The Kings are 41 games into the 2014-15 season, a season that has had it's share of ups and downs. As such I thought I'd take a look at the Sacramento Kings from top to bottom and assign grades on the following scale:
B: Above Expectations
C: Meets Expectations
D: Below Expectations
At the end of the season we'll check back in and see how much these grades will have changed, if at all. But for now, let's start with the players on the roster before moving on to coaching and management:
Omri Casspi: B
28 GP, 17.2 MPG, 7.3 PPG, .519 FG%, .176 3P%, .782 FT%, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.2 BLK, 0.9 TOV
There weren't many expectations for Omri Casspi when the Kings signed him to a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum. Since leaving his first stint with Sacramento, he's bounced around the league a little bit before settling back in where he started. Before he suffered his knee injury, Casspi was playing the best basketball of his career and making a real case as Sacramento's most important bench player. He's transformed from a jump shooter into a slasher and it has paid dividends for both his production and efficiency.
Darren Collison: B
38 GP, 35.4 MPG, 16.4 PPG, .465 FG%, .376 3P%, .789 FT%, 3.2 RPG, 5.9 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.3 BLK, 2.5 TOV
Sacramento's starting Point Guard entered the season with sentiment against him as he was filling in the hole left by fan favorite Isaiah Thomas. It's safe to say now that most fans have completely changed their mind regarding Collison thanks to his solid work on both ends of the court. Collison isn't a flashy player at all, and none of his numbers really jump out at you, but he's been able to provide some nice consistency and floor leadership in his short time here.
DeMarcus Cousins: A
29 GP, 33.6 MPG, 23.9 PPG, .484 FG%, .806 FT%, 12.6 RPG, 3.2 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.7 BLK, 4.3 TOV
For the fourth straight year, DeMarcus Cousins has taken his game to another level for the Kings. He's not only entered the conversation as one of the best bigs in the NBA but also as one of the best players in the NBA. In particular, Cousins has made a huge leap defensively to become Sacramento's anchor inside. If Cousins hadn't had his season derailed by a freak bout of viral meningitis, his numbers would probably be even better and so would Sacramento's record. With Cousins in the middle, the Kings have a true franchise cornerstone to build around. Not everything has been perfect (he still fouls too much and his efficiency could be better), but he's still just 24 years old and continuing to improve, which is a great reason to remain optimistic about the future of this team.
Reggie Evans: C
26 GP, 18.5 MPG, 4.3 PPG, .427 FG%, .600 FT%, 7.0 RPG, 0.6 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.0 TOV
You know what you're getting from Reggie Evans: rebounding and hustle. Evans has continued to provide both in spades and not much else. That's all we can really expect from him.
Rudy Gay: B+
38 GP, 35.7 MPG, 20.6 PPG, .450 FG%, .387 3P%, .861 FT%, 6.0 RPG, 4.1 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.5 BLK, 2.8 TOV
Rudy Gay had a career year in 2014 after being traded to Sacramento from the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento rewarded him with a three year extension. There was some risk that Rudy's production would perhaps tail off a bit and that last year was a fluke, but if anything, Rudy's playing even better. While his FG% is lower, he's hitting a career-best 38.7% of his three pointers and averaging more rebounds and more assists. Defensively, there are still lapses, and he also can be infuriating with his tendency towards isolation (particularly in crunch time), but there's far more good than bad with Rudy.
Ryan Hollins: C
26 GP, 9.3 MPG, 2.7 PPG, .610 FG%, .655 FT%, 2.4 RPG, 0.3 AST, 0.1 STL, 0.3 BLK, 0.6 TOV
Much like Reggie Evans, Hollins is in a game to provide some spot minutes defensively. He hasn't seen much time aside from garbage minutes and filling in for injuries. I think he's pretty much in line with Sacramento's expectations for him so far.
Carl Landry: B-
38 GP, 18.7 MPG, 8.2 PPG, .535 FG%, .850 FT%, 4.4 RPG, 0.5 AST, 0.2 STL, 0.3 BLK, 1.0 TOV
Carl's made a pretty good comeback from the injuries that plagued him last season. He's right in line with his career rates for scoring and efficiency, and while he's not rebounding the ball very well for a big man, he is still doing much better on that end of the court than the first time he was in Sacramento (when Beno Udrih was beating him in Rebound Rate). Defensively he's not providing much but that's not something you expect with Carl; He's a score-first player and he's doing that well.
Ray McCallum: D
28 GP, 14.5 MPG, 4.2 PPG, .407 FG%, .273 3P%, .643 FT%, 1.8 RPG, 1.5 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.1 BLK, 0.9 TOV
I don't know if I'm more disappointed in any player on the Kings than Ray McCallum. Expectations weren't sky-high for Ray, but there was reason to believe that this year he could improve upon his rookie season and perhaps claim the backup PG spot for himself. While Ramon Sessions has been out with injury, Ray hasn't done much to engender confidence that he's going to be a good PG in this league. In fact, it's looking more and more like Ray is more of an undersized Shooting Guard. He's assisting less than last year, turning the ball over more, and hitting less of his long-range shots. Ray takes forever to get his team into the offense, spending a majority of the shot clock dribbling around instead of making a quick decision. Defensively, Ray tries hard but hasn't been very effective, as opponents are shooting 2.3% better than average when Ray is guarding them. Hopefully the second half of the season goes a little better for Ray.
Ben McLemore: B+
41 GP, 33.2 MPG, 11.8 PPG, .459 FG%, .360 3P% .838 FT%, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.9 TOV
Ben McLemore has been the silver lining in this season that hasn't gone away. There is a night and day difference from the Ben of this year and in his rookie season. Ben was probably a bottom-5 rookie last year and is probably a top-5 sophomore this year. He's improved almost every aspect of his game; His shot is way more consistent, he's able to attack the basket effectively, and he's also becoming a defensive menace. Ben should probably be getting even more touches on offense than he already is, but regardless, he's coming along very nicely, even with recent shooting struggles that have dropped his 3P% from above 40% to 36%.
Eric Moreland: INC
Eric Moreland never really got a chance to play with the Kings due to a shoulder tear that ended his season. The best we can hope for is a full recovery, although since Moreland's contract is not guaranteed, it's unknown whether or not he'll even be on the team next year.
Ramon Sessions: F
25 GP, 17.1 MPG, 6.1 PPG, .353 FG%, .286 3P%, .738 FT%, 1.8 RPG, 2.5 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.0 BLK, 1.4 TOV
I don't think anybody saw Ramon Sessions regressing this much. Sessions has been abysmal as a Sacramento King, with career-lows in almost every category. A score-first guard, Sessions hasn't been able to score at the rim or get to the line with nearly the same success as in other stops, and he also hasn't done well at running the offense. Perhaps the back issue that has kept him out of the last dozen or so games was affecting him earlier in the season, because his performance to date has been very uncharacteristic.
Nik Stauskas: D
39 GP, 14.1 MPG, 3.6 PPG, .333 FG%, .272 3P%, .815 FT%, 1.1 RPG, 0.7 AST, 0.2 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.3 TOV
When you draft a player that is supposed to be NBA-ready, it's a disappointment when they can't contribute immediately. Nik Stauskas was supposed to be the consistent shooter that we were missing, but instead he has had trouble finding the bottom of the net all year, no matter where he shoots from. Since Nik can't hit a shot, his contribution has been less than zero, as defensively he's a sieve and is constantly targeted by opposing offenses. Nik has a lot of work to do, and he really needs a confidence boost.
Jason Thompson: B-
40 GP, 25.5 MPG, 5.7 PPG, .463 FG%, .623 FT%, 6.7 RPG, 1.0 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.6 BLK, 1.1 TOV
Seven seasons in, we know what we're going to get from Jason Thompson each night. With four scorers in the starting lineup, Thompson has sacrificed his offensive game (his FGA per 36 are the lowest in his career) and has instead focused on the other side of the court, where he's become a stopper, particularly in the paint. Thompson would probably be best utilized as a backup Center, so that his offensive skillset (which is there, as you saw in his 23 point performance against the Clippers) can be more utilized, but as of now the Kings don't have the luxury of having a better Power Forward to start ahead of him.
Derrick Williams: D+
36 GP, 17.4 MPG, 6.9 PPG, .446 FG%, .286 3P%, 2.6 RPG, 0.5 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.1 BLK
Derrick Williams might go down as one of the most disappointing 2nd overall draft picks in a long, long time. Four years in and Williams has yet to find an identity in the NBA. His jump shot has noticeably improved this season, particularly in the mid-range, but it's still nowhere near consistent enough to be considered a reliable threat. He's rebounding at the lowest rate of his career, and hasn't made any progress on the defensive end of the floor. He's a scorer who isn't a good enough scorer to justify playing too much.
Coach Michael Malone: B
11 W, 13 L, 107.6 ORtg, 108.0 DRtg, 92.2 Pace, .411 FTR, 54.2 TRB%, 54.7 AST%, .484 eFG%, 14.3 TOV%
The Kings under Michael Malone were playing very well to start the season, getting out to a 9-6 start against the toughest schedule in the league before DeMarcus Cousins caught viral meningitis. No matter what the front office says, it's hard to believe that if Cousins hadn't gotten sick and the Kings had continued to win that Malone would still have been fired. Not everything was gravy with Malone however; he too often resorted to full line changes, couldn't get his team to close out games, and didn't have a solution to the ongoing turnover problem.
Coach Tyrone Corbin: D+
5 W, 12 L, 105.5 ORtg, 110.0 DRtg, 95.7 Pace, .313 FTR, 52.0 TRB%, 52.3 AST%, .509 eFG%, 14.5 TOV%
The Kings under Corbin have gotten worse on both ends of the court. For a little while, it looked like the offense was better, but due to recent struggles, even that has slipped to be worse than it was under Malone. The Kings are not getting to the line at nearly the same rate as they were before and they're not rebounding or assisting as much. Their 5-12 record also comes in spite of the fact that the schedule has been noticeably easier than in the beginning of the season. Corbin's late-game coaching has also left a ton to be desired. The front office has said that Corbin is the coach for the rest of the season, but at this rate, he's done far more to earn a firing than Michael Malone did.
Front Office: C-
This grade would probably be higher had the Kings not completely whiffed the handling of Michael Malone's firing. The decision this summer to sign Darren Collison was a very good one, and getting Rudy Gay to sign an extension was also a big win. Omri Casspi's minimum signing was also pretty good given his contribution level so far this season.
Other decisions have been more questionable. Isaiah Thomas was traded for well below market value and could still have been retained to be a 6th man/trade asset had the Kings matched his contract. Ramon Sessions' deal hasn't panned out. The Nik Stauskas pick seems pretty bad right now as well, as Elfrid Payton is playing well and the Bulls offer of the 16th and 19th picks as well as a future 2nd rounder could have resulted in guys like Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.
This front office has a lot riding on this summer. Hiring a coach will be extremely important, as will landing an asset in the draft if they do indeed have a pick (which it increasingly looks like they will). They'll also have some good money to play with in Free Agency and will need to do a good job of rectifying our known weaknesses: shooting, passing and defending.
I think if you told Kings fans before the season that we'd be 16-25 at the halfway point, most people wouldn't be too surprised. Many people (like myself), expected only a minor improvement, if any. Sacramento's early start was surprising, but perhaps unsustainable. We'll never know, as Malone was fired before we could see if he could bounce back with Cousins healthy. The unfortunate thing about this grade however is that the Kings are trending downwards as the second half begins. There's a real danger the way things are going that the Kings won't even hit 30 wins, which was unthinkable after going 9-8 through November.
What do you guys think? How would you grade the Kings halfway through the season? Let us know in the comments below.