- NBA Rank: 25
Conference Rank: 12
- Sacramento Kings
“A story only matters, I suspect, to the extent that the people in the story change.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
How bad does a team have to get for their owners to be considered the worst, in a league featuring the shenanigans of Donald Sterling and the musical stylings of James Dolan and the Straight Shot? The Maloof brothers did their utmost to completely destroy basketball in Sacramento. It was like watching a really ugly and violent divorce. Eventually, they sold the team to a local ownership group led by former Golden State minority share owner Vivek Ranadive.
The Big Question, though, is: did the Maloofs leave the cupboard completely bare or is there actual hope for a non-toxic organization to move this team forward in the future. Please note that I said it's a BIG question.
There was a moment in 2002 when it looked like the Kings were about to win the NBA title. Fate (and some say the league itself) conspired against them and that moment was fleeting. In the years since, the Maloofs, who in all fairness inherited rather than built that team, have squandered their way to the bottom.
Ten years ago, ESPN developed a holistic method of ranking every MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL team called the Ultimate Standings. In the inagural version of these rankings in 2003, the Sacramento Kings ranked 4th of 121 pro sports teams. In this year's version, the Kings ranked dead last out of 122 franchises ranked. If the NBA was like European soccer, the Kings would be playing in the Phillipines.
That history of failure over the last decade defines the Maloof era in a nutshell. It was time for a change, and thankfully for the Kings (well, and the Maloofs, who were paid handsomely), that change has come.
In recent memory, Sacramento has been a great basketball town. Can the new ownership group regain that lofty post? The answer, as with most things in the NBA, comes down to the Big Man.
|Tyreke Evans ||2016||24||.155||6.5|
|Aaron Brooks ||959||29||.027||.6|
|James Johnson ||878||26||-.037||-.7|
|Thomas Robinson ||809||22||.010||.2|
|Francisco Garcia ||710||33||.076||1.6|
|Toney Douglas ||376||27||.058||1.6|
|Cole Aldrich ||175||25||.077||.6|
|Tyler Honeycutt ||32||23||-.174||-.1|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
The Kings were obviously a terrible team last season. In the offseason, they lost 30% of their minutes and 34% of their wins. Translation? Tyreke was actually pretty good last year. In fact, the roster looked like a team that could contend for the eight seed in the West. What went wrong? Blame it on the Boogie.
Nobody has ever denied Demarcus Cousins' talent. The scouts love his talent. My draft model loved him as well. In fact, I wrote a post at the time were I said that the Wizards should have taken Boogie ahead of Wall at number #1. Looking back, I stand by that. Boogie Cousins has all the tools to be a franchise center. He's just never put them together consistently (although he has maddening flashes of brilliance).
He takes too many dumb shots. He loses his head completely in games. He is, however, only 23, and has played on a terrible and toxic franchise for his entire career. There is hope for him.
It's no accident that Cousins to Boston trade rumors had Celtics fans (like me) excited.
|Ben McLemore ||2.0||2723||21||.093||5.3|
|Greivis Vasquez ||1.8||1966||27||.090||3.7|
|DeQuan Jones ||1.0||803||23||.003||.1|
|Ray McCallum ||1.0||527||22||.061||.7|
|Carl Landry ||4.0||281||30||.082||.5|
|Trent Lockett ||1.0||193||23||.056||.2|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
The Kings have put together a bit of a mish-mash roster for this coming season. I love McLemore and think he's a great pickup. I think their projected bench guys at the PG and PF (Thomas and Hayes) are better than their projected starters (Grievis and Patterson). Luc Mbah a Moute (who is sadly missing from our current database thanks to a bug) and Jason Thompson are somewhat redundant.
I expect the Kings to be an active trade partner this year and they'll be in the market for picks, young swingmen and some better pieces . If I were the GM, I'd be looking for the Nuggets phone number right now.
The other thing they need to do is to course-correct and truly develop the potential franchise center on the roster. Cousins has shown star-level play in spurts, and I suspect he will get more consistent as he matures. Ideally, Sacramento wants that to happen in Sacramento and not somewhere else (and there are $62 million reasons to suspect that is true).
Playoff Rotation: Pass...
As much damage as the Maloofs did to this franchise, the cupboard is not bare. They have some intriguing pieces that just don't match. They also have a franchise big man that isn't quite done. Given that and that they also need to get a pick in the 1-12 range or they lose it to the Cavs, I strongly suspect tanking. For betting folks, the under is in the cards.
My guess is that this new ownership will keep a select few off the trade block (McLemore, Cousins and Thomas maybe) and proceed to flip everything else they can for picks and assets as they build their way back to respectability.
The Second Opinion Skeptical Dre
Through the eyes of Arturo, the NBA is like a world class kitchen stocked for a gourmet chef. Of course, most people aren't Arturo. The eyes of the Kings front office have me more skeptical. Cousins?? It's possible for a good prospect to fizzle. The Heat are hoping Beasley and Oden can turn it around for Pete's sake!
Yes, the Kings did draft well. Yes, they do have some good pieces. But their faith in Cousins has me believing that it may take a while for a turnaround. To be fair, the Warriors in the same state managed to stumble on wins. I think the Kings can reclaim their former glory, but it will take some luck or some major moves for me to buy it.