Welcome to week two of the Yetisburg Address, where we address the week that was for the Sacramento Kings. It was a week of both ups and downs and in just seven days the Kings played a whopping five games, going 2-3 despite having the opportunity to be 4-1. Sacramento now gets a well-deserved break of four days before finally settling in for a homestand, although that homestand comes against only teams that made the playoffs last season. At some point, the Kings are going to have to start winning those games, but Sacramento’s record could get a lot uglier than 4-7 before it gets better.
The High Post
This was a disappointing week in many ways and it would have been easier to find something positive to talk about if Sacramento had managed to hold on to a 19 point lead at home to the Lakers, or if they had eked out a win the next night against the Trail Blazers. But hey, this is the positive section, and it’s not like this week was completely disastrous. Perhaps the best moment came last Sunday, when the Kings were facing a winless road trip in Toronto after going 0-4 and losing by 26 to Milwaukee the previous night. I don’t think anybody expected the Kings to win that game.
Yet win they did, and they did so with defense. They held Kyle Lowry to just 15 points on 5-16 shooting. DeMar DeRozan scored 23 but needed 20 shots to do so. Only Pascal Siakam (10 points) joined those two in double figures scoring. The Kings held the Raptors to just 35.7% from the field and 23.3% from three. Meanwhile the Kings got double digit scoring from everyone in their starting lineup aside from Ty Lawson. Rudy Gay came back from a rib injury that kept him out the night before to put up 23 points, including some big shots down the stretch. DeMarcus Cousins struggled with his shot, only making 7 of 21 for 22 points, but he also had a huge block on defense against DeRozan as the Raptors tried to keep the game close that solidified the win. If this game was a sign of what the Kings might look like as they get more comfortable with Dave Joerger’s system, sign me up. Of course as we saw throughout the rest of the week, that kind of consistency isn’t there for this team yet.
The Low Post
11 games into the season (by the way, the Kings are the only team in the NBA to have played 11 games already, thanks schedule makers) the Kings are still struggling to find a consistent rotation or help beyond DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Darren Collison’s return helps, and his absence probably cost the Kings a game or two that they might have won otherwise, but the Kings really need more consistent production from others. Right now, Dave Joerger is still searching for a rotation that can provide him with some of that consistency and he hasn’t found it yet. Guys like Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Willie Cauley-Stein and Anthony Tolliver have alternated between DNPs and playing big minutes.
Right now, Joerger seems to be going with guys who can help defensively to play more consistent minutes. The problem with that however is that the Kings defense, still hasn’t been good. Right now the team has a defensive rating of 109.4 (per basketball-reference), or a full point worse than last season. To be fair, the Kings haven’t had a whole lot (if any) practice time due to the schedule, and it’s a new coach and a new system.
It’s not just the defense either, as the offense tends to fall apart when DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay aren’t in and as we saw in the Lakers game, sometimes it falls apart even when they’re in as teams make adjustments and force other players to make plays. Ty Lawson has probably played better than some of us expected, as he runs the offense well. However that doesn’t take away from the fact that Lawson is currently shooting just 31% from the field and averaging just 5.6 points a game. He went three games in a row this past week without making a single field goal, and then followed up a 4-6 performance against L.A. with an 0-4 showing in Portland. I can’t see Lawson retaining his starting role much longer now that Collison’s back, and if Lawson continues to produce donuts on offense, it might be time to ring Jordan Farmar up and get someone that can produce. I’ll let Tim talk a little bit more about the Point Guard issue below.
I hope that we can find some consistency on this homestand now that the Kings have a four day break for the first time since before the season began. We can’t be juggling the rotation all year long.
The View from Section 214
I had the opportunity to attend the 10/29 Minnesota game with betweentheeyes (insert name drop gif #1 here). And it was prior to that game that bte & I were blessed with an audience with the one and only Jerry Reynolds (insert name drop gif #2 here). Bte will have to be the official timekeeper of our discussion with Mr. Reynolds, as it seemed to be over in a flash for me, and I’m sure that it felt like three weeks (or the 2nd half of a Kings/Lakers game) to Jerry.
Be that as it may, we covered a lot of ground, and one place where we agreed is that it would take roughly 30 games to really know what this team was. Well, we’re a bit more than a third of the way there, so final pronouncements are still a ways off. But in reviewing the short-term, what we see is an inconsistent team yielding inconsistent results, often times failing to maintain a baseline-to-baseline balance for more than 7-8 minutes at a time. Yes, basketball is a game of runs, so maybe it’s appropriate that this team often makes me feel as though I have them (the runs, that is).
The Kings have amassed a 4-7 record, including 1-4 against plus-.500 teams, 3-2 against sub-.500 teams, and 0-1 against .500 teams. 2-2 at home and 2-5 on the road. Depending on how you wish to extrapolate out the numbers, the 82 game projection for this small-sample-size-approved data would be somewhere between 29-33 wins.
The reasons for this uneven play seem pretty simple. A new coach (again), a new system (ditto) and new players (deja vu). The effort has been pretty good through the first ten games, which is something that should be expected and not applauded - but refreshing nonetheless after what we saw last year. The execution has been less than stellar, though again that is likely the byproduct of the new system/players.
I don’t know much (and this is a statistical fact that has been proven over and over again), but I can hazard a guess that if this team doesn’t gel quickly, DeMarcus Cousins is going to want out. And unless Boston hits a level of desperation over their season, the Kings will be left selling off Cousins for pennies on the dollar, the seller’s market of the summer of 2016 being long gone.
I understand the risk/reward that the Kings are employing here. How many tugs of the brass ring do you need to get a DeMarcus Cousins, or at the very least comparable overall net value? The odds are probably against the Kings breaking even with a Jaylen Brown / Brooklyn pick / filler bounty for Cousins. But I think that the Kings have yet to run the risk/reward analysis of eventually losing Cousins for nothing (see Oklahoma City) or near-nothing (see Cleveland a few years back). Cousins represents the only pick not named Isaiah Thomas to pan out in a big way for the Kings over the past decade, and the Kings are beginning to close in on the possibility of losing Cousins for little or nothing in return.
I get it. The Kings talked themselves into George Karl being the (most recent) cause, and the hiring of Dave Joerger would be the cure. But the early returns are not supporting that thought. And unless Boston pushes the panic button, it’s hard to see an NBA team out there that would (a) have the assets that the Kings would be looking for and (b) have enough remaining talent after the trade to make a trade for Cousins worthwhile for the team that is acquiring him (this is where a deal with someone like Orlando really falls apart, as the Magic would become Sacramento-East if they dealt their young talent for Cuz).
Tick-tick-tick has been my mantra for some time now. That third tick is going to become a boom sooner than later. If this team has not righted its play or dealt Cousins by the 30 game mark, the next several years for this franchise could be as dark and depressing as the past decade.
Nice arena, though.
Giraffe Analysis: Son of Law vs Son of Colli
This past week showed us what we have in our point guard rotation. While Ty Lawson started every game, Darren Collison clearly demonstrated that he is the better offensive and defensive option. It will be interesting to see if, and hopefully, when Coach Joerger makes the switch to starting D.C. Four days of practice and drilling would seem to be the optimal time to introduce new players in the starting lineup.
The two biggest differences between Collison and Lawson are shooting ability and defense. Over the past five games, Lawson has shot a combined 4/25 from the field. That’s an astounding 16% accuracy. Although that could be attributed to a shooting slump, Ty is averaging a dismal 31% on the entire season. No team can survive with that level of shooting incompetency in their starting point guard. On the other side of the equation, Darren is averaging 42% from the field in only three games, one of which he shot 2/11. Collison is one of only three Kings players that can simply go get a bucket when we are in a scoring drought.
Collison also provides a defensive intesnity that Lawson simply can’t match. Darren was one of the difference makers last night against the nuclear-duo that is Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. He was constantly in the grill of Dame and played picture-perfect defense on the final possession of regulation which forced Lillard into a tough shot. Lawson’s size gets taken advantage of by most of the quality NBA point guards. Guys like Russell Westbrook, Daminan Lillard, and Chris Paul can post him up with ease or shoot over him with no issue. Ty cannot be relied upon to be an effective defender against starting-caliber players.
Coach finally has a small break to get things organized and to start to solidify his fairly inconsistent lineups. There’s debate to be had between Afflalo, Temple, and McLemore as well as Cauley-Stein, Koufos, and Barnes, but there isn’t any question as to who should be starting come Wednesday night against the Spurs.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Player of the Week
22.0 PPG, .470 FG%, .375 3P%, 8.3 RPG, 2.8 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.5 BLK in 35.8 MPG
For the second straight week in a row, I have to give this honor to Rudy Gay. Gay and DeMarcus Cousins have both been phenomenal this season, but Gay has been more consistent on both ends of the court, but particularly defense. Per NBA.com the only current Kings with a positive Net Rating (that means the Kings play better than their opponent with them on the court) are Rudy Gay (Net Rtg 4.3) and Darren Collison (6.2). If Rudy keeps this up, it’ll present an interesting dilemma for the Kings as there is almost no way they can replace his production in a trade, but they’ll probably have to trade him to avoid losing him for nothing.
Highlight of the Week
(all times Pacific)
11/16 vs. San Antonio Spurs at 7:30 p.m.
11/18 vs. L.A. Clippers at 7:30 p.m.