Preview: Sacramento Kings Frontcourt To Be Tested Tonight In Houston


Saturday’s matchup between the Houston Rockets (9-11) and the Sacramento Kings (7-13) is a worrisome one.

As Sacramento tries for its second road win of the season in eight tries, Houston is starting to find its rhythm under head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

Winners of five out of their nine games under Bickerstaff, winning four of its last five, the Rockets are coming off a Friday night victory in Dallas. They sit in the eighth slot of the NBA’s Western Conference playoff picture.

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The Kings, meanwhile, are two games back of Houston, coming off an embarrassing showing in Mexico City. And its rookie, Willie Cauley-Stein, will now miss 4-6 weeks with a dislocated finger.

For a guy averaging a relatively small 19 minutes per game, WCS’s absence will significantly impact his team. Sacramento’s grouping of Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Cauley-Stein is the ninth-best five-man lineup in the NBA in terms of Net Points, via Basketball-Reference.

With Kosta Koufos now figuring to log many more minutes alongside Cousins, the Kings will have to adjust. Sacramento’s grouping of Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Omri Casspi, DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos (the best Kings lineup featuring Koufos) is +23 in Net Points, the 38th-best five-man pairing in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference.

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Expect Quincy Acy’s minutes to increase in Cauley-Stein’s absence, hopefully alongside Cousins. The Cousins-Koufos front courts are always vulnerable defensively, since both big men move more like centers than small-ball power forwards. Acy’s quickness, relative to that of Koufos, is likely the better complement to DeMarcus’s around-the-basket defense.

Overall, tonight’s game in Houston is another notch in what has been a long string of testing games against talented teams. Of the NBA’s 30 teams, the Sacramento Kings have faced the third-toughest strength of schedule so far, per ESPN.

Next: What WCS's Injury Mean For The Kings

Against a Rockets team on the rebound, featuring James Harden who, for his career, averages 23.2 points, 4.2 assists and a 120 offensive rating on 39 percent three-point shooting against Sacramento, the Kings will be hard-pressed to right the wrongs done in Mexico City.