How Kosta Koufos Fits in with the Sacramento Kings


When DeMarcus Cousins was on the court last year, the Sacramento Kings were actually a pretty good team. It was when Cousins stepped off the court that things got ugly.

Sacramento posted an offensive rating (points scored per hundred possessions, or ORtg) of 106.7 and a defensive rating (points allowed per hundred possessions, or DRtg) of 105.8 when Cousins was in the game during the 2014-2015 season. When Cousins was on the bench, the team’s ORtg dropped to 104.1, and the DRtg skyrocketed up to 112.7. The Kings were a winning team with Cousins on the court, and a bottom-feeder when he took a seat.

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That jarring disparity between possible playoff team and possible first overall pick was thanks to the Kings’ complete lack of depth behind Cousins last year. There was an absolute chasm between Cousins and his backups, guys like Ryan Hollins and Eric Moreland. Considering the fact that Cousins spent about half the year out with an illness or on the bench, you can bet that this lack of depth contributed heavily to Sacramento’s subpar season.

Finding a solution to this rather glaring problem was one of Vlade Divac‘s top priorities this offseason. With the admittedly unsexy signing of veteran big man Kosta Koufos to a 4-year, $33 million deal, Divac did just that.

Koufos is entering his tenth year in the NBA after one year with Ohio State. The seven-footer has bounced from team to team, playing for Utah, Minnesota, Denver and Memphis, usually in a backup role.

The most important attribute that Koufos brings to the table is his defense, which is what hurt the most whenever Cousins took a breather. Koufos has posted a DRtg of 102 over the course of his career, a better rating than that of Marc Gasol, and equal rating to that of DeAndre Jordan. His Real Defensive Plus-Minus of 3.3 ranked ninth out of all centers last season. Koufos averaged almost two blocks and eight defensive rebounds per 36 minutes last year, excellent marks that underline his strong defensive presence in the key.

Now, that won’t fit in well with Cousins, a fellow low-post defender. The same holds true offensively. Koufos is far from dead weight on that side of the ball, which makes him more useful than if he were just a defensive specialist. Koufos averaged 5.4 points per game on around 16 minutes per game last season, which translates to 11.2 points per 36 minutes. He’s not Hakeem Olajuwon, but he knows what he’s doing down low.

Unfortunately, down low is the only place Koufos is really capable of scoring from. The Greek only shoots above fifty percent within three feet, and he’s essentially incapable of making a shot from further than ten feet in a game. An offense starting Koufos and Cousins together would either cease to function or force Cousins to play further from the basket than he should, making such an arrangement a no-go. Let Willie Cauley-Stein start at power forward, and let Koufos anchor the bench unit.

Not only does Koufos bring some much-needed defensive ability, he also brings some good history with head coach George Karl. Koufos played for Karl for three seasons while with the Nuggets, and even started for one of those seasons. When asked on Sirius XM NBA Radio about playing for Karl again this year, Koufos had this to say:

Koufos has experience in Karl’s system, and he gets along with the coach, two very important traits to have on this Kings team. $8.25 million a year does seem like a lot to give to a backup center, but when you consider what Koufos brings to the table, and how badly the Kings need a backup big man, it starts to feel like a bargain.

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