It has been said over and over that championship teams must have at least one superstar player, or that they must have at least three legitimate stars, or whatever other random criteria people come up with for championship teams. Yes, it's true your chances of winning a championship are much lower if you don't have any star players, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.
The lack of a star player, however, is not the only thing preventing this Kings team from playing at a playoff-caliber level. For the past several years, if not longer, this team has had a problem with players' self-evaluation.
Accurate self-evaluation is a key ingredient that almost every championship team possesses. When I say self-evaluation, what I'm talking about is a player's ability to know what he's good at and what he's not so great at, and maximize his contributions in the former while minimizing the latter. Of the players on the current iteration of the Kings, very few accurately evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses. Whether that is a coaching flaw or a player flaw, I don't know, but it's safe to say it's a major issue for this group of players that MUST be resolved either by players learning to properly self-evaluate or being traded/released from the roster.
If you look at teams like the championship-level Spurs, they had a large percentage of players who properly evaluated their strengths and weaknesses. Bruce Bowen knew he was a great man-to-man defender and spot-up shooter, so he worked hard on defense and camped in the corner. He didn't try to drive to the basket or take running fadeaway jumpers.
If you look at the Detroit Pistons championship team, you'll see a team filled with players who not only knew their roles, but tried to stay within them. Ben Wallace played tough interior defense and scored primarily on putbacks. Rip Hamilton hit mid-range jumpers and shot less than two threes per game.
The Kings have too many players who simply don't understand what they're good at and what they're not good at. Some examples:
Donte Greene - Greene is best when he's making plays around the basket on offense; instead, he spends his time bombing away from three-point range, where he's shot an average of almost five attempts per 36 minutes but has only hit on 31.9% of them.
John Salmons - Salmons would be at his best when used in a Bruce Bowen-type role; at this point in his career, he should focus on spot-shooting and defense instead of trying to make one-on-one plays off the dribble against bigger defenders with just as much if not more speed. Salmons tries way too hard to make things happen instead of just flowing with the offense.
J. J. Hickson - J. J. seems to have a love for long-range jumpers that simply doesn't jive with his shooting stats. He especially seems to like fadeaway or leaning jump shots from the 18-foot range, which is just a bad idea. Hickson shouldn't be looking for his own offense; he should be looking to pass first whenever he gets the ball and crashing the offensive glass.
Tyreke Evans - Tyreke is outstanding at getting to the basket off the dribble, but he would also be amazing at getting to the basket using off-ball cuts and backdoor movement. Sadly, Evans very rarely tries hard to get open off the ball, usually instead maneuvering his way toward the ball to get it back from the ball-handler.
Some players on the team, like Jason Thompson, seem to have found their role and embraced it. Thompson has figured out that an abundance of jump shots isn't his best fit; instead, he's better-used around the basket. It is my hope that more players on the Kings can figure out their strengths and weaknesses and start focusing on their strengths and trying to avoid their weaknesses. Hopefully Keith Smart can help them achieve that level of self-evaluation, as it's an important step from this team's hopeful growth from a rebuilding team into a playoff contender.
Any feedback is welcome; thanks!