The season is approaching (but not quickly enough), so that means it’s NBA preview time. Starting with the league’s worst team and working our way to the top, we’ll preview one team per day.
Last year’s record: 25-57
Head Coach: Paul Westphal
Projected Starters: Tyreke Evans, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry/Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins
I had a spirited debate with one of my friends the other day, and oddly enough it was actually about the Sacramento Kings. He said their future was bleak; the Western Conference is too loaded with talented young teams (he listed the Thunder, Blazers and Grizzlies). I said their future was bright; Tyreke Evans screams “superstar in the making” and DeMarcus Cousins could (could, with a few question marks attached) become the NBA’s biggest low-post threat. If you fast forward a few years, let those two mature and surround them with skilled role players, the Kings should be a contender. But for now? They’re still going to lose a whole lot of games. (Note: Back to my conversation, the Grizzlies??? If Rudy Gay’s your best player, you’re not going to win anything meanwhile.)
Tyreke Evans’s improvement. Question: What if Evans makes the leap sooner than we all expect and becomes a 25 and 7 guy next year? Answer: Then the Kings might win 30 games. They will go as far as Evans takes them, but his supporting cast needs work. And lots of it.
By the way, about Evans? Some players have an All-Star ceiling. Evans’s is even higher.
Biggest Question Mark:
DeMarcus Cousins. Really, was there any other choice? When Fran Fraschilla says a player ”is either going to get a general manager fired or get him executive of the year,” naming him his team’s biggest question mark is pretty much automatic. I think it’s an unwritten rule that you can’t read or write about Cousins without mentioning attitude problems.
At Kentucky, he once sat out a mandatory conditioning test. He registered 16.4% body fat at the NBA Draft combine. (For comparison’s sake, only six other players at the combine had a body fat percentage in double figures.) After Cousins worked out for one team, its GM told Sports Illustrated that Cousins “looked like he didn’t even want to be on the court when he went through drills.” Teammate Daniel Orton said Cousins is “unpredictable,” and that watching him get out of hand is “kind of like watching a kid throw a temper tantrum.”
And still, Cousins could be Rookie of the Year. The power of natural talent.
Most important newcomer:
Antoine Wright. He gives them a smooth hand off the bench, someone who can score buckets at will and hound the opponent’s best player.
Just kidding, guys. It’s Cousins. You sick of hearing about him yet? Good, because I’m sick of writing about him. Instead, I’ll leave you with this:
Umm, Spencer Hawes? Needless to say, the Kings won’t shed any tears over the players they lost.
Most compelling storyline:
With mounds of cap space and two young studs, the Kings finally have a future worth discussing. But how long will it take that future to become the present?
Player to watch:
Omri Casspi. Watching him last year, I fell head over heels. For those of you who haven’t seen Caspi play basketball (which means anyone who isn’t addicted enough to buy League Pass), he’s all hustle, heart and attitude, a player teams can win with. He’s also part of one of the corniest announcing calls ever. Casspi hit a bank shot and the Kings announcer shouted in joy, “Casspi off the glass-pi!” He’s a poet and he doesn’t even make sense.
Descriptive movie quote:
“Ooh that boy’s a fine piece of work all right. He’s a fine piece of ass though, too. “ – Juanita, Billy Madison
To DeMarcus Cousins. He still needs a lot of work, but Cousins is — for lack of a better description – one fine piece of ass.
Projected Record – 24-58. The future will come, but not yet.