Since the Rudy Gay trade, a lot of attention has been given to Sacramento's "Big Three" of DeMarcus Cousins, Gay and Isaiah Thomas. Together, they form the only trio in the NBA to each average at least 20 points each, and when all three are healthy on the court together, the Kings have performed well (11-11 in those games).
It's when one or more of those guys are absent or underperform that Sacramento really has trouble. Last night was just the latest example as Rudy Gay missed the game with the flu. DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas were the only ones able to generate any real offense of the Kings, scoring 55 of Sacramento's 89 points (almost 62% of Sacramento's total output) on a combined 21 of 42 shooting. The rest of the team however scored just 34 points on 10 of 45 shooting (22.2%).
It's amazing just how quickly it all goes to hell too. Even without Gay, the Kings were still better with Cousins (+7) and Thomas (+3) on the floor than the Celtics, but during two small stretches where they left the floor at the start of the 2nd and 4th quarters, Boston went wild and the Kings couldn't get a score or a stop. Those stretches, encompassing just about 8 total minutes, were all it took for Boston to win the game. Sacramento's bench ended up being outscored 37 to 12. Hell, rookie Kelly Olynyk had more points (19), rebounds (9) and assists (5) in 26 minutes off Boston's bench than Sacramento's entire bench.
Aside from Cousins, Gay and Thomas, the Kings don't have anyone that performs consistently. The Kings hoped Derrick Williams could be such a guy when they acquired him, but so far he's either hit or miss. The same with Carl Landry, but he's missed most of the year and is clearly a ways away from being his old self. Marcus Thornton hasn't really figured out how to contribute unless he's featured heavily in the offense. Jimmer Fredette looks amazing at some points, and completely out of his element at others. Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum are both rookies that need a lot of development yet. Travis Outlaw is Travis Outlaw.
One thing to remember though is that the reason the Kings have no real depth is that they gave it up in order to acquire Gay. Patterson, Vasquez, Hayes and even Salmons are all good rotation players in their own right. If the Kings had those guys AND Rudy Gay, this would look like a really solid squad. But we don't, because that was the cost of getting Gay. As such, when Gay is out, the Kings have an even weaker roster than they did before the trade. That helps explain why Sacramento has gone just 1-6 in the seven games since the trade Rudy has been out (that includes the Houston game where he got injured) and why the only Kings players with a positive +/- per 100 possessions are the starters: Isaiah Thomas (+7.5), Marcus Thornton (+6.4), Rudy Gay (+7.5), Jason Thompson (+5.4) and DeMarcus Cousins (+5.8).
The good news is that this is a temporary problem. Depth can be acquired in a few ways, while acquiring stars like Gay is much more difficult. The trade deadline is in a couple weeks and I expect we'll see a few moves from Sacramento's end here. We know we need another ballhandler, we know we need better defenders, but we also need guys who can hit open shots on a consistent basis.
Rebuilding takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. Right now the Kings have three players they can count on any given night, and they've proven that with those three guys, they can play with anyone. Now it's time to build around them and make our "Big Three" more than just an "Only Three".