2016-17 NBA Preview: Sacramento Kings
For a moment, let’s think about what was going on in the world 10 years ago around this time. MySpace and Facebook were on top of the social media boom and the Digital Age was officially underway. Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack was the number one song in the country. President George Bush was losing support from the general population (including his own Republican party). Guess what happened also in 2006? That was the last time the Sacramento Kings have made the playoffs. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves have had a longer playoff drought than this team has currently. That at the moment is looking like it will be a distant memory, as the Wolves are primed to be the next Western Conference powerhouse to eventually challenge the Golden State Warriors, due to the hiring of head coach Tom Thibodeau and the rising of the franchise player Karl Anthony Towns.
The Kings, on the other hand? They will continue to torture the hearts of its loyal fans, including yours truly. Since the departure of Rick Adelman, the team has gone through seven head coaches (with a piss poor record of 277-527 in that time). More draft busts that I wish I can forget about but am reminded of by friends and fans alike. (What was the damn point of drafting Thomas Robinson again?). It’s been so trash as a fan over the years that former player Jason Thompson actually ranks among the Kings all time in several categories. Just to let you know where he’s at these days, he’s playing in China. And this is after the team finally decided to move on from him just two seasons ago.
Again, the team begins the season with a new head coach in Dave Joerger, which is probably the smartest hire you can possibly make with a team this dysfunctional. The move seems to be a blessing from the basketball gods and one must wonder why the Memphis Grizzlies got rid of a coach who made the playoffs under his watch in the three years he coached, including the injury-riddled squad last year that had more hurt players than one could remember. He is a progressive coach whom contrary to popular belief wasn’t too fond of the grit and grind, slow down tempo that was such a staple in Memphis. One of his major tasks as the new coach is to figure out how to fix a defense that has consistently ranked near the bottom of the league for years now. If he can even get the guys to play harder on that side of the ball, it would do wonders for this club. Willie Cauley Stein has looked impressive in stretches in his rookie season and it would not be a surprise if he becomes the starting power forward to be the defensive anchor the team desperately needs.
The other task he will have to tackle is if he and Demarcus Cousins can be on the same page. The only coach so far in DMC’s professional career he has taken a liking to at this point was Mike Malone until he was fired in the early 2014-2015 season. He’s certainly the enigma for any new coach to manage, but if he and Joerger can get on the same page, watch out. He has all the talent in the world and with a summer spent in Rio for the Men’s Olympic basketball games, look for a more controlled and mature Cousins to take the court. (Notice I said controlled. I’m expecting techs from the big fella still this season)
GM Vlade Divac’s moves in the offseason can be labeled confusing at best. In the draft, he did what we all thought was the smart move: trade back from the 8th pick to the 13th and also received the 28th pick and the rights to European unknown Bogdan Bogdanovic. To the surprise of no one that knows this team, the draft choice of Georgios Papagiannis is as anticlimatic as it gets. There’s potential, but the team needed a rookie who could contribute immediately and the Kings got a project player that remains to be seen what he’ll offer. The signing of Aaron Afflalo could spell doom for Ben Mclemore’s time as a King, as it appears Afflalo will be the starting SG. Look for the team to try and move the disappointing Mclemore, who is in the last year of his rookie deal. Entering his final year of his contract, Rudy Gay is also on the trade block as his name been mentioned in the past. A current NBA rumor has Gay and Darren Collison heading to the Miami Heat for Goran Dragic and is something to keep an eye out for, as Dragic gives them a quality starting point guard locked in for a few seasons. To Vlade’s credit, a lot of players are on shorter deals so Vlade will continue to be aggressive as he tries to turn around the franchise.
The new Golden 1 Center is supposed to usher in a new era of Sacramento basketball, but at the moment it feels like the same story with these guys. Owner Vivek Ranadive is expecting this unit to bring exciting playoff ball to the fans and the only thing they are bringing in is more Jameson shots for me to drink the heartache away. Why do I still root for these guys?
Tentative Starting Lineup:
PG - Darren Collison
SG - Aaron Afflalo
SF - Rudy Gay
PF - Willie Cauley Stein
C - Demarcus Cousins
Key contributing reserves:
C - Kosta Koufos
SF - Omri Casspi
SF - Matt Barnes
2016-17 Season Prediction: 30-52