We round out our 30Q series today by taking a look at the upcoming season and trying to figure out just how to determine if it will be successful. We asked each of our writers to provide their own perspective on how they'll view the Kings success, or lack thereof, this season.
Akis: So, what will it take for this season to be considered a success? Success is an interesting term, especially for a team that probably isn't good enough to be considered good. The Kings have been so bad for so long that merely being average could be considered successful.
As we've discussed before, the West is incredibly deep and it will be tough for the Kings to emerge out of the dogpile on top. Still, we have serious players already in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, and everything could go much easier if one of our other players suddenly makes a leap (I'm looking at Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas here) into, perhaps not stardom, but at least "above-averagedom" (I call dibs on the trademark). In fact, I think that if the Kings can see such a leap from their other players, that in itself might make the season a success, because it makes the future that much brighter.
Success depends on what your goal is. If the Kings are going to try to gauge this season by trying to get the playoffs, then I think that will be a failure. If the Kings simply want to show improvement in both the wins and loss column as well as showing growth in the foundation for the future, that's a more reasonable goal that I think can be met.
Blake: Success will be a respectable jump in the number of wins (35+), ball movement and defense. Wins will be the most important in the eyes of the front office, fans and the rest of the NBA. The Kings just have to figure out a way to win at least 10-12 more games than they have in recent years. In the Western Conference that isn't going to be easy, but playing fluid basketball for an entire game, which they haven't been able to do on a regular basis for quite some time, will result in a win more often than not. Which brings me to ball movement and defense. Both have to get better, and if they do, then we could see more complete games out of the Kings. The addition of Eric Moreland (and Ryan Hollins to a lesser degree) may provide some much-needed rim protection alongside DeMarcus Cousins. And we'll have to wait and see if Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions can help in the ball movement category. So get back on defense, pass the ball, stay focused and together for the entire game and win those winnable games - that is my recipe for success.
section214: I'm going to look at this season a little less from wins and losses and more from how competitive this team can be night in and night out.
Last year's Kings team finished with a point differential of -2.9. That was "good" for 22nd in the league, a little better than their 24th best record. 19 teams had a point differential of under -1 points last season, and I think that's an appropriate goal for this year's team. That sort of move in point differential would probably equate to 36 or more wins.
Once again the core rotation has undergone quite a change. DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson remain, but Isaiah Thomas is out, and offense triggermen Darren Collison and perhaps Ramon Sessions are in. Nik Stauskas is likely added to the mix. Add into that the fact that Carl Landry was really a non-factor last season, and you have a recipe for something that could magically click or blow up in everyone's face. My fear is that this squad will take time to meld and will wind up imploding before that has a chance to happen. We will certainly find out the mettle of this ball club if it flails at first. If it draws itself closer together, we're on to something. If not, coach Michael Malone will be (unfairly) sent packing, you can tack on a year or two to the rebuild, and you won't have to worry about setting aside money for playoff tickets when the new arena opens.
Robby: So I agree with what everyone has said so far and agree with everything that will be said prospectively. This team isn't going to make the playoffs. The West is just too deep and whenever I think one of these rosters is finally going to fall off I'm forced to acknowledge the reality that the Spurs are aging better than I am. However I do think Sac should be in competition for that coveted 9th spot, I don't think the Pelicans or Nuggets or Suns are markedly better. And a moral victory is a victory of sorts.
What I don't want is a pyrrhic victory. Rob made the point that if this team doesn't get competitive quickly Malone could be the (unfair) sacrificial lamb. It's a valid concern. And one exacerbated by a certain degree of post-traumatic stress from the erratic decision making, and often chronic lack thereof, of the previous administration. This team has lacked any smudge of consistency since Adelman's departure. That's the better part of a decade. I'm fine with move making for the sake of making moves when it's Greivis Vasquez for Rudy Gay. Whether or not he stays I'm good with the Rajon Rondo gamble if it materializes. But our new powers that be have been painted, correctly or not, as having itchy trigger fingers. And I don't love the idea of a fan-base that has better perspective on how this team should be performing than ownership/management.
I'm not sure any of us really know who runs the show. And to a degree we never fully will, nor should. But what's the old saying about too many cooks spoiling the soup? How involved is Vivek? How deferential is D'Alessandro to Mullin? How involved is Malone in decision making? Continuity off the court is as important as continuity on the court. I think this is a make or break year from a continuity standpoint. If the front office can exercise restraint and patience. If it can pick its spots from a personnel standpoint (which doesn't mean don't make moves, it just means make sensical moves). If we as fans get a sense that everyone is on something approximating the same page. I'd consider that a successful season. Otherwise Downtown Plaza won't be the only Kings-related dystopia.
Bradley: I'm similar to Biegler on this. We can get that 9th spot. We won 28 games last year in a strange year, but with a deeper roster and hopeful player improvement, I don't think a 9th spot is out of the question. The final key will be unloading one or two of our power forwards and getting a player that can balance our roster more. I am more optimistic than many on this, but I feel that mid to high 30s is not out of the question, and even more if we really quick.
Wins and losses aside my real gauge of success will be a team that gels, guys improving, stepping up when they need to, and even stepping back at times if necessary. If we are competitive every night (or almost every night), I will be beyond thrilled.
Kevin: Like everyone else, I'd obviously need to see a substantial increase in the number of wins this season to consider it a success. I'd like to see this team winning somewhere between 35-40 games... but there's so much more I want to see. And I think that starts with finally establishing some kind of team identity.
My cohorts have discussed the possibility that, fair or not, this season might be a make or break one for Coach Malone. I don't disagree. This season may very well end up defining Malone's tenure as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
This offseason has been an extremely busy one, and while the Kings might not have gotten better overall, it's hard to argue that they haven't gotten a lot deeper. From an offensive standpoint, the front office has preached position-less basketball with an emphasis on an uptempo style of play and lots of ball movement. I'm interested to see how this translates to the product on the court however as these concepts would be a HUGE departure from what we saw last season. Honestly, pulling this off would be a huge win for Malone. Kings fans have been watching an incredibly boring brand of motionless one-on-one basketball for longer than any of us would like to admit.
Additionally, Malone has preached defense since the day he arrived in Sacramento. To this point we've not seen any of that talk translate to success on the court. Last year I might have bought the argument that we simply didn't have the pieces to make an impact in that area. I'm not so sure that's the case anymore. Plenty of teams have done more with less. And, at this point I think it's more about getting the team to BUY IN to the concept of team defense than anything else. Both DeMarcus and Rudy (DeMarcus especially) showed they are more than capable of buying into a system and playing team defense at a very high level this Summer. Hopefully some of that Team USA magic will carry over to the regular season, because Malone will need to inspire that kind of effort from his two stars, before he can expect it from the rest of the squad.
The Kings have told us what kind of team they're striving to become. Once we start seeing some of that talk translate to the product on the floor, I'll consider it a "success."
Bryant: Kevin stole my biggest point - I want to see this team develop an identity on both ends of the court. We saw some team cohesiveness developing at times last year, but this is still the biggest question for the team. If the squad fails to develop that shared chemistry, then we won't have to worry about keeping up with Phoenix or New Orleans or Denver. I'm expecting anywhere between 33-38 wins, but I'm MOSTLY hoping for cohesiveness. If the team battles hard night in and night out and improves the collective basketball IQ, the wins will come.
Another major question is on an individual basis. We need to see that this team can figure out how to fit all these pieces together and develop players into roles. While team chemistry is the biggest key, we have some players with major question marks entering the season; McLemore and Ray McCallum have shots at big roles, these are make-or-break years for guys like Derrick Williams and Collison, and ONE of the power forwards on this team need to pan out as a starter. We need to see how Malone and company can develop players AND help them figure out their roles. There were too many guys struggling with poor basketball IQ and court awareness for all the blame to be on the players.
Greg: As the season draws near, I'm finding myself increasingly pessimistic about the upcoming year. Mind you, that usually changes by the time the season kicks off. But I feel more pessimistic than normal at this time of year. So, how do we define success?
Honestly, it's a success if this roster surpasses 30 wins. On paper, we've seen the Kings upgrade their depth. But I've talked myself into 30+ wins each of the past four seasons. I'm tired of talking myself into success. I'll judge this season to be a success if they can prove the doubters wrong. I want to see the front office's plan come together. I want to see how the team can be greater than the sum of its parts, a la the Phoenix Suns last season.
I'm proud to be a Kings fan, even when the team is miserable. I'm incredibly proud of what Sacramento, my hometown, has accomplished. I'm already planning a visit to see the new arena when it opens. But I just want to be proud of what's happening on the court again. The team has been saved, and we were rewarded for never believing the fight was over. I'm ready for Kings fans to be rewarded for believing in the on-court product as well.
Adam: I just want to see this team decide what they want to be. We've seen that when teams decide upon an identity--coupled with talent--that wins will follow.
The front office brought in Darren Collison to pick up the tempo offensively and defensively. How does that mesh with DeMarcus Cousins; somebody who for a good part of the season saw the ball in the low block almost every possession?
The new regime has built a solid foundation of young players (McLemore, McCallum, Stauskas, Moreland) but they've also placated them with veterans (Collison, Landry, Casspi, Sessions). I'm interested to see if the team will play out as a fringe playoff team with young prospects or a young and bad team with veterans.
At this point I expect the latter; but a full season of Rudy Gay and Carl Landry, another potential leap by DeMarcus Cousins, a second season for Ben McLemore leave reason to believe this may be the year the team overachieves.
All in all, the pride of this fan base is rooted in purposeful action. If the team can mirror that on the court then it'll show in the standings.
That's how we'll judge the upcoming season. How about yourselves? Let us know in the comments.