About a quarter of the way through the season, Kings fans are pissed off. The team doesn’t look measurably better than last season on either end of the floor and they can’t seem to find any way to succeed in end of game situations. To top it all off, we have Kings players getting into fights in nightclubs in New York City. #SacramentoProud
The High Post
This is one of those weeks where I wish I still had the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly” format because there sure isn’t much good to talk about right now. The play of the bench, particularly Casspi, Temple and Lawson, deserves some praise, but really perhaps the best thing for Kings fans right now is that it is almost December 15th. December 15th is notable in that it is the first day that players signed this summer can be traded, allowing for much more opportunities on the trade market. At this point, nobody on the Kings should be off the table. Rudy Gay will perhaps be the most shopped Sacramento King as he is almost certainly leaving at the end of the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to also see guys like Darren Collison (on an expiring deal), Ben McLemore (way too inconsistent), Arron Afflalo (can’t even get minutes on a team starving for SG play), Kosta Koufos (solid, reliable, bad fit next to Cousins) and others all shopped hard by the Kings. There is no quick fix for this team; That’s what years of bad management, drafting and free agent signings will do. The sooner this team starts to develop a plan for the future, the better off they will be. No more bandaids.
The Low Post
We couldn’t even make it 30 games without a Matt Barnes incident. I’ve heard a lot from some fans this season that Matt Barnes is one of those guys that you hate when he’s not on your team but love when he is. I can’t say that I agree. The Kings have been awfully quiet on the issue, and aside from sitting Barnes one game (he came back and played 15 minutes against Utah), they haven’t done anything despite rumors that the NYPD is close to charging him for misdemeanor assault and filing a warrant for his arrest.
This is partly why I never understood the Matt Barnes signing in the first place. Where is the upside in signing a 37 year old wing man who isn’t going to be a part of this team’s future? At best, Barnes was going to be a designated stopper who maybe helps the Kings win an extra game or two. But it’s not even as if he’s doing that. Per basketball-reference, the Kings are actually WORSE on defense with Barnes on the floor (allowing 109.1 Points per 100 possessions compared to 107.5 with him off) and also worse on offense. He’s shooting 35.5% from the field to boot and somehow he’s still averaging 25 minutes a game, the fourth most on the team. And the Kings signed him to a 2 year, $12 million deal with a player option for next season. This team, man.
The View from Section 214
I’m a simple man by trait. A small, simple man. I love the humor of my 15 and 12 year old children not because they are my children, but because I find Jr. High / High School humor genuinely funny. I achieve satisfaction on every visit to Jack in the Box. Every. Visit. I don’t look for deeper meaning in my vast treasure trove of music – I just like rhythm and the sound. To borrow some phrasing from our dear fellow StR member gallo del cielo, “section214 is not a complex man.”
So when I look at the shortcomings of our Sacramento Kings, I like to keep it simple. Not for you, mind you, but for me, because it is damned hard to write what you yourself cannot understand.
As of this writing, here are your top five Kings in minutes per game: DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, and Matt Barnes. Let’s compare that to that team just down highway 80: Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala. Yipes! If that looks scary to you, then you definitely don’t want to look at it in this format:
Cousins – Durant, Gay – Thompson, Collison – Curry, Afflalo – Green, Barnes – Iguodala.
It doesn’t get much better if you run this test with San Antonio (Leonard, Aldridge, P. Gasol, Parker, Da. Green) or the Clippers (Griffin, Jordan, Paul, Redick, Crawford). The Kings fall short of Utah (Hayward, Hill, Gobert, Hood, J. Johnson…with Favors liable to crack the top five as he makes his way back from injury). The Kings are closer to Portland (Lillard, McCollom, Harkless, Crabbe, Plumlee), but still fall at least slightly short.
Methinks that perhaps a lack of talent is what ails this team.
Breaking this down by position, the Kings are set at center, both starting and bench. Cousins is at least a top three center in my book in the here and the now, and it would be hard to argue him out of the top five. Koufos is a serviceable bench center behind Cousins.
The Kings are OK at small forward, but it is not as though they are anywhere near elite. Rudy Gay still resides in the upper half of small forwards, but get a load of this list: James, Durant, Leonard, Butler, George, Antetokounmpo, Hayward, Anthony, Crowder, H.Barnes, Porter, Wiggins, Harkless, Kidd-Gilchrist, Iguodala. That’s fifteen guys. Gay is not nearly as good as the first half of that list, and falls in somewhere in that second half. He’s a guy whose ranking would make him a viable third option on a playoff-caliber team. The bench is fine with either Casspi or he who shall not be named in my column.
Point guard comes next, and while Darren Collison is not playing poorly, he really doesn’t crack the top half in NBA point guards: Westbrook, Paul, Curry, Lillard, Wall, Conley, Lowry, Irving, Thomas, Hill, Walker, Teague, Bledsoe, Dragic, Rubio, Russell, Lin, Jrue Holiday, Rose, Schroder, Parker. That’s 21 guys, and I think that Collison fits in somewhere in the bottom portion of that list. Lawson does a representable job as a bench point guard, but overall the point guard rotation does not crack the top fifteen for me. It would be fine for a team that had more talent at the top of its roster.
Starting shooting guard is an absolute disaster. The best shooting guard on this team is Garrett Temple (The Swish Army Knife™), and he would probably rank in the low thirties among shooting guards. This is not a rap on Temple, as he is an elite bench guard at this juncture of his career. And making him a starter on this team would likely improve the starting lineup, while simultaneously removing the best thing that this team has coming off the bench. I’m not sure that the ends would justify the means, and I wouldn’t envision Temple as cracking the top half of starting shooting guards as a starter. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing Temple pick up 2-3 more minutes per game (this would match his career high and likely be near the tipping point of adversely impacting his defensive energy). Afflalo and McLemore would have trouble finding rotation minutes for most good teams.
Does this team even employ a power forward? The play of Willie Cauley-Stein does not really translate to it at this point in time, and Anthony Tolliver seems overmatched on the defensive end. Kosta Koufos is not a power forward, nor is Cousins when paired with Koufos or WCS. Wasn’t this position (as was shooting guard) an item of great need this past off-season?
Recapping, this team is ahead of the curve at center and bench shooting guard…and that’s about it. Serviceable though not outstanding at small forward, slightly behind the curve at point guard, and a nightmare of epic proportions at power forward and starting shooting guard.
The result is a team that could not compete as a “big” team due to lack of talent on the front line, and has been generally dominated on the boards since going “small” (currently tied for 20th in rebounding rate and falling – Cousins has dropped to 15th in rate among players that play at least half the game, due in part to his increased work on the perimeter…Cousins now rebounds at a rate similar to the Trevor Bookers and Julius Randles of the world). Joerger has been wise to slow the pace of the team, as it is not really an efficient shooting squad, either (tied for 21st in effective FG%, though 15th in TS%). This also aids Cousins, as a slower pace and fewer offensive and defensive positions translates to fewer foul opportunities.
What does this simple man think? Go to Garrett Temple a little earlier in games, or stick with him a little later. And that’s about it as far as game management goes. Beyond that, it’s time to have a serious business meeting with the front office and find out exactly what their plan is to fix this mess.
Nice arena, though.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Player of the Week
10.0 PTS, .640 FG%, .500 3P%, 4.0 RPG, 1.8 AST, 0.8 STL in 21.2 MPG
After seemingly starting the year in the doghouse with new Coach Dave Joerger, Omri has managed to take advantage of recent opportunity off Sacramento’s bench and has provided some really quality minutes. Casspi’s ability to run out in transition and provide much needed spacing has really given the Kings a boost, and he meshes well with the bench group featuring Ty Lawson and Garrett Temple. Personally, I think both Casspi and Temple should be in the starting lineup to provide more reliable minutes for both throughout the game. That’ll end up hurting our bench, but it’s not as if the Kings are playing perfect basketball right now where they can’t afford to mix things up.
Highlight of the Week
(all times Pacific)
12/12 vs. L.A. Lakers at 7:30 p.m.
12/14 at Houston Rockets at 5:00 p.m.
12/16 at Memphis Grizzlies at 5:00 p.m.