Arturo avatar

The Kings: The New Leaf

The Numbers

  • Average Seed
    11
  • 📉 Pessimist
    17.9 wins
  • Realist
    29.8 wins
  • 📈 Optimist
    41.7 wins
First Seed
 
0.3%
Division
 
2.5%
Top 4
 
1.3%
👍 Over (31.5)
👎 Under (31.5)
🎀 Playoffs
 
14.8%

 

“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

The Brief

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.

Boogie time?

The Story

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.

Last Year

  • Actual Wins: 28
  • Expected Wins: 30.9
  • Lucky Wins: -.1

 

Player Minutes Age WP48 Wins
DeMarcus Cousins   2289 23 .053 2.5
Jason Thompson   2285 27 .060 2.9
John Salmons   2278 34 .035 1.7
Isaiah Thomas   2122 25 .093 4.1
Tyreke Evans 2016 24 .155 6.5
Marcus Thornton   1726 26 .087 3.1
Chuck Hayes   1209 30 .094 2.4
Jimmer Fredette   967 24 .027 .6
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
Patrick Patterson   556 24 .092 3.4
Travis Outlaw   444 29 0 0
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.

  • 30.9 total Wins Produced
  • 8 players leaving
    (5955 minutes, 10.3 wins)

 

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.

This Year

  • Projected Wins: 29.8
  • Conference Rank: 12
  • % Playoffs: 14.8

 

Player Position Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Ben McLemore 2.0 2723 21 .093 5.3
DeMarcus Cousins 4.7 2442 23 .039 2.0
Patrick Patterson 4.0 2040 24 .084 3.6
Greivis Vasquez 1.8 1966 27 .090 3.7
Isaiah Thomas 1.0 1580 25 .127 4.2
Chuck Hayes 4.7 1385 30 .131 3.8
Jason Thompson 4.3 1207 27 .083 2.1
Marcus Thornton 1.9 987 26 .095 2.0
DeQuan Jones 1.0 803 23 .003 .1
John Salmons 2.7 801 34 .021 .4
Jimmer Fredette 1.6 676 24 -.001 0
Ray McCallum 1.0 527 22 .061 .7
Travis Outlaw 3.2 397 29 -.033 -.3
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.

  • 📅 28.2 WP last year
    by these players
  • 🔀 4.7 WP (roster changes)
  • -.8 WP (age/experience)

 

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...

The Wrap

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.

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.

A potentially quality big remains such a white whale in the NBA. Everyone, be they old-school or new-wave stats guys understand the value (the positional adjustment done by wins produced is evidence of that) of a quality big. When you add to that how much harder it is for a big to adjust in ways that NBA decision makers care about, it really is interesting to consider how much time you should give a player before you give up on them. Cousins might be a truly valuable player, we've seen other bigs get better as their careers have gone along such as Noah and Chandler both of whom have improved drastically on the defensive end. I hope Cousins gets better, if he doesn't this contract will be a big impediment to the Kings improving.
I'd still want Cousins on my team. He just turned 23- for comparison, Joakim Noah's first NBA game was when he was 22.5 and David Robinson turned 24 a few months before his first NBA game and gave the Spurs 14 Hall-of-Fame caliber seasons.

He's already above average at pretty much everything except turnovers, shooting efficiency, and pick-and-roll defense (granted those three are a big deal and he's pretty abysmal, but it's not quite so bad given that he's younger than Mason Plumlee, the 22nd pick in the 2013 draft). The last two seasons he matched average rookie production in an abysmal basketball situation. If he can continue to follow the average 19-year-old development curve from here, he'll be fine, and there's a good chance he'll be underpaid by age 26 or so, which is a great situation to have with a max player. If the Kings can install a consistent defensive system and hit on one more high lottery pick this season, they could be in awesome shape in 3 years with the option to underpay a franchise center in his prime. Given the short supply of tall people, that's good enough.

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