John Hollinger is one of the top five basketball analysts working in the media right now. Also, he's a nice guy.
He's off my Christmas card list, though.
His mammoth NBA preview is live on ESPN.com, and his assessment of the Kings is bleak.
I disagree with Hollinger on several points. And I'm not going to quote anything other than the above because the article is on ESPN Insider. (The last few years, Hollinger put out the Pro Basketball Prospectus. So that's how mammoth his online content drop is. You should probably get access to Insider, if only for this month.)
Anyways, my disagreements:
- Hollinger undersells the defense of Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. No, they can't guard the average-to-above average centers of the NBA. But they both showed a willingness and ability to create resistance at the end of last season. And the ability is key, because they'll hear plenty from Eric Musselman if they don't follow through. Inside defense is a concern for most teams not named the Chicago Bulls, the Orlando Magic, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Los Angeles Clippers. It's not a significantly bigger problem in Sacramento than anywhere else (especially Golden State, the Lakers' end of Staples, and Phoenix).
- Francisco Garcia wasn't that bad last season. Hollinger sells him as the second coming of Paul Shirley. The kid played well during the middle of the season - once he got a chance in the rotation and before his fluke injury. He's shown a solid ability to defend quick players, get in the open court, and handle the ball better than even Mike Bibby. And he seriously doesn't lack any confidence in his shooting. He was a slight below-average bench player last season, and should be able to move into solid ground this season without improving outrageously.
- Frontcourt durability. No argument from me that Brad Miller is getting old and he's more fragile than most. But Abdur-Rahim missed games last season only because of an errant Zach Randolph elbow. And he only missed 10 games. He played with his jaw wired shut. Not exactly an indictment of dude's durability. And Kenny Thomas has yet to miss a game for Sacramento with an injury. Artest's availability has never been tied to his physical health. And Garcia hurt his ankle last season because he landed on a teammate's foot awkwardly after he jumped to dislodge a ball caught betweent he rim and the backboard. Yes - as Kings fans we will expect some incredible injury to pop up at some point. But to say this core of guys isn't durable when most of them (75%?) have shown otherwise isn't quite right.
Anyways, read the whole thing. You'll be smarter (though slightly depressed) for it.