Why Not to Sleep on the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings


Most “analysts” predict another losing season for the Sacramento Kings this year. In fact, in their 2014 Summer Forecast, ESPN predicted Sacramento to turn out 13th in the West. These individuals will point to an overly competitive Western Conference, the loss of Isaiah Thomas, no offseason blockbuster trade, or simply a lack of faith in “Boogie” Cousins. While I’m obviously not ready to predict a winning or playoff season, I do think Sacramento will be a force in the West, being especially problematic at home. The 2014-15 Kings should not be taken lightly, especially given the following:

1. Cousins Will Be An All-Star

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins had one of the greatest seasons for a non-All-Star in NBA history. He averaged 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, and was the 5th most efficient player overall with a 26.18 PER. Along with the Pelicans’ Davis, “Boogie” Cousins is by far in the top two of talented, offensive NBA centers; with untapped potential on defense. His handles and passing abilities are also freakishly unheard of for someone 6-11 and 270 lbs. In fact, this summer, Cousins was instrumental in Team USA winning the FIBA Championship. Team USA President Jerry Colangelo praised Boogie, saying “You can use all the superlatives you want and apply them to DeMarcus. He made the team, made a major contribution, made tremendous strides…[he] can build on this and have a tremendous career.”

Sure, pundits still rightfully criticize Cousins for his technicals or situationally poor decision making. However, many forget he just turned 24 and is in his second season of organizational and coaching stability. His first three seasons in Sacramento were a waste, with no team game plan and a confusing, disorganized roster to boot. With the Maloof stench slowly being lifted, a new aura of positivity and optimism surrounds him as he leads his team. This continuous belief in Cousins, one that ownership and coaching has placed in him, is one I share.

“I’m more confident being a defender. I always knew I could do it, but now I have the confidence” -Demarcus Cousins

The sky’s limit for “Boogie” this year, and his play alone will be enough to keep opposing teams sleeplessly worrying about how to stop him.

2. The Bench Is Deep

Sacramento now arguably possesses one of the deeper benches in the Western Conference. Especially after last December’s Rudy Gay trade, last season’s Kings saw an incredible drop-off in talent and production in bench play. Not only was talent lacking, players were confused over their roles with constant player turnover via D’Alessandro’s acquisitions.

While we only know of two for-sure starters, my guess is a bench comprised of Ramon Sessions, Derrick Williams, rookie Nik Stauskus, Jason Thompson, a healthy Carl Landry, Ryan Hollins, Omri Casspi, Ray McCallum, and rookie Eric Moreland. Nobody will confuse this group with the legendary “Bench Mob” of the early 2000’s, but it is still vastly improved. Sessions brings stability and play-making ability. Williams is an incredible athletic specimen who was simply drafted way too high in 2011. Nik Stauskus is an NBA-ready lights-out shooter; a healthy Carl Landry will speak for itself, and the rest of the bench embeds versatility, some experience, and athleticism.

Unlike last year, Sacramento has solid veterans and high-potential youngsters to spell their starting unit.

3. Sacramento Poses Matchup Problems

The Kings host an incredibly versatile roster that is loaded with players capable of playing multiple positions and spreading the floor. Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams can play almost any position. The team could go big with Cousins at the 4 and Hollins at center. Sessions and McCallum can play either guard spot, and Sacramento can run a three guard lineup with Stauskus on the floor. Even Omri Casspi spreads offenses as a stretch-4.

“I want to basically play a new brand of position-less basketball. I want to have these super-athletic, young guys that can run and feel out the game. Guys like Rudy Gay, and Derrick Williams, these are guys who can play the 1-2-3-4 positions.” -Kings Owner Vivek Ranadive

I’m not proclaiming the Kings have the most talented roster by any means. However, Sacramento embraces a vision of “position-less basketball” and has the ability to throw numerous lineups at opposing teams.

4. Coaching And Management Are Now Experienced

With any new job comes a learning curve. Coach Mike Malone’s first NBA season was a tumultuous one, as the team struggled defensively and played selfish basketball, winning just 28 games. In his second season, I’m predicting a jump in Malone’s ability to instill his message to a team friendlier to his defensive and passing schemes. Malone was a highly regarded assistant coach for many years and has an incredible reputation for connecting with and positively impacting his players. Last year was a learning experience for Malone and his staff, but given he now knows what doesn’t work, expect a jump in player receptiveness.

The same curve comes with the front office. Pete D’Alessandro was the most aggressive general manager in the NBA, with countless player acquisition and roster shakeups. Like Malone, with a year under his belt expect to see even greater capabilities in turning the team playoff-ready. Given the pieces he has already acquired, I’m optimistic he could swing a deal to land Sacramento another huge piece, further accelerating the team’s ascension.

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5. Ball Movement Will Be Better

Selfish and isolation basketball has unfortunately embodied Sacramento for years. Horrid decision-making by the previous regime left the Kings a “streetball” team with each man seemingly trying to “get his.” But this year there is optimism for change with acquisitions of unselfish point guards Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions to quarterback the team. While neither are world-beaters, they are efficient veterans. Sessions’ track record might supersede that of Collison, but Darren learned under the NBA’s best 1 last season and is ready to projectile his career.

In a nutshell, better ball movement, less dribbling, and more player involvement are needed for offensive efficiency and sustainability. In a controversial move, the Kings let Isaiah Thomas leave for Phoenix. After writing my first article for A Royal Pain praising Isaiah and arguing for his resigning, I’ve since changed my mind and understand why the organization let him walk. While not nearly as skilled as Thomas, both Collison and Sessions were brought in knowing their roles and come with playoff experience.

Improved ball movement does not stop with point guard play. Coach Malone has put a lot of emphasis on the subject throughout offseason and training camp; and has been given a clientele that should adhere to it. Overall, this improvement should allow for more consistency by getting others involved.