I believe the most important part of turning a franchise around is correctly assessing the talent you currently have. When looking at our Kings, I think there is room for guarded optimism as we have a number of solid pieces. I really believe the problem is the roster, as it's currently constructed, doesn't fit together, pieces don't compliment one another, or players are playing out of position, and the end result, unfortunately, can be grotesque. This leads people to overreact, and the hue and cry to blow the whole thing up has gotten louder and louder by the day; however, I don't think we need a complete overhaul.
Just because our roster doesn't currently work together, doesn't mean that it can't perform at a high level with a few minor changes. The point I am trying to make is that while the current product on the floor isn't good, it doesn't mean that the team is totally devoid of talent. I believe we have several good, young pieces, but they simply aren't complementary. And, if we get a top pick in the draft this year, our current dysfunction may work to our benefit (as teams that work well together with only marginal talent are doomed to a quick exit in the first round of the playoffs with no hopes of ever really going any further).
So the big questions are as follows: What do we have?; What do we need?; How do we make the changes that need to be made?
Here's what I see that we have:
1. DeMarcus Cousins--Potential all-star big. He has improved greatly this year. His conditioning is better. He seems to be staying on the floor longer, and he also seems to be figuring out what he can and cannot do offensively, which is the trick to limiting silly turnovers. He is what every struggling team needs: a talented big that can rebound and score down low. He still needs to develop a few more go-to moves in the post (i.e., a half hook to counter the baseline spin), but he has made tremendous strides this year and is a great building block. Lastly, I think he has matured as well on the court (despite the weird spat with Westphal) as I am seeing much less of the pissing and moaning after a foul is called.
2. Tyreke Evans--Tyreke is a gifted player with significant flaws. By this I mean, he is an elite level talent in some respects (i.e., his driving ability and on-ball defense), yet he has significant deficiencies in other areas (i.e., D-League outside shot, and middle game). I believe he has made some strides this year as he really has become a more willing passer and distributor, but the league has figured him out. The book on Reke is to give him space and make him shoot the jumper, and if he drives, help defense needs to collapse on him. This has limited his ability to get to the rim (more so than his foot and ankle injuries). To be successful, he needs to work on the stop and pop jumper (ala Beno) and/or a soft running teardrop floater (think Tony Parker). These would enable him to use the drive (his greatest weapon) without needing to get all the way to the rim. Also, I believe he is playing out of position at the point and we should play him at the 2. He isn't a natural passing point and he rarely posts up smaller guards. Putting him at the two forces the other team to put a bigger and often slower player on him, which should only enhance his ability to get by his man.
3--Marcus Thorton--Marcus is great, but his what he is: a gunner. In my mind, he is a classic 6th man, the third guard in a really good 3 man rotation. He is the second coming of Bobby Jackson, and that's a good thing, but he isn't a starting 2. Much like Tyreke, I believe he is miscast in his current role, largely because we don't have enough talent. That being said, he is still miscast and should be leading the second unit, destroying the opposing teams' bench players. He is a Jason Terry type player, and we need to recognize that and play him accordingly.
4-Jason Thompson--Again, he is what, he is: a good active big. Good locker room guy. 3rd big in a 3 man rotation. Nice jumper for the pick and pop. Good rebounder. Can play the 4 or 5. Also, love the fact that he is finally starting to develop a go-to move down low (left handed hook? Who knew?). Asking him to do more is misguided in my opinion, but make no mistake about it, JT is a talented player that we absolutely should retain unless he gets a crazy offer from someone else. Every team in the NBA needs a player like this. He isn't flashy, but he is very important to have on those nights when DMC picks up two quick fouls in the first.
5--Jimmer Fredette--Not sure what we have here. He has shown flashes of brillance, but I have serious concerns about him. He isn't a point guard, but he isn't really big enough to guard shooting guards or quick enough to guard point guards, so he will always present a mismatch opportunity for other teams. I do believe he will figure things out on offense and become deadly from the 3. Also, I think he has a good head on his shoulders and that should help him become much more efficient on offense as he gets more experience, but his talents tend to overlap with Marcus Thorton, and he seems best suited for the 3rd guard in a 3 guard rotation.
6--JJ Hickson--Athletic big that isn't particularly skilled. This, quite frankly, looks to be a mistake on Petrie's part, and I hope he doesn't compound it by letting JT go to keep JJ. Most teams in the NBA have an athletic big that isn't particularly skilled. However, JJ is really young, so he might develop an improved jumper or a low post move, but he might not. Big crapshoot here, and I, for one, would not bet a lot of our cap space on JJ's development. He is, however, a good trade chip for the time being.
7--2012 Lottery pick--If we get lucky this year and end up in the top three picks, we will have another building block that will help the team immediately. Anthony Davis, a Kevin Garnett type, is my dream as his game--an athletic shotblocker with a nice face up game and crazy hops--would fit perfect next to DMC for the next decade. If we luck out here, our teams' prospects could change very, very quickly (e.g., Chicago and Derrick Rose).
That's what I believe we have. Next up, what do we need?