Kings head coach Michael Malone recently reminded his team that last season they lost too many close games - nearly one third of their 54 losses were by six points or less.
So, how to help correct that? Aside from needing more trust and ball movement on the offensive end, the Kings front office and coaching staff believe they added pieces in the offseason that can help on the defensive side of the ball, particularly around the basket.
Ryan Hollins and Eric Moreland are not the type of big-name signings that turn heads around the league, but both have the potential to provide the Kings some much-needed rim protection and rebounding. Hollins, the center who joined the Kings on a one-year deal earlier this month, has career averages of 3.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and .5 blocks per game. Moreland, the rookie big man who signed a three-year deal with the Kings over the summer, averaged 3.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in Summer League.
The question about the Kings frontcourt is the number of minutes there are to go around considering Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and Reggie Evans are also on the roster. But the front office and coaching staff say players like Hollins and Moreland provide them with more flexibility at the four and five spots, giving them a chance to move DeMarcus Cousins, who is not the best shot blocker, to the power forward at times.
Kings fans have been markedly excited about Moreland after his performance in Summer League. Plays like this from the rookie will do that sort of thing.
But while he shows tremendous potential, comments from general manager Pete D'Alessandro and Malone on Friday make you wonder how much run he is going to get, at least initially.
"Moreland, we did a multi-year deal with him and we're excited about the ability to see him grow. How quickly he gets there, we don't know with that," D'Alessandro said.
D'Alessandro also said the Kings do not want to put pressure on Moreland right off the bat and then quickly shifted to what Hollins can bring.
"With Hollins, I think now finally we're going to get a chance to see maybe, and I haven't talked to the coaches much about this, but perhaps getting DeMarcus off the five, maybe onto the four a little bit and have a guy like Hollins defensively on the five," D'Alessandro said.
Malone echoed these comments.
"Ryan Hollins is so athletic and so versatile that you can play them two together and DeMarcus can guard the five and Ryan can guard the four, or vice versa depending on the match ups, but I think we have a lot of flexibility," Malone said.
The 7'0'' Hollins is entering his ninth season and played 7.9 minutes per game last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and while at least at the moment, Moreland seems to be the guy most Kings fans want to see on the floor, Hollins can bring veteran leadership to the court - something else the Kings are trying to improve.
"I just have to be myself, block shots, run the floor, defend, rebound and just bring some leadership and some of the good locker room stuff that I have had from the past - just be myself and take care of these young guys," Hollins said.
Defense and buying into the team concept seem be what Hollins prides himself on.
"Its all about team base, I'm going to be the best me that I can be but that does no good if it doesn't fit into the team concept," Hollins said. "Defensively is what I do, so that's my job now, and that's on me to make sure that we all move as a unit - they score on one of us they score on all of us."
Hollins also acknowledged what Moreland can bring to the table.
"He's super talented, he's long and he's athletic. He reminds me a lot of myself at that age. Has a lot of energy, but just a great kid man, I'm really excited personally to work with him during this season," Hollins said.
Moreland, the undrafted rookie out of Oregon State, was consistent and played within his means in Summer League. He knows what he is good at and sticks to that.
"I want to be a defensive anchor, I think that will be a good goal, just to be one of those vocal guys out here that helps the team on defense. We struggled on defense last year and I feel I can help as far as on the defensive end," Moreland said.
Moreland knows the NBA is not college and certainly not Summer league when it comes to blocking shots.
"It's different at the pro level because they'll get a chance to read that and skip the ball and give it to my man who I just left, but you just have to have timing to know exactly when to go get it," said the 6'10'' Moreland.
As for the strategy of shot blocking, "I'm sure there is an art to it, it's timing and will. Like honestly, some of them I just want to go get it when I get a chance to do it," Moreland said.
Despite comments from D'Alessandro about easing Moreland in, he said Cousins reached out to him and told him that he is going to be a "big part" of what the Kings are doing this season. Cousins is pleased with the additions of both Moreland and Hollins.
"We got a lot more athletic at the big man position. We picked up guys like Ryan Hollins, Eric Moreland. Those guys can pick up the full court, help speed up the tempo of the game," Cousins said.
Kings training camp just began, so the amount of playing time either Hollins or Moreland get this season (most likely off the bench) is completely up in the air at this point. If Moreland does get playing time though he has some weighted personal goals - he wants to block LeBron James and Blake Griffin.
"I want to get LeBron and I want to get Blake. I feel like I might get dunked on by DeAndre Jordan though, honestly. I think he's going to get me," Moreland said. "I really want Blake, honestly."