2012-13 Sacramento Kings Preview
By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor
(Sports Network) - There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Sacramento Kings.
For openers, who knows where this team will call home long-term. The Maloof brothers, owners of the Kings, had a deal in place to build a new arena in Sacramento, which is what they wanted for a long time.
But the Maloofs backed out in a way that made it look like it was never their intention to build a new arena. The future of the Sacramento version of the Kings is up in the air.
Are the Kings heading to Anaheim? Virginia Beach? Could the Seattle faithful be rewarded for the long lost years since the Sonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder?
The questions about the future location of Kings take away from the on-court product, but that may not be a bad thing.
The anchors of this squad are DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Talented fellows both, but their attitudes leave something to be desired.
Cousins is a legit star in the making. Last season, he averaged 18.1 points per game and 11 rebounds per game. That is stout offensive production in the rarified air of Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.
Defensively, eh, not so much for Cousins. He's a foul machine and his conditioning has been in question.
"The kid has unbelievable skills as an offensive player," said head coach Keith Smart. "I want to tie that knot to where he becomes a good offensive player and adequate-to-good defensive player."
Evans has never recovered from his 2009-10 Rookie of the Year campaign. He posts respectable numbers, although, across the board, they've gone down the last two seasons.
The decision was made that Evans wasn't a point guard and was moved to a wing spot. This should help Evans temper expectations a bit and maybe get him to hold the ball less.
Like Cousins, there are attitude questions with Evans and relying on these shaky personalities could be a recipe for disaster.
The Kings drafted solid citizen Thomas Robinson fourth from Kansas in the summer. He's a hard worker and, despite his rookie stature, could infuse this team with professionalism.
They need more of that, top to bottom, in the Kings organization.
2011-12 Results: 22-44, fifth in Pacific; Missed playoffs.
ADDITIONS: F Thomas Robinson, G Aaron Brooks, F James Johnson
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Isaiah Thomas SG- Marcus Thornton SF- Tyreke Evans PF- Jason Thompson C- DeMarcus Cousins
KEY RESERVES: G Aaron Brooks, F Thomas Robinson, G/F Travis Outlaw, G Jimmer Fredette, G Francisco Garcia, C Chuck Hayes, G/F John Salmons, F James Johnson.
FRONTCOURT: Cousins is a star and is in the top five, offensively at least, of centers in the league. He needs to mature and put in more effort on the defensive side to truly make a leap into "respected status."
Evans is basically in the same boat. No one respects his game because, not only have the numbers gone down, he's not a leader and doesn't appear to have an interest in winning.
Thompson finally emerged a bit down the stretch last season and was rewarded with a new contract. He should be a match-up problem for defenders with his size and athleticism, but it's a two-way street. Thompson isn't strong enough to defend centers and good power forwards blow by him.
BACKCOURT: Thomas came on last season and, after being the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, took over the starting point guard position. Since he got the starting job in mid-February, Thomas scored double-figures in 29 of those 38 starts.
Thornton is cold-blooded. Once he got traded to the Kings in February of 2011, Thornton averaged 21 PPG. Last season, he averaged 18.1. He's a good free- throw shooter and has decent field-goal shooting numbers. Problem is, Thornton averages less than 2 assists per game and jacked up over six 3-pointers a game last season, making only 34 percent of them.
BENCH: Smart has a lot of options on his bench, highlighted by Robinson. This kid will make an immediate impact, because he can't help it. His energy and enthusiasm could get this dry group of seemingly uninterested, but talented players together.
Brooks is back in the NBA after he spent the labor-shortened campaign in China. He is a former Most Improved Player and can score off the bench.
Same can be said about Salmons, a competent veteran hand.
Garcia, Hayes and Outlaw are limited.
Johnson was a sneaky good move for Sacramento. It only gave up a second-round pick for a high-octane defensive player. There is room for improvement, but if nothing else, Johnson is athletic, defensive combo big man.
And that leaves Jimmer.
Fredette, the national Player of the Year in 2011, was taken 10th by Sacramento in that year's draft. It was a bumpy rookie campaign, highlighted by a few "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision."
He can score, no doubt, but his shooting numbers were disappointing. Fredette shot 38 percent from the field one season ago and 36 percent from three. Those numbers have to improve or Fredette will ride out his rookie contract and that will be all.
"I've worked a lot on my mid-range game," Fredette said at Kings media day. "I'm just trying to get that mentality back of going out there and being a scorer."
COACHING: It will be tough sledding for Smart this season. He will have to mold an undisciplined group into doing something they don't want to do - play defense. Smart's ownership provides zero stability and Cousins already got former head coach, Paul Westphal, fired last season. Build relationships with Cousins and Evans, and Smart would be his namesake.
OUTLOOK: What kills you about the Kings is that there is clearly talent on the roster. The Fredette pick was a blip on the radar, but Evans, Cousins, Thomas and Robinson represent a great young nucleus.
But Evans and Cousins have to grow up and lead, especially Cousins, the team's best player.
"That's just something I have to work on," Cousins told The Sacramento Bee. "I'm still growing as a leader myself."
Sacramento is not going to the playoffs, but they don't need that to show true improvement. Get to 35 wins and they've done something. There are a lot variables in play, but have faith in Smart and Robinson and also in the teams' need to bond wondering if they can get out of their apartment leases. They will be among the most improved teams, wins-wise.
10/25 09:47:11 ET