams who have solid chemistry, watch the fireworks start. They’d be silly to trade a talent like Cousins, but I almost hope for his sake he does get traded to a team who’ll treat him like a franchise player and give him a solid opportunity to be playing in May and June.

Prediction:

The elephant in the room remains what will occur with Boogie Cousins. Can he and head coach George Karl bury their issues or will this situation become an either/or: Trade Cousins or buy off yet another coach.

Bottom line, until the Kings sort out the Cousins situation it’s impossible to ascertain which way the team is headed. For Karl this is yet another example of the head coach having issues with his star player as he has on every team he’s coached.  Although Boogie has had his detractors over the years, it’s hard not to side with the big man whose talent is unparalleled in the league other than the potential of Anthony Davis. He’s had to suffer countless losing seasons, numerous coaching changes and a head office who treat him with little to no respect.

In my opinion the team who ends up with Cousins will be the winner and it’s hard to imagine the Kings ever pulling out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves with the poor handling of his tenure, the entire Karl situation and it stems all the way back to the firing of coach Mike Malone.

It’s no secret I’ve felt very strongly Denver will make a run at Cousins and they’ve got talent to exchange and rumored they want to unload. If this prediction comes true and Cousins reunites with Malone watch the Nuggets reap the rewards of that reunion with a trip to the post season as early as next season.  Suffice to say Sacramento has their hands full restructuring the franchise and overcoming a public relations nightmare they created, but haven’t found the magic spin to fix. The result of which will find the Kings missing a 10th straight post season.

Games versus the Houston Rockets

  • November 6th at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento
  • December 5th at Toyota Center in Houston
  • December 15 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento
  • April 13th at Toyota Center in Houston

Fansided Affiliate Site:  A Royal Pain

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

Next: Rockets Preview

Next: Lakers Preview

Next: SCS Complete Round Table Sessions

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