Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sacramento Kings: What To Look For In 2010-11

2009-10 Regular Season: 25-57
2009-10 Playoffs: N/A
Additions: DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Samuel Dalembert, Luther Head, Antoine Wright
Key Losses: Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, Jon Brockman, Ime Udoka
Projected Rotation Players: Tyreke Evans, Carl Landry, DeMarcus Cousins, Beno Udrih, Donte Greene, Jason Thompson, Samuel Dalembert, Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia, Luther Head

Look for the 2010-11 Kings to play with lots of confidence, to notch victories in a bunch of games they’re not expected to win and to make a run at .500.

In fairness, however, the 2010-11 Kings will probably also lose a few games that they’re expected to win. Such is typically the fate of young, talented teams that are still developing an identity.

Of the league’s non-marquee teams, the Kings will probably be the most compelling. This team features an impressive collection of young talent- led by reigning Rookie of the Year and probable 2011 All-Star Tyreke Evans. In 2009-10, Evans became just the fourth rookie in NBA history (MJ, LeBron and Oscar Robertson are the others) to average 20+ ppg, 5+ rpg and 5+ apg, and there’s little reason to believe that he can’t pick up where he left off.

Combine his strength, which helps him flourish as a penetrator and a defensive stopper, with his awesome talent and his achievements as a rookie, and Evans looks poised to cement his place in the top-tier of NBA stars. If he’s been able to add consistency and range to his jump shot over the summer, he could be one of the league’s toughest matchups in the coming season.

Evans is flanked by a posse of long, strong, talented players, First up is DeMarcus Cousins, the fifth pick (top-two on talent, but he’s faced questions about his maturity) in June’s draft and potentially the steal of the draft. Cousins is an extremely skilled big man- versatile and aggressive on offense, a good passer and a beast on the glass. He can beat most bigs off the dribble, has a bit of range on his jumper, can bang inside but also has some finesse around the basket.

He could put up a double-double campaign as a rookie and will rival 2009 first overall pick Blake Griffin and his former University of Kentucky teammate John Wall for Rookie of the Year honors.

Up front alongside Cousins is a skilled trio that collectively possesses all the attributes you look for on the court. Carl Landry is an excellent inside scorer with some athleticism. He has a solid compliment of post moves, finishes well around the basket and get to the free line (over five FTA per game last season). A starting NBA PF wit his size (6’9”- 250) should be good for more than 5.9 rpg, but this is an area where he can definitely improve. As a matter of fact, this would be a good year for Landry to do so, as he’s entering a contract year.

Behind Landry on the depth chart is Jason Thompson, the 12th pick in the 2008 draft. Thompson has great size (6’11”- 250), is a very good rebounder (~8 per 30 minutes; 3 orpg) and can finish around the basket.

Finally, there’s Samuel Dalembert, acquired from Philly after nine seasons. If he gets minutes, he’ll be the solid 11-11 guy (per 36 minutes, career) that he’s been for nearly a decade now, and will be huge help on the offensive glass (3.7 per 36) and in the paint on D (2.7 bp36).

In the backcourt and on the wings, Tyreke Evans will have a range of options from which to choose, with Donte Green (an athletic 6’11”) and second-year man Omri Casspi at the “3”, with Francisco Garcia, Beno Udrih and Luther Head rounding out Sacto’s backcourt rotation.

Between Evans, Cousins, Landry, Thompson, Udrih and Casspi, the Kings have six potential 15+ ppg scorers and are well-positioned to be among the best sources for fantasy prospects. Additionally, on those nights when a majority of these guys (most importantly Evans and Cousins) have their “A games,” the Kings have the potential to put up huge numbers and slay the NBA’s giants.

In fairness, there will probably be more than few other nights…

Bottom line: Vegas has the over-under on regular seasons wins for the Kings at 27.5. With two mega-talents like Evans and Cousins leading the charge, and with a well-rounded group of legitimate NBA players surrounding them, this figure could prove laughably low.

Not sure if the Kings are ready to make a serious playoff push in 2010-11, but if healthy, these Kings are a virtual lock to win at least 35 games and should make a run at the franchise’s first winning record since 2005-06.

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