Coming off a great week, the Kings started this one off on the right foot as well, taking care of business against the Philadelphia 76ers (although barely) but then took a couple steps backwards with lackluster performances against the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies. We’re almost halfway through the season and we still can’t reliably tell which team is going to show up from night to night. That’s more than a little frustrating.
The High Post
Despite Sacramento’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in rather embarrassing fashion, I thought it was notable that Coach Dave Joerger inserted Malachi Richardson into the game in the 3rd quarter. It was not yet garbage time and the game was definitely still in reach, and this is the first time all season Joerger has shown some trust in a rookie to play meaningful minutes. His hand was forced a bit with Ty Lawson’s injury and the lackluster overall play of any of our guards, but it was still good to see. Malachi didn’t blow anyone’s socks off with his play, especially during those minutes, but he did have some good minutes down the stretch, showcasing his handle and scoring ability. It impressed the Coach enough to indicate that he would be trying to work Malachi into the rotation more often, and at this point, why not?
The Low Post
DeMarcus Cousins was very upset after the Kings’ loss to the Grizzlies, calling the team soft on defense and saying that they took a step backwards. I have to agree, especially after Memphis got loose for three after three after three. The Grizzlies aren’t terrible at making the long shot anymore, not after bringing on some very good shooters, but this is still a team that ranks just 22nd in the NBA in three point percentage and the Kings let them hit a franchise record 17 three pointers on them. The team looked lackadaisical and unprepared, on both ends of the court. If this team truly wants to consider themselves a playoff team (and we heard that word thrown around a lot the last week when the Kings were in the midst of a four-game winning streak), they can’t take nights off.
The View from Section 214
8th seed number crunching:
Kings: 14-19 overall, 35-47 projection. 9-8 vs. sub-.500 teams, 5-11 vs. plus-.500 teams, 35-47 projection. 7-7 home, 7-12 road, 36-46 projection. December record: 7-8.
Nuggets: 14-19 overall, 35-47 projection. 11-9 vs. sub-.500 teams, 3-10 vs. plus-.500 teams, 32-50 projection. 7-9 home, 7-10 road, 35-47 projection. December record: 7-8
Blazers: 14-21 overall, 33-49 projection. 11-10 vs. sub-.500 teams, 3-11 vs. plus-.500 teams, 30-52 projection. 9-7 home, 5-14 road, 34-48 projection. December record: 4-11.
Pelicans: 14-21 overall, 33-49 projection. 9-8 vs. sub-.500 teams, 5-13 vs. plus-.500 teams, 33-49 projection. 10-10 home, 4-11 road, 31-51 projection. December record: 7-9.
Lowest win totals either conference to make the playoffs over the past ten years, working backwards: 41, 38, 38, 38, 35 (66 game season, projects to 43), 37, 41, 39, 37, 40. Ten year average: 38.
Based on the above numbers, it would seem that one of these teams is going to need to get at least a little bit better to secure the 8th seed. The numbers also seem to say that the Kings have at least a slight edge at this point, though that does not take into account the ability of a team to get healthy, gel, and go on a bit of run (New Orleans, hello!).
This could also result in the biggest ‘games behind” in playoff history. Last year’s Warriors posted a 32 game lead over its 1st round opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers. The 1996 Bulls had a 31 game lead over the Miami Heat. Current projections would give the Warriors 70 wins and roughly a 34 game lead over its 2017 1st round opponent. Yikes.
At the beginning of the season, I butt-pulled a 33-49 projection for this team, and added that it would take 30 games to know what we have. 30 games have come and gone, and what we have seen is a team short on overall talent, exceedingly so in the starting lineup at shooting guard, power forward and even point guard. That’s 60% of the starting lineup playing below (and in some cases well below) league average. DeMarcus Cousins and Garrett Temple may be playing the best basketball of their respective careers. Beyond that, it’s been a whole lotta meh.
My favorite portion of the New Year’s Eve game vs. Memphis was the last three minutes, watching the rookies take the court. I have no idea what the future holds for these guys, but I know that as a fan I was engaged, and that has really not happened very much this season. I’d like to see more of that, but as long as this team is geared to land the 8th seed, it will not occur. Nor should it, really. Playin’ the youngins’ is for teams that have committed to a rebuild, and that commitment is not (yet) a part of your 2016-17 Sacramento Kings.
So we roll forward, not knowing if we will have a 1st round pick in 2017 and knowing that we do not have one in 2019. We roll forward, wondering how long it takes an organization to recover from the flat-flushing of a top NBA player (Isaiah Thomas) for nothing in return. We roll forward, wondering what McCollum would look like instead of McLemore. We roll forward, wondering how many mistakes an ownership group can make before it finally determines to bring in the same level of professional help to the basketball operations side that it did to its much more successful business side. Where is the basketball operation’s Chris Granger?
Pitchers and catchers report in just a little over a month from now, just a couple of days before the all-star break. Here’s hoping for renewed hope on all fronts come mid-February.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Player of the Week
28.0 PTS, .439 FG%, .385 3P%, 6.3 REB, 6.3 AST, 3.3 STL, 1.0 BLK in 35.9 MPG
This wasn’t Boogie’s best week ever, but it did showcase the fact that he’s really the only guy the Kings can rely on night after night. No other King managed to stand out so singularly in every game this week, and that’s part of the problem as to why the Kings are so inconsistent. Especially with Rudy Gay out, the Kings are having to rely on players that have not proven to be reliable by any stretch of the imagination.
Highlight of the Week
(All times Pacific)
January 3rd at Denver Nuggets at 6:00 PM
January 4th vs. Miami Heat at 7:30 PM
January 6th vs. L.A. Clippers at 7:30 PM