A season book-ended by wins against the Lakers seems like it should have a better overall result. But alas, in between those victories was a rough 20-44 record, sending the Kings back to the lottery where they’ll pin their hopes on the bounce of the ping pong balls. Saying Thursday’s win lacked the excitement of the season opener is putting it lightly; the Lakers sat basically their entire starting lineup with nothing to play for. The Kings got one last chance to pad their stats and give their loyal fans a bit of a show. The 113-96 win ensured the Kings avoided the Western Conference’s worst record.
GROWTH OF DMC – Easily the best thing to come from this season was the development of DeMarcus Cousins (38 MIN, 23 PTS, 9-19 FG, 19 REB, 2 AST). A year ago, Kings fans knew they had a talent but there was still a question as to whether it would be worth the trouble to groom. Today there are only a select few players in the league Kings fans would consider trading Cousins for. Keith Smart’s tutelage was clearly instrumental in getting Cousins on the right track. Against the Lakers, Cousins took advantage of the Gasol-Bynum-less Lakers and overpowered the rest of the LA bigs. The offensive board prowess, which has become a staple of Cousins’ game, was again prevalent. The big man ended the season on a strong note and the only one who can keep him from becoming one of the best players in the league is himself.
I.T. AS ROY? – Isaiah Thomas (26 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-6 FG, 7 AST, 1 TO) probably needed a stronger finish to get his name seriously into the discussion for Rookie of the Year. And to be honest, that’s justified. Kyrie Irving was a standout from start to finish. But that doesn’t take a thing away from Isaiah’s season. He wrapped up his incredible, surprising rookie campaign with a modest, efficient game against the Lakers. Looking into the future, there’s no reason not to pencil in Thomas as the Kings point guard next season. You know he won’t be satisfied with his game. His work ethic rivals anyone on the roster and he’s only going to get better as he learns the NBA game. The summer league will be very helpful, just as an opportunity for Kings coaches to work closely with him and focus on what they want from him as the team’s floor leader. Plus it’s awesome that Isaiah is so appreciative of his situation and the fans in Sacramento. He’ll be a fan favorite as long as he’s here.
HIT THE LOTTO – It was a tough predicament for Kings fans. You always want to roast the Lakers, but there were significant lottery implications on the line. A loss could have put the Kings in a three-way tie for the 3rd best lottery odds. As it stands with the win, Sacramento finds itself in a two-way tie for the 5th best lottery odds, which will put their chances of grabbing the 1st pick at about 8 percent. Sure, the extra chances would be nice, but really, it’s gonna take a lucky bounce regardless. And Sacramento hasn’t gotten one of those in years. The lottery takes places in late May, and the obvious prize of the NBA Draft is Kentucky big man Anthony Davis. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes would also look pretty good in purple and black.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Great to see Tyreke Evans (21 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 4 TO) and Jason Thompson (17 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK, 2 STL) close out their seasons with strong games. The future of both players is up in the air this summer … Tyler Honeycutt (15 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-5 FG, 5 REB, 2 AST) got some run and showed solid, but raw all-around skill. Quiet rookie campaign for the UCLA product. He’ll need to work hard this summer to keep a roster spot … There’s no way you can really be happy with that season. The expectations were much higher, especially after the season opening win against the Lakers. Playoffs were probably ambitious but expecting a near .500 record was realistic. The Kings had the talent to compete much better than they did on most nights. We’ll have to see what the Maloofs are willing to shell out this offseason to improve the roster and what moves Geoff Petrie can manufacture. Without a significant addition, it’s now hard to expect anything higher than .500.