Seven of seven preseason games are in the books for the Sacramento Kings. The regular season begins on Wednesday as the Denver Nuggets visit. We had a lot of question going into October, and we think we might have a few answers now. Maybe.
These are those possible answers.
1. DeMarcus Cousins is a new man ... as of now. The complaining is gone. The defensive and transition loafing is gone. The really horrible shot selection is mostly gone. He shot 52 percent in the preseason. No technicals. No battles with teammates, coaches or broadcasters. He's still turnover-prone. He still isn't a great defender, lacking some lateral quickness and recognition. He doesn't block shots. He still fouls a bit too much because of those deficiencies. But strip away the temper issues of the past few years, and you have a helluva player. A fierce, hard-to-defend scorer and superlative rebounder with a nice touch. This DeMarcus Cousins is the one we've been dreaming of. More please.
2. Isaiah Thomas can work in any role. Lost in the issue of Isaiah vs. Greivis Vasquez is the fact that coming off the bench, I.T. was still pretty darned good. The final two preseason games are an excellent example. So it probably doesn't matter whether he starts, though I usually support starting your best players. Isaiah off the bench works really well.
3. The small forward position is still the team's weakest link. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute barely played in the preseason due to injury. Travis Outlaw was good by Travis Outlaw standards. Johnny Salmons had moments, with an underwhelming big picture. This is the Kings' small forward contingent.
4. Ben McLemore will be a good rookie. Not a raw project: an actual contributor. Probably not Rookie of the Year, but an actual contributor. This is good.
6. The Kings defense is not going to be one of the worst in the NBA. It's probably not going to be "good" due to personnel, but it's not horrible. Akis crunched the numbers: the team's defensive rating was 97 in the preseason. The Kings' offensive rating was 103. I'd expect the league-average offensive rating was down due to fringe players, rookie playing time and low minutes for veterans, but I have no clue how far down. That the Kings scored 103 points per 100 possessions tells me "not that far down." (Remember, those rotation oddities affect defense, too.) So I'm encouraged by the defensive numbers. I'm more encouraged by what we saw. Big improvement.
7. Patrick Patterson is going to get lots of minutes. He actually led the team in total minutes and minutes per game. Part of that may be Michael Malone seeing what he's got. But he showed some trust playing Patterson with all of the other bigs and keeping him in during crunch time. Carl Landry's injury surely assured Patterson some minutes, but in my estimation he's going to be playing a lot in the regular season.
What conclusions have you made?