SI.com's Sam Amick talked to Samuel Dalembert about the potential to return to the Sacramento Kings. Dalembert mentions the John Salmons move as a positive, and jokes about how if he'd gotten more minutes early in the season the team would have won 40 games. (That was a joke, right? Either way, I laughed.) He liked the way that the team came together toward season's end.
"At the end, everything was good," Dalembert said. "We were winning, we were beating teams no one expected us to beat.
"We showed some character as a team and we started to really synchronize with each other and had an understanding that our ultimate goal is to really win games."
The team did finish strong, as Dalembert and Amick note: the Kings went 9-9 from March 14 on, and 8-7 from March 20 on. And Dalembert indeed played more: he averaged 21 minutes per game before the All-Star break, 29 in March and 34 in April. As a result, his stats all went up substantially.
But let's not get carried away.
If the Kings were beating teams no one expected them to beat it was only because the Kings had been so awful all year that no one expected them to beat anyone. In that 9-9 stretch to close the season, the Kings' victims were the Warriors twice, the Wolves, Bucks, Pacers, Sixers, Jazz and Rockets. Given the state of the Jazz at season's end, four of those wins were against teams legitimately as bad or worse than the Kings. The win over the Bucks is nothing to write home about. The other four wins were solid, especially the Rockets and Suns. But it's not like the Kings were knocking off contenders or anything.
Beyond the wins, the Kings' Sam-heavy finish looks even less impressive. The Kings' total season efficiency differential was -5.4. From the point at which Sam began getting consistently heavy minutes (March 12), the Kings' differential was -3.6. It's still awful.
Further, Sam's impact comes on defense. But the Kings' defense improved only 0.4 points per 100 possessions in the final 19 games where Dalembert played more minutes.
To recap: the Kings improved less than it seems toward the end of the season, and Dalembert's defense had less impact than it seems.
This isn't to say Dalembert isn't a good fit -- rim defense is going to remain important for a team with two top-of-the-rotation guards (Thornton and Jimmer) whose defense comes in as questionable. He's also a great rebounder, and you always need rebounding. But if the Kings keep him, it won't be because of that 9-9 run, nor should it be.