With yesterday's win over the Lakers, the Kings have officially completed preseason and are busy getting ready for the actual season to start this Wednesday. Sacramento finished 3-4 in the preseason and along the way we learned a few things.
1. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be even better than last year
The Kings center was dominant in his 6 preseason games, averaging 18.2 points in just 23.5 minutes a game. The reason for his ridiculous scoring volume (that translates to 27.9 points per 36 minutes) was his just as ridiculous efficiency, shooting 63.8% from the field. To be fair, Cousins didn't exactly go up against many stalwart big man defenders in preseason, but it was nice to see him take care of business. If he can put up similar numbers in the regular season that bodes extremely well for him and the Kings.
2. Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions are not Isaiah Thomas and that's ok
Nobody's saying the decision to let Isaiah Thomas go was a good one (far from it) but Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions proved more than capable. Collison and Sessions basically ran a "Point Guard by Committee" this preseason with both getting about 26 minutes a game each. Together they combined for 23.7 points a game on 48.2% from the field and 63.1% from three to go along with 4.4 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 1.2 steals and just 3.2 turnovers a game. That's not bad production from your two main options at Point Guard.
3. Nik Stauskas is ready to contribute
Nik didn't have the greatest preseason, but he proved on more than one occasion that he can help make an impact in the near future. He averaged 9.7 points a game while shooting 44.4% from the field and 39.1% from three. Defensively he still needs a lot of work, but offensively he's already one of the better weapons the Kings have.
4. Consistency is still a problem for Ben McLemore
McLemore had some nice flashes this preseason but he wasn't able to keep anything consistent going. He shot just 39.3% overall in 7 games, but did manage to up his 3P% to 42.9% while showcasing a much improved handle. The Kings will need McLemore to become a consistent contributor if he is going to keep his starting spot over Stauskas as the year goes on.
5. Rudy Gay hasn't found his rhythm yet
It could be a case of being tired from this summer or adjusting to a new role, but there's no doubt that Rudy was not great this preseason. He shot just 37.9% overall and 10% from three in 6 games. He was able to contribute in other areas (3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1 steal and 0.7 blocks) but it's Gay's scoring that makes him so valuable.
6. Get ready for a ton of Free Throws
The Kings averaged 39.1 Free Throw Attempts a game in Preseason, good for tops among all NBA teams and it wasn't even close. The second place team, the Houston Rockets, only averaged 32.6 attempts a game. That difference in attempts from 1st to 2nd is the same as the difference from 2nd to 26th. As a recent article showed, Cousins was the leader in the NBA in touches per foul drawn and that doesn't seem like it's going to change any time soon. Along with Cousins the Kings also have Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, Ramon Sessions, Derrick Williams, Omri Casspi and Carl Landry, all guys who excel at getting to the line.
7. The defense still isn't very good
Sacramento's defense was not terrible this preseason but it also wasn't anything close to what you'd call good. The simple fact of the matter is that the Kings just don't have the personnel to be a great defensive team. An argument could be made that DeMarcus Cousins is the only plus defender the Kings have on the entire roster. Until new guys are brought in or the team really buys into a team defense concept, I don't see this Kings team being anything more than an average to below-average defensive team at best. That would still be an upgrade, but not the upgrade Michael Malone wants.
8. Learning a new offense is going to take time
The Kings were definitely trying to share the ball more this preseason but the results weren't always great. In fact the Kings averaged just 18.7 assists a game, the 3rd fewest among teams this preseason (it should be noted that passes that lead to Free Throws don't count as assists and the Kings were the best team at getting to the line so keep that in mind). They also were the 6th worst team at taking care of the ball, averaging 19.7 turnovers a game. DeMarcus Cousins had the most issues in this area, averaging 5.5 per game by himself and having two games in a row with a combined 19 turnovers. A new offense doesn't just happen overnight, and these guys also have to get used to playing with each other. But until they do we could be in for some sloppy basketball at times.
9. Derrick Williams is still frustrating to watch
Talent wise, there shouldn't really be a competition between Derrick Williams and Omri Casspi for the backup Small Forward minutes, and yet there is. Casspi, although he didn't have the most efficient preseason (just 38.9% overall and 16.7% from beyond the arc), was far more aggressive on both ends of the floor and on the glass. Williams needs to exhibit that same type of aggression if he hopes to keep his rotation spot. He can be a valuable player but he has to learn to play to his strengths.
10. We're going to have to find time for Ray McCallum somehow
With Collison and Sessions taking up most of the time at the PG, there haven't been many minutes to go around for Ray McCallum. However, after his performance this summer in Vegas and then again against the Lakers, it's clear that he's too good to just simply ride the bench. We'll probably see McCallum get some minutes at the two spot this year.