Kings ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 Days.
by Jonathan Santiago / @ITSjonsantiago
With the Oklahoma City Thunder cemented as one of the best squads in the west, the Kings are considered the next team on-the-rise. But will they meet those expectations? Or will they cave under the pressure?
Spencer Hawes, the ninth overall pick in the 2007 Draft, is out after being traded to Philadelphia. He was supposed to be the heir-apparent to Brad Miller, providing big-man finesse Kings fans grew to enjoy over the last decade. He showed flashes of that ability, but could never put it together on a consistent basis.
Andres Nocioni, acquired two seasons ago in the Brad Miller and John Salmons deal, was sent packing with Hawes to the City of Brotherly Love. He brought an edge and toughness that the Kings lost after they traded Ron Artest to the Rockets. But his skills have been in decline and the Kings were happy to rid themselves of his contract, which has two years left on the books.
Jon Brockman, another hustle player, was sent to Milwaukee in a sign-and-trade. He wasn’t the most talented guy off the Kings bench last season. But his tenacity earned some minutes on the court and he became a fan favorite. He was phased out due to the Kings adding improved size at the power forward and center positions.
DeMarcus Cousins is the brightest new talent the Kings picked up this offseason. Kings brass eventually hopes he becomes the yin to Tyreke Evans’ yang in the team’s future.
But until then, Samuel Dalembert may hold down the five. He was acquired in the Hawes/Nocioni deal from Philadelphia. He provides the Kings with a legit shot-blocking presence they’ve never had.
Hassan Whiteside is another big body, who is more reward than risk based on his second-round selection. He’s a big kid with a lot of great physical attributes, specifically his length. His maturity level is a significant question-mark. He’s a polite young-man, but will the grind of a long NBA season wear him out mentally?
Antoine Wright signed in July after spending a season in Toronto. He’ll probably serve as a replacement to Ime Udoka, who provided the Kings with some depth at the swing positions.
Tyreke Evans is fresh off a successful Rookie of the Year campaign. He’ll now have an entire season as “the guy” after Kevin Martin was shipped away at last year’s trade deadline.
Carl Landry comes back to provide the Kings with a veteran inside-scoring presence. Behind Tyreke Evans, he is the second-offensive option for Sacramento.
The role playing core remains in tact. Beno Udrih, though still a liability on defense, made better offensive decisions under Head Coach Paul Westphal last year. Francisco Garcia is a streaky shooter, but good defender who possesses leadership qualities. Jason Thompson, Donté Greene and Omri Casspi round out the supporting cast. Expectations and responsibilities will increase as Thompson and Greene enter year three while Casspi enters year two.
What to watch for…
The maturation of the young talent: They provided a spark that helped the Kings gain respectability in last season’s opening months. But by January, they ran out of steam and the Kings regressed. It will be interesting to see the newly acquired youngsters, in particular Cousins, learn the NBA game. But how will the players who have experience under their belt, specifically Casspi, Thompson and Greene respond this year? The Kings’ success greatly hinges upon Evans. But, he can’t carry this team on his own.
Small Forward Position Battle: It’s likely between Greene and Casspi. Both played and started a similar amount of games last year (77 games played, 51 games started for Casspi, 76 games played, 50 games started for Greene). The Kings aren’t looking for a game-breaker from this position; just someone who can play solid defense and hit open shots.
Tyreke Evans’ Jumpshot: It’s the one glaring inconsistency in his game. It’s the one thing that separates him from being either the next Dwyane Wade or the next Andre Miller. Outside of LeBron James, he’s probably the best in the League at getting to the basket with his combination of agility and power. A decent jumper would make life even worst for opposing defenses.
The DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans Dynamic: They will have moments of brilliance and they will have moments of failure this year. The future of this franchise hinges on how they use this year to develop chemistry with each other.
Where size means everything, the Kings are much better equipped to compete this year in the Western Conference. They’re probably one of the few teams in the NBA that match-up well against the Lakers front-court depth. But talent-wise, they’re not quite Playoff worthy yet. Although they have a good mix of veterans and young players, the Kings youth remain an unknown factor. If Casspi, Thompson and Greene make tremendous strides and Cousins and Whiteside prove more ready than expected, the Kings could exceed expectations. But that’s a lot to ask from a young group of players, which is why they won’t make the Playoffs this year.
Estimated Record: Anywhere from 33-49 to 39-43.
Previous Season Previews can be found in the archive.
Jonathan Santiago also co-hosts the weekly Davis Sports Deli Podcast, which can be found here.