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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 2014-15 Week 1

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

What a week!  The Kings are 3-1 despite a tough opening schedule and are playing more cohesively than they have for years.  If we keep playing like this I might have to change the name of this series.  Before we take a look at the amazing week that was, remember that there's still time to join us for Sactown Royalty Night on Nov. 15th against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Good:

1. The Kings are 3-1! The Kings are 3-1!

Before we go any further, let's take a moment to appreciate that the Kings have won 75% of their first four games.  The last time that happened was in 2010-11, but in comparison, this start is way better.  Back in 2010, the 3 teams that the Kings beat were the post-LeBron Cavs (finishing with 19 wins), the post-Bosh Raptors (22 wins) and David Kahn's Minnesota Timberwolves (17 wins).  Those were bad teams that the Kings only beat by a combined 7 points.  This year the Kings have beat two playoff teams in the Blazers and Clippers, and then went on the road on the second night of a back to back in Denver, one of the most notoriously difficult places to play, and snuck out another win.  These weren't fluke wins either, as the Kings were able to grit out wins thanks to their defense.  The Kings could arguably be doing even better if they were getting any consistent production from their SGs or bench.

2. The Defense!

Have the Kings actually bought in?  So far through the first four games, the Kings are one of the better defensive teams in the league, currently at 7th in Defensive Rating, allowing just 100.1 points per 100 possessions.  They're also 3rd in opponent FG%, allowing just 40.1% from the field.  Darren Collison and DeMarcus Cousins have been a big presence on this end, but we're seeing guys like Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson step up on this end as well.

3. Darren Collison

See Player of the Week

4. DeMarcus Cousins' Demeanor and Defense

Cousins hasn't exactly set the world on fire with his offense so far this season aside from a big explosion against the Los Angeles Clippers, but he's still been able to be a big factor for this team thanks to his defense.  Playing on Team USA has seemed to change him for the better, and he's acting like a real leader at times.  At one point during Monday's game against the Nuggets, Cousins very visibly told Jason Thompson to stop complaining to the official and to focus, and Thompson listened.  As for Cousins himself, while he's shown frustration with some non-calls, it hasn't been anything egregious and he hasn't even come close to getting a technical called on him.  If this is the Cousins we see all season, we're in for a big season I think.

5. Rumors of the demise of efficient Rudy Gay have been greatly exaggerated

Rudy Gay had a very rough preseason, and his first game against the Warriors was bad as well.  He has more than responded since then though, with his 40 points in game two against the Blazers carrying the way.  Here's a very interesting video detailing just how Rudy got his 40 points (h/t to lay-it-up-like-a-man for the FanShot):

Rudy's been very good in the post, and he was on fire from outside in the Blazers game.  If Rudy can hit a three with any consistency, he'll be even better than last season.

6. Jason Thompson, Role Player

Thompson has had issues in the past with his role on the team, but this year he seems to have finally bought in that he'll never be a primary option on offense, and instead he's settling for defending, rebounding, setting screens and cutting for open shots.  I thought he was particularly good against the Clippers, defending Blake Griffin well and also cutting to the basket for a couple easy dunks.

7. Omri Casspi 2.0

I really like this version of Omri Casspi.  Last time Casspi was here, there was still some thought in his mind that he could be a star, and he tried to do too much.  In the years after his first stint in Sacramento, he's learned his limits and has settled in as a fine veteran player.  Casspi might just be the most naturally unselfish player on the Kings, moving the ball without hesitation.  He's also able to work the glass and attack the basket, and he's very good at pushing the pace.

8. Top Hat is back

The Kings really missed Carl Landry last year, and he's showing why this season.  Landry has been Sacramento's best bench player so far, averaging 7.8 points on 56.5% from the field.  Most of his damage has been coming right around the basket (90% from 0-3 feet), where he excels at using hesitation moves to find an opening to score.

9. Arena Groundbreaking

The Kings finally officially broke ground on their new arena on Opening Night.  Here's the video for those that missed it:

The Bad:

1. The Shooting Guards can't shoot

There was hope that this year, we'd finally get a little bit of something out of our SG position.  It's early yet, so while it's not time to worry, the fact that the Kings have played four games and their two Shooting Guards have combined to shoot just 25% from the field on 36 attempts is not good.  In Stauskas' case, he gets a little more of a pass as he's a rookie trying to adjust to the NBA game, but Ben is still missing plenty of wide open opportunities. I feel like Ben does better with more volume, but the Kings aren't going to trust him to take more shots if he can't hit the few he gets with any regularity.

2. Ramon Sessions has been a hot mess

Here's something nobody expected to see.  Sessions was supposed to be our change of pace Point Guard, a guy who could come in, relieve Collison and handle some of the scoring duties.  He's certainly changed the pace so far when he's come in, notably in the other team's favor.  He's just 2 for 15 from the field in four games (13.3%), and has only 5 total assists to 8 turnovers.  He's also a big drop-off from Collison defensively, so when he's not providing the scoring punch we need, he's a net negative.  Sessions is a veteran, so hopefully this is just a slump that he'll be able to overcome.  Otherwise I'd rather be spending time developing Ray McCallum, who came in and provided a spark against Denver.

3. Derrick Williams is lost

It didn't take long for Derrick Williams to lose his rotation spot.  After a very poor performance against the Warriors, Williams was benched in favor of Omri Casspi.  He's just not able to provide enough on either end right now to justify playing him.  It's a sad state of affairs for the former #2 overall pick.

The Ugly:

1. Opening Night Loss

The Kings opened up the season in depressing fashion, losing to the Warriors while only shooting 30.8% from the field and turning the ball over a whopping 27 times.  The Warriors are a good (some would say very good) defensive team, but the Kings didn't do themselves any favors, making silly mistakes and forcing tough shots into the teeth of the defense.  This was an excruciatingly tough game to watch, especially in the second half when the Warriors broke the game open.

2. The 1st Quarter in Denver

This was the definition of ugly.  The Kings couldn't score, the Nuggets couldn't score.  It was an affront to the sport of basketball.  Fortunately the game picked up after this quarter and we were able to pick up a win.

3. The Clippers' Mustaches

'Nuff said

Player of the Week:

Darren Collison

16.3 PPG, .404 FG%, 5.3 RPG, 6.5 AST, 2.3 STL, 0.5 BLK 2.0 TOV in 35.8 MPG

I can happily say that up to this point I have been completely wrong about the kind of impact that Darren Collison would have.  Collison has easily been the MVP of the Kings in the first week, the only player that has offered consistency on both ends in every game.  He's a steady presence, and I've already lost track of how many times the Kings have pushed on a fastbreak, Collison saw there was nothing available, and he slows it down so that the team can run a set instead of forcing something.  Defensively though is where Collison has won me over.  Many of us (myself included) scoffed at the claims that Collison was going to improve our defense, yet here we are.  In the first four games of the season, Collison went through one of the toughest PG meat grinders you can get: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Ty Lawson.  Those guys combined for just 36% from the field (18 of 50).

FanPost of the Week:

An analysis of ESPN's Player Rankings, and how the Kings stack up by henryclemente

Images/GIFs of the Week:

Malone Can't Believe It!!!!

Time for play Donkey basketball.

Comment of the Week:

Also just to Note

Kings are 2-0 all time vs Steve Ballmer

Highlight of the Week:

Caption Contest:

Link to Last Week's Picture

Last Week's Winner (and Loser): HeuristicLineup


Last Week's Runner-Up: section214

"Hey, did you guys see the picture that Aykis chose for his kick-off GB&U?"

This Week's Picture:

A reminder of the rules for the Caption Contest. Leave your caption in the comments below, and the most rec'd (to recommend a comment, hit action, then rec) caption wins.

Nostradumbass Prediction for Next Week:

11/5 vs. Nuggets W  (The Kings didn't play their A game and only played DeMarcus Cousins 26 minutes in a victory over the Nuggets in Denver.  With a win streak, confidence and a little more rest, I think the Kings will come out strong and keep on winning)

11/7 @ Suns L (This is where the streak comes to an end.  I think Dragic will be the first Point Guard to give Collison problems with his size, and Bledsoe will be too quick for McLemore.  The Kings have an interior advantage but I still think the Suns win)

11/9 @ Thunder W (This is one of those games that we should win considering all the Thunder injuries and yet I wouldn't be surprised if we lost.  I think this game will tell us a lot about what this Kings team is made of if they can take care of business)

Nostradumbass Record for the Year: 1-3 and couldn't be happier

Random Observations from around the league:

  • Klay Thompson has certainly got off to a good start this season, leading the league in scoring with 29.7 points per game after getting a big maximum contract extension.  I honestly don't know what took the Warriors so long to give him a max contract, as the moment they decided that Kevin Love wasn't worth giving up Klay was essentially valuing him as a max player.
  • Fun with stats during the early season: Nik Vucevic leads the league in rebounding at 15.7, Brandan Wright and Jeff Teague are 2nd and 3rd in PER at 33.4 and 32.2 respectively and Kobe Bryant leads the league in Usage with an obscene 37.3%.  That last one might hold up for the rest of the season though.
  • Remember when Perry Jones III was considered a high lottery pick?  By the time he actually was drafted, he ended up falling to Oklahoma City all the way at 28th.  He hasn't been able to play much in his first two seasons, but this year he's had to step into a starting role due to Kevin Durant's injury and he's filled in admirably.  So far through the first four games he's averaging 18.5 points on 46.4% from the field and 38.1% from three, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game.  When Durant comes back, the Thunder will have a new young and talented rotation player.
  • Think we're the only team with a rookie struggling to shoot?  Right now there are only 11 rookies averaging over 44.1% from the field, and four of those guys have only attempted 3 total shots or less.  It takes a while for these guys to adjust to the NBA game, and that's why I'm not too worried about Nik Stauskas' shooting struggles so far.