The Sacramento Kings went through a major roster overhaul this summer and are primed for an entertaining 2015-16 campaign. After a 5-1 preseason, it's time to play the prediction game.
As we did last season, several members of the media joined us for a roundtable discussion. The main question: How many games will the Kings win this season? Answering that question is Sean Cunningham of ABC10, Whitey Gleason of ESPN Radio 1320, James Ham of CSN California/CSNBayArea.com, Bill Herenda of KFBK, Deuce Mason of KHTK Sports 1140, Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee, and Tom Ziller of SB Nation (and Sactown Royalty).
Sean Cunningham - 40 Wins
Certainly, the talent level on this year's Sacramento Kings roster, coupled with the resumé of a future Hall of Fame coach in George Karl, could be a recipe for more than 40 wins. However, too much has to go right for it to manifest into too much more, potentially flirting with a .500 record, or even dare I say, an eighth playoff spot in the very deep Western Conference. Typically, you don't see teams make monumental increases in wins from the previous season. An 11-game improvement from the year before might not be considered a success in the impatient minds of Kings fans, but it certainly would be.
Then comes the big-picture argument of were all these changes worth it, to be only 11 games better, and likely out of the playoffs, after sacrificing valuable draft picks for the future? That's an argument for another day, and clearly, remains to be seen. Undeniably, the Kings are certainly interesting this year. One need only look at the amount of nationally televised games on this season's schedule compared to the past few years. A rather risk-free, one-year gamble (if you want to call it that) on Rajon Rondo, who comes into Sacramento with not only something to prove - but also that familiar chip on his shoulder. The combination of Rondo along with Darren Collison really provides stability at the point guard position and that will be the biggest reason for increased success. Health is always the X-factor for teams, but considering the Kings have a dreadful record without Cousins in the lineup in previous seasons, this year isn't any different. There is more talent surrounding Cousins to stomach a small absence, but not for any extended period of time.
Should the Kings win 40 games in the West, they will not make the playoffs. It will probably take about 45 games to do-so. Luckily, they remain in the playoff conversation throughout the season, as opposed to irrelevant by January.
Whitey Gleason - 36 Wins
In our collective struggle to determine the factors upon which the Kings' fortunes depend, it's possible we are looking at the wrong things. As Coach George Karl said the night before camp broke in La Jolla, it's the buy-in on the defensive end that will ultimately decide how much the club improves. Though hopeful, Karl suggested that his squad might still be a year away in that regard.
Obviously, the Kings figure to be more watchable than they've been since Kevin Martin's Wild Ride against the Spurs produced the last home playoff win. But as the Kings focus on mounting a quick-pace attack, it's how much watching they do at the other end that could doom them to another early summer vacation.
James Ham - 42 Wins
Las Vegas won't agree, but I predict the Sacramento Kings will win between 42-44 games this season. The team is deep, versatile and talented at every position on the floor. The additions of Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein, instantly fill the team's biggest needs - playmaking, shooting and post defense.
The Kings survived the 2014-15 season despite three coaching changes and numerous injuries. They were considerably better than their 29-53 record. Just how much is unknown, but it's not hard to imagine a five or six game spike in wins if the team hadn't spun into chaos in mid-December. If they were really a 34 or 35 win team last season, then another 7-10 game jump is reasonable this season with the added talent.
Bill Herenda - 41 Wins
Predicting the Kings record this season induces natural hesitation, cogitation and contemplation. The key question: Will the retooled roster -- including the mercurial Rajon Rondo -- thrive or implode under George Karl in his first full season in California’s capital city?
Chemistry, defense, turnovers and three-point shooting have been conundrums for Sacramento.
My expectation is that this group has the maturity to coalesce. Protecting the basket will improve -- especially via Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos, and Rondo and Darren Collison will distribute effectively and both possess the ability to finish games. Notwithstanding the addition of Marco Belinelli -- perimeter production from downtown remains a deficiency. Unless Ben McLemore and/or James Anderson deliver, opposing defenses will adjust and Sacramento’s overall offense will struggle. If it doesn’t improve -- expect an in-season acquisition to fix this issue.
If things break well -- including a healthy and engaged DeMarcus Cousins -- Sacramento could win 41 or more games. However, it could be 31 if Cousins is out for any reason or the core group loses focus. A reminder for fans -- the power to make it work resides wholly in the Kings locker room -- over the last two seasons six NBA teams have been +20 in the win column.
It can be done.
Deuce Mason - 41 Wins
Best-case scenario? The Kings can get the 7th or 8th seed.
Worst-case scenario? I don't even want to think about. It could get real ugly.
Realistic scenario? Around .500 in the West. Fans would go crazy if this team played .500 basketball headed into the new arena. I think their interior defense will be a strength with the additions of Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. I'm concerned with the shooting especially in the starting lineup. Rondo can't shoot, McLemore is inconsistent and Cauley-Stein isn't known for his perimeter shooting. I also don't want DeMarcus Cousins to fall in love with taking that three-point shot.
The team is clearly deeper and more talented this season, but the biggest question is can everyone be on the same page? How will they handle adversity during a tough stretch?
Cousins should have a monster year, Darren Collison will be very good and the Kings will be much more fun to watch. Unfortunately, the Western Conference is just ridiculously deep.
Ailene Voisin - 41 Wins
Kings general manager Vlade Divac scrapped the organization's perennial youth movement in an attempt to accelerate the team's return to relevance. He sacrificed second-year guard Nik Stauskas and a first-round draft choice to create cap space to acquire veterans Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli, and re-sign Omri Casspi. It was a gamble, but so are draft picks. Just check out the pass/fail rate for Lottery selections during the past decade.
This year's squad is still shaky at starting two-guard, but improved in several areas, specifically, backcourt depth, frontcourt size and length, perimeter shooting and overall talent, and should benefit from the stability of a full training camp with head coach George Karl.
But some things remain the same: The Kings ride DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie came to camp in the best shape of his career and comported himself like a mature veteran, refusing to be pulled into any controversies or the type of distractions that have plagued the franchise in recent seasons. If the sixth-year pro totally commits to Karl's brisk-paced system, making the extra pass and making his teammates better - which appears to be the case - he will make the All-Star team, secure a berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team and most importantly for Kings fans, lead his teammates into the chase for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
Tom Ziller - 38 Wins
For many Sacramentans, this will seem too pessimistic. But let's keep in mind that the Kings haven't broken 30 wins in years. A 38-win season would be a nine-win improvement. The roster is clearly better and deeper, but the top-line talent behind DeMarcus Cousins is not as good as other West playoff teams (despite Rudy Gay being much better than most people give him credit for) and there is still some uncertainty about how George Karl's style will fit with Cousins. With these two personalities, we're a bad stretch away from potential disaster ... and even good teams have bad stretches.
The biggest concern is the starting lineup, shooting and spacing, especially if James Anderson and Willie Cauley-Stein start. You can't have Gay being your only deep threat in a lineup. If Ben McLemore doesn't have a Bradley Beal-like leap, that could mean trouble for the team's depth as you'd need to rely on Marco Belinelli heavily or feature lots of double-point guard action with Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison (which is scary for a couple of reasons, most of them defense-related). Power forward depth is also a bit of a concern if Cousins is reliably at center and doesn't play a ton with Kosta Koufos (who is good). Eric Moreland looks promising and Quincy Acy plays hard, but ideally you'd have a solid scoring option there given that neither Cauley-Stein or Koufos is a shooter at this point.
The Kings need to be .500 or better at home and beat East teams on the road to get near 40 wins. That seems reasonable with this roster, but history is not on our side. Here's to hoping for something new.
Thanks to all for joining us.
As for me, I will go with 42 wins.
I predicted 38 wins going into last season with that roster and I figure this prediction is worth a four-game bump given the upgrade in talent this season and a full training camp under George Karl.
This season will either go really good or really bad, and a 14-win improvement from last season would be considered "really good" in my book. The question marks are abundant as illustrated by everyone above. But the most important factor remains the relationship between George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins. If the two of them are on the same page as they have said they are, and continue to be throughout the season, then this team can take it to the next level (if Cousins stays healthy). The issues that still exist - shooting, spacing, questions on defense and the rotation - will likely keep them out of the playoffs, but a surprise season should be expected.
What do you think?