Team Name: Sacramento Kings
Last Year's Record: 22-44 (equivalent to a 27-55 season)
Key Losses: Terrence Williams, Hassan Whiteside.
Key Additions: Thomas Robinson, Aaron Brooks, James Johnson.
1. What significant moves were made in the offseason?
The Kings didn't actually do a whole lot in the offseason. Stunning, right? No one expected huge moves unless the team was determined to flip Tyreke Evans before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2013. Apparently, the Kings were not determined to make that decision this summer.
The Kings made one trade, sending a second-round pick to Toronto for James Johnson, who is entering his fourth year and is seen as a potential starter at small forward. The hope is that he can bring much-needed defensive ability to the team. The Kings also signed just one free agent of note, point guard Aaron Brooks. The veteran has a player option for the second year, but it's a relative small contract (under $5 million for the two years combined). He'll compete for minutes with Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette.
The Kings also kept one of their own free agents, re-signing Jason Thompson to a five-year, $30 million deal.
The Kings again landed in the lottery, and again seemingly had a star fall to them at No. 5. Two years ago, that star was DeMarcus Cousins, who will be pressing for an All-Star bid this season. This year, it was Thomas Robinson, the hyperactive power forward from Kansas. He'll likely start the season coming off of the bench, but should be featured heavily in a shallow big man rotation.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
The team's biggest strength figures to continue to be scoring in the paint. The Kings last season were No. 4 in frequency of shots at the rim, and had a just slightly above average conversion rate there. That can be credited to Cousins and Evans, as well as Thomas. Robinson should also help, provided he rebounds well on offense. The offensive glass in general is a huge strength with Cousins, Jason Thompson and Robinson in place.
That completes the list of the Kings' strengths, though Thomas runs the pick-and-roll really well, and transition has been fairly kind to the team.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
There are two huge glaring weaknesses, and there's only a chance that they've been addressed: shooting and defense. The Kings were better than only the Bobcats from long-range last season, but have Jimmer going into his second season and have added Brooks, a prolific if not Shuttlesworthian gunner. There are also reports that Tyreke's jumper is fixed, but I'm certainly not holding my breath. On defense, the hope is that Johnson will give the starting five some strength and length, that improved communication (a real training camp focal point for Keith Smart) will pay dividends and that Cousins will become a defensive anchor for the club. Cousins did lead the NBA in charges taken with 49 last season, so that's a plus. But foul trouble to him is trouble, and he's not a shot blocker, so we'll see if that plan works. Certainly, he's a very smart player and far more agile than he looks. (And he even looks more agile this season -- he's reportedly dropped 15 pounds.)
The hope is that Evans will be a better defender at two-guard than he was at small forward, and that Robinson will be a top defender long-term. The Kings ranked poorly on the defensive glass last season, so improvement there would boost the overall defensive rankings.
4. What are the goals for this team?
They are talking about playoffs, but the West is just too deep. I think shooting for 40 wins is more realistic and attainable ... though I think 35 wins is the most optimistic guess I can offer. That's still marked improvement. Incremental, sure. But marked.
5. Is it going to be impossible to follow the team without constant consternation about relocation?
Yes, probably. I'll delve into this question more deeply in The Hook for the mothership this morning. You can check it out at 8 a.m. Pacific on The Hook page.