Which Two Sacramento Kings Could Be All-Stars?


I like to consider myself a logical optimist, especially concerning the Sacramento Kings. I don’t think this Kings team is going to challenge the top dogs of the Western Conference for a title this season, but they certainly seem to be much better than they’ve been in the last few seasons.

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I also don’t expect the Kings to pull an Atlanta Hawks and have four All-Stars this coming season, but I think there’s a chance two of Sacramento’s players manage to make the All-Star team, despite the intense Western Conference competition.

DeMarcus Cousins is an obvious pick. He was an All-Star and made the All-NBA Second Team last season, and that was despite being on a very poor team and missing 23 games due to various injuries. But who else on the Kings do I see making a run for the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto?

As much as I believe they’re both going to have marked improvement over their performances last season, I can’t honestly say that I think Ben McLemore or Rajon Rondo can make the cut. Even if they both perform very well, they would still need to outplay Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard–clearly no small feat.

And let’s not forget this is as much a popularity contest as it is a measure of the best players–Kobe Bryant was the final All-Star guard last season. Bryant played just 35 games, and shot just 37 percent in those few games. He clearly wasn’t playing at the level those other guys were–but he’s Kobe, so he got in.

The Kings guards will suffer from the popularity contest aspect of it–outside of using Sacramento as a punching bag and watching to see when exactly the long-anticipated implosion is coming, the national NBA community doesn’t really give a damn about Sacramento basketball.

Winning can change that perception, but don’t expect it to turn around by the time the All-Star game rolls around. I would be pretty surprised if more than two of the All-Star guards from last season get replaced, and even if they do Ty Lawson, Brandon Knight, Jrue Holiday and Mike Conley will all be battling for any open spots–and there’s a solid chance all four of those guys are playing on better teams and thus getting more press than Rondo or McLemore.

So Boogie has a great shot to go as a center and it seems unlikely that any Sacramento guards will make the cut. That leaves my second expected Kings All-Star as Rudy Gay at the forward position. It will take the best season of Gay’s career and a huge voting campaign by Kings fans, but I think there’s a shot Rudy makes the team.

The forwards Gay will have to beat out aren’t exactly a bad bunch themselves. Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin were the forwards that represented the West in 2015. It’s a lock that Davis, Durant and Griffin go back–they’re young superstars who only seem to gain popularity each season.

So Gay needs to beat out one of the Spurs forwards (one of whom should really count as a center this season) or Dirk. Luckily for his chances, Dirk and Duncan are both exceptionally old for All-Stars. They were both still very good last season, but this year Dirk and the Mavericks should struggle to get wins, and Duncan has to start showing his age someday.

That could leave up to two potential spots open that Rudy could put in a strong resume for. Considering he’ll be on the best Kings team since he arrived in Sacramento and his numbers in a Kings uniform have increased each season despite his lack of help, Gay has a great chance to put up a career year in 2016 and find himself back in Toronto–at least for a few days.

7 seasonsMEM44336.215.2.4523.0.3444.0.7715.
2 seasonsSAC12235.015.9.4672.9.3415.6.8485.
2 seasonsTOR5035.017.6.4113.7.3474.5.8246.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2015.

Looking at his career per game numbers, it’s clear that Gay has played well for most of his time in the NBA but really excelled in Sacramento. His field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists per game, fouls per game and points per game have all been the highest in his season and a half with the Kings.

The only thing noticeably worse here has been Gay’s three-point percentage, which should hopefully see a bit of a boost thanks to the addition of a fellow shooter in Marco Belinelli and a true point guard who will hopefully hook Gay up with some better looks in Rondo.

So if he starts the season hot, let’s make this Rudy Gay All-Star push a real thing. It’s about time we got Sacramento out there in a positive light, and it’s not like Gay is any stranger to selling himself to the basketball world. He is, after all, the most interesting man in the NBA:

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