The Kings season is over and before we move on to discussing free agency, draft and trades, it's always interesting to go back and do a little retrospective. Just as we did at the midpoint of the season, I decided to give the Kings a final report card. We're going to 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
Note: Eric Moreland and David Stockton are not included in the report card as neither got much of a chance to play. We're also only going to be looking at Coach George Karl since we already graded Malone and Corbin at midseason. Now onto the grades:
Omri Casspi: B+
67 GP, 21.1 MPG, 8.9 PPG, .489 FG%, .402 3P%, .733 FT%, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.1 BLK, 1.3 TOV
The return of Omri Casspi was a pretty big success. Casspi had a career-year for the Kings and particularly excelled under George Karl. Casspi caught fire late in the season to more than double his 3P% from the halfway point of the season, shooting a phenomenal 46.2% from three in 30 games under Karl. Omri was also Sacramento's designated "wide receiver" on fastbreaks, always leaking out for easy buckets off of opponent miscues or missed shots. Casspi seems like a perfect fit for George Karl's system and definitely took to it faster than most of the rest of the roster. Casspi wants to be back in Sacramento next season and if his play this year is a sign of things to come, the Kings should also want him back.
Darren Collison: B
45 GP, 34.8 MPG, 16.1 PPG, .473 FG%, .373 3P%, .788 FT%, 3.2 RPG, 5.6 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.3 BLK, 2.5 TOV
Who would have thought that Darren Collison would only play 7 more games since the midpoint of the season? Collison's hip injury was unfortunate but his impact in the first half of the season should still be appreciated. He was one of Sacramento's most consistent players on either end of the court, providing solid scoring, playmaking and defense. It would have been nice to see what he could have done under George Karl, but hopefully we'll get to see that in 2015-16, whether that's Collison returning to the starting role or as a 6th man under another Point Guard acquired this summer.
DeMarcus Cousins: A-
59 GP, 34.1 MPG, 24.1 PPG, .467 FG%, .782 FT%, 12.7 RPG, 3.6 AST, 1.5 STL, 1.7 BLK, 4.3 TOV
Another season, another leap for DeMarcus Cousins. This season Cousins turned into a true two-way threat, putting a lot more effort into the defensive end than he has done in any of his prior seasons. He also increased his statistics across the board, although he did suffer from a drop in scoring efficiency over the second half of the season. Cousins still has issues with turnovers but he's also asked to do so much. He had a usage rate of over 34% this season, which is probably too much. The team relies a lot on him, and it's no surprise that they drop off so dramatically when he's not on the court. Perhaps the only real disappointing part of Cousins' season is that he wasn't able to play more, missing more than a quarter of the season due to injury and illness. Cousins might still end up with an All-NBA selection and hopefully is able to use this summer to rejuvenate his body and mind.
Reggie Evans: C
47 GP, 16.3 MPG, 3.7 PPG, .423 FG%, .619 FT%, 6.4 RPG, 0.7 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.1 BLK, 1.0 TOV
Reggie's time with the Sacramento Kings is likely over, and he pretty much proved to be exactly as advertised, bringing toughness and rebounding and not much else. It was hilarious watching the Kings try to post him up every so often, and even more hilarious on the rare occasion when it actually worked out. Reggie's value would probably be higher on a better team, but Reggie doesn't really help shore up Sacramento's weak spots.
Rudy Gay: B
68 GP, 35.4 MPG, 21.1 PPG, .455 FG%, .359 3P%, .858 FT%, 5.9 RPG, 3.7 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.6 BLK, 2.7 TOV
Rudy Gay had another great season for the Kings, although he too ended up missing quite a bit of time as the season wore on. Rudy again reached career-highs in several categories, and even was pretty consistent from three point range this year. Rudy got to play more small ball 4 this season under Karl and was actually pretty good in that role. However, the Kings need to be clear with Rudy on what his role going forward will be. We don't want him unnecessarily bulking up if he's not going to be playing Power Forward long term.
Ryan Hollins: C-
46 GP, 9.6 MPG, 3.0 PPG, .646 FG%, .574 FT%, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 AST, 0.1 STL, 0.4 BLK, 0.5 TOV
Ryan Hollins was an emergency big man for the Kings this year, signed to a minimum contract. I doubt he'll end up returning. He had some nice moments at times, but his time with the Kings has not been particularly memorable.
Carl Landry: C-
70 GP, 17.0 MPG, 7.2 PPG, .515 FG%, .820 FT%, 3.8 RPG, 0.4 AST, 0.2 STL, 0.2 BLK, 0.8 TOV
In compiling these statistics, I was surprised to see that Carl Landry had played 70 games for the Kings this year. Landry started off the season playing well under Coach Malone but fell out of favor with both Corbin and Karl. Landry doesn't really fit Karl's system, because he's not particularly great at running the floor, stretching the floor, rebounding, or passing. Yet Landry's contract makes him difficult to move and it's quite possible he could be on the team again next season. If he is, it will be interesting to see how the Kings utilize him.
Ray McCallum: C+
68 GP, 21.1 MPG, 7.4 PPG, .438 FG%, .306 3P%, .679 FT%, 2.6 RPG, 2.8 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.3 TOV
I named Ray Mac one of my biggest disappointments at the midseason but he was able to turn it around a bit under George Karl. Ray got the opportunity to play a lot more thanks to the injury of Darren Collison and while he didn't run the team as well as either Collison or Miller, he was able to regain some of his scoring efficiency. Ray seems like his future in the NBA is a scoring bench guard who can also provide a little bit of defense. We'll see if that's something the Kings think they need going forward as they do have options when it comes to bringing him back next season as his contract is unguaranteed.
Ben McLemore: B
82 GP, 32.6 MPG, 12.1 PPG, .437 FG%, .358 3P%, .813 FT%, 2.9 RPG, 1.7 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.7 TOV
I really like what I saw from Ben this year. I would agree with the sentiment of some that Ben is probably not an ideal NBA starting Shooting Guard at this point but last year he wasn't even looking like an ideal NBA bench player. Ben improved so much in so many areas this season. His shooting became a lot more consistent, he started creating his own shot more as well as attacking the rim. He improved his dribbling a lot and became a menace on the defensive end after looking lost much of his rookie year. Ben still has a lot of work to do on his overall game, but I think it's clear that this season showed that Ben is willing to put the work in and I'm looking forward to seeing him take another leap in his third season.
Andre Miller: C+
30 GP, 20.7 MPG, 5.7 PPG, .459 FG%, .231 3P%, .789 FT%, 2.5 RPG, 4.7 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.1 BLK, 1.9 TOV
Andre Miller was a breath of fresh air. In Miller the Kings had perhaps the purest PG they've had on the roster since Sergio Rodriguez, and Miller had way more experience. Miller had Sacramento's bench running better than it had all season, and found particular synergy with his favorite target, Derrick Williams. He wasn't good enough to be Sacramento's bench savior however, as he was too slow to stop anyone and wasn't particularly great at stretching the floor. Still, he was a very solid backup and I wouldn't mind seeing him returning to Sacramento's bench, either as a player or assistant coach.
Nik Stauskas: D+
73 GP, 15.4 MPG, 4.4 PPG, .365 FG%, .322 3P%, .859 FT%, 1.2 RPG, 0.9 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.2 BLK, 0.5 TOV
Nik Stauskas had an even rougher rookie season than Ben McLemore did last year. He was brought in to be a knockdown shooter and yet he wasn't able to do even that at a high rate until the end of the year. Under George Karl, Stauskas was finally hitting his threes at a good rate (42.2%) but by then the season was already out of reach. Stauskas also wasn't able to provide anything else of note. His ballhandling skills, which were utilized a lot at Michigan, didn't see much action. His defense remains a project. He will need to get much stronger and more consistent to even become a solid bench player.
A+ nickname though.
Jason Thompson: C+
81 GP, 24.6 MPG, 6.1 PPG, .470 FG%, .622 FT%, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.7 BLK, 1.0 TOV
Jason Thompson now sits alone atop the Sacramento Kings-era recordbooks for most games as a Sacramento King. And yet this is another season in which Thompson is jerked around and suffers from multiple coaches. Thompson was relegated to the bench by George Karl and wasn't able to make as big of an impact as he had early on in the season when he was one of Sacramento's better defenders. The Kings don't really know what to do with Thompson, as they would like a better shooter or better shot blocker. Yet Thompson keeps outlasting everyone else that's brought in.
Derrick Williams: C-
74 GP, 19.8 MPG, 8.3 PPG, .447 FG%, .314 3P%, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.1 BLK, 0.8 TOV
Derrick Williams is a very frustrating player. On the one hand, he's very exciting when he opts to attack the basket and catch alley-oops. Yet he continually tries to make himself a jump shooter despite not being very good at it. Even under Karl he only shot a mediocre 34.4% from three point range, and yet these accounted for almost 38% of his total shot attempts. Williams actually shot a very good 51.1% from two-point range this season, easily a career-high. If he can get his three point shooting to actually be consistent, he might have a future in the league. However he also needs to work on providing more than just scoring. He's not a good rebounder, passer or defender despite his tremendous athleticism. It's unlikely he'll return to Sacramento as the Kings will not be offering him the qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. He still has enough promise that he will catch on elsewhere, but he needs to carve a niche for himself if he hopes to have any staying power.
Coach George Karl: C+
11 W, 19 L, 103.9 ORtg, 107.2 DRtg, 99.17 Pace, .355 FTR, 50.5 TRB%, 58.4 AST%, .501 eFG%, 16.0 TOV%
Karl was not dealt a great hand to start with and he also had to implement a radically new system on the fly. He also didn't get to use Darren Collison once and had both DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay miss 10 games each. He did get the team playing faster and he did get them passing more, but the team suffered big drop-offs in a couple areas, notably on defense. The only teams worse defensively than the George Karl-led Kings teams were the Timberwolves and Lakers. The Kings also fell off on rebounding and continued to be one of the worst teams at turning the ball over. As such this season with Karl was about expected, all things considered. This was basically an extended training camp, with Karl gathering as much information about his team as possible. Expectations will be much higher in 2015-16, and Karl will have the time to hopefully get his team to buy in. Few coaches have a better track record of turning teams around but this might be Karl's biggest test yet.
Front Office: F
Yeah, I was a little (a lot) too nice during my midseason grading of the front office. I blame my PTSD of the last few years of Maloofery. But this season was a failure, and it was in large part due to the actions of this front office.
Sure, there were some good decisions. The Darren Collison signing was much better than expected, as was the Omri Casspi signing. The Ramon Sessions trade made up for an offseason mistake, getting the Kings a veteran PG in Andre Miller and freeing up salary for this summer. But the other decisions look suspect. Getting pretty much nothing for Isaiah Thomas was bad asset valuation, especially when he was a restricted free agent. Picking Nik Stauskas in the lottery also appears to have been a mistake, at least so far.
But by far the worst decision was firing Michael Malone in December. Malone might not have been the final solution but in their arrogance the Kings front office thought they were much farther along than they actually were. Malone had shown that he had the trust and respect of the locker room, and had the team playing very well when he had his best players. Furthermore, they made this decision without a plan B in place. Tyrone Corbin was left to be the fall guy and then when the season was spiraling out of control, the team finally decided to hire George Karl, but not before dragging DeMarcus Cousins' name into the media unnecessarily.
The season's over now and the damage has been done. It's now time to learn from the mistakes and hopefully begin the healing process. Vlade Divac was brought in to keep everybody on page, and Chris Mullin's exit will hopefully lead to a more defined heirarchy. For the first time under Ranadivé, Pete D'Alessandro has a coach he's on the same page with. Let's see what they can do this summer.
So why a D+ overall when above I called this season a failure? Well there were some good things salvaged out of this season. Ben McLemore's improvement, Cousins' continued dominance, Rudy Gay's extension and George Karl's hire were all great signs of hope for the future. There's also the fact that the Kings were able to be at least awful enough to keep their pick and have a decent shot in the lottery. It's not exactly sunshine and roses, but hey, it's a silver lining.
The Kings can't afford another one of these seasons however. They have pieces they can actually build around and expectations will be higher than ever.
What do you guys think? How would you grade the Kings on this season? Let us know in the comments below.