Early games foretell another Kings' season in the high lottery

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

If you want to cast early judgment on how this Kings season will go, well ... you may just not want to do that.

The Kings are off to a 2-4 start after Friday's loss to the Spurs, and understandably some of us may want to check in and see whether this beginning to the season indicates that this will be another season down in the depths of the NBA. How do we figure that out? After all, these have all been relatively close games. Unlike the start of last season, the Kings haven't once been blown out. So is that 2-4 really more like 3-3 when you adjust for margin?

No. Adjusting for margin using Pythagorean win percentage doesn't help at all. Based on the team's points scored and points allowed, the Kings have an expected win percentage of .306. Over 82 games, that'd be a 25-57 record. That's not improvement. That's not good.

Well, maybe the Kings have had a tough schedule and it'll get easier as the season goes on. Right? Nope. Per Basketball-Reference, the Kings rank No. 24 in strength of schedule so far. That indicates that the schedule will get more difficult, not more easy.

So, as of now, the Kings look like ... the Kings. A bad team. A top contender for a top-3 pick in the NBA Draft. A cellar dwellar.

That said ...

* DeMarcus Cousins has gotten off to a much worse start than expected this season. Friday marked his third game at 25 minutes or less due to foul trouble. In the other three games, Cousins is averaging 36 minutes, 22 points, 13 rebounds while shooting 45 percent. If Cousins could avoid foul trouble in three-quarters of his games instead of half, he'd be in better shape and we'd be in better shape. Last season, Cousins played at least 26 minutes in almost 80 percent of his games. This foul trouble will subside.

* Defense is attitude, effort and communication. The Kings are playing good defense. Offense is more about execution. The Kings have been awful on offense. It's easier to fix execution over time than it is effort and attitude. My guess is that the offense will revert back to its quality from last season (though that may require lineup changes that hurt the defense). It may be too late to get to playoff position once it comes together. But it should help the Kings finish better than 25-57.

* I don't think this roster will be the roster by season's end. Keith Smart is constantly saying that he has too many guards to play them all. Leaving Jimmer Fredette on the bench is a waste of everyone's time right now. Play him or trade him. There's also the forever looming question of Tyreke Evans. We'll see.

So yes, I am both bullish and bearish on the Kings. Sacramento is playing like a 25-57 team right now, the same ol' Kings. But there are potential areas of improvement that could change that.

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