October 25, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Greivis Vasquez (10) controls the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings vs. Denver Nuggets Preview


Mar 5, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari (8) fouls Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) on the shot during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. THe Denver Nuggets defeated the Sacramento Kings 120-113. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

You may not have heard, but there’s NBA basketball happening in Sacramento tonight.

While it’s probably more correct to say there is a party happening tonight at Sleep Train Arena at 7 p.m., but basketball will be happening as well. The Sacramento Kings will celebrate still being the Sacramento Kings with (hopefully) a sold out crowd of 17,317 faithful.

Vivek Ranadive and Shaquille O’Neal will be there. Pete D’Alessandro and Chris Mullin will be there. Apparently, Jay Sean will perform at halftime. Old Kings players will be there. Commissioner David Stern will be there as part of his retirement tour.

Oh, and the Denver Nuggets might be there.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sacramento Kings:

Denver Nuggets:

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky C: JaVale McGee, 7’0, Nevada
PF: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky PF: J.J. Hickson, 6’9, NC State
SF: John Salmons, 6’6, Miami (FL) SF: Anthony Randolph, 6’11, LSU
SG: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU SG: Randy Foye, 6’4, Villanova
PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland PG: Ty Lawson, 6’4, North Carolina

Key Bench Players:

G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington G: Andre Miller, 6’2, Utah
F: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6’8, UCLA F: Wilson Chandler, 6’8, DePaul
C: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider F: Kenneth Faried, 6’8, Morehead State

Last Three Contests:

March 23rd, 2013: Kings @ Nuggets – Nuggets 101, Kings 95
March 5th, 2013: Nuggets @ Kings – Nuggets 120, Kings 113
January 26th, 2013: Kings @ Nuggets – Nuggets 121, Kings 93

Key Matchup: Greivis Vasquez vs. Ty Lawson

While it isn’t a sure thing that Vasquez will start, it’s been pretty heavily rumored, and the usual spot-on Aaron Bruski reported it on Sunday.

Vasquez brings a pass-first approach Sacramento hasn’t had in many years, and he’s got a basketball IQ that drawfs the rest of the guards. The problem with Vasquez is while he’s got excellent size for a point, he lacks the speed and athleticism to keep up with faster opponents. Against Ty Lawson, one of the fastest guards in the league, this could pose a serious concern for Coach Malone’s defense.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Kings Rotation: Mike Malone has made it clear he wants to get a set rotation down, a welcome change for Kings players and fans alike who bristled at Keith Smart‘s inconsistent lineups. It’ll be most interesting to watch how Malone handles the point guard position – how Thomas and Vasquez split the time – and how much Jimmer Fredette and Ben McLemore see at the shooting guard slot. While any rotation can be changed as players improve, Kings fans will be getting a basic look at Malone’s plans going forward.

2. New Nuggets Identity: The Denver Nuggets won 57 games last year, had the Coach of the Year and the Executive of the Year. Now six months later, they’re without their best player from that squad (Andre Iguodala, now in Golden State), their Head Coach (they let go George Karl) and their GM (Masai Ujiri headed to Toronto).

New Coach Brian Shaw and GM Tim Connelly are stuck in limbo. In the hyper-competitive West, their squad likely doesn’t have the talent for a Playoff run, but unlikely to finish with a exceptionally high draft slot. The Nuggets are hard to predict going forward.

3. The Sacramento Celebration: The Kings ownership group and executive staff have been planning the opening night game for months. Despite the new plans for a downtown arena, they’ve made significant upgrades to Sleep Train Arena. The Kings will host a FanFest starting at 4 p.m., and during the first quarter, Major Kevin Johnson and David Stern will give a presentation that should be met with the loudest standing ovation the old barn has ever had. We’re in for a treat tonight, regardless of how the Kings fare on the court.

Prediction: Kings 100, Nuggets 94

Tags: Denver Nuggets NBA Sacramento Kings