Sacramento Kings: 5 Players Who Have the Most to Prove This Season
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In the late 1990's and early 2000's, few teams were as consistently successful as the Sacramento Kings. They made the playoffs eight seasons in a row at one point, including an epic seven-game loss to Kobe Bryant, Robert Horry and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001-2002 Western Conference finals.
When the core of Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie and others dissolved, so did the Kings' hopes. In the last six years, Sacramento hasn't won more than 38 games in any year, with no playoff appearances.
In last year's lockout-shortened campaign, the Kings won a whopping 22 games. They finished last in the Pacific Division for the fourth consecutive year and the fifth time in six years.
But there is hope. This team is young and talented, and while it lacks discipline, there is no question that the building blocks are in place to make another run at the NBA Finals within the next few years. With that in mind, here are five players that have the most to prove as the Kings begin their 28th season in Sacramento.
In his first season in Sacramento, Aaron Brooks must find his identity as an NBA player.
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Aaron Brooks won't be starting in a loaded backcourt, but he still has plenty to prove in the 2012 season.
Brooks has been resigned to the bench in the last two years, starting just 12 games for the Rockets and Suns. The biggest knock against the fifth-year guard is his dreadful field goal percentage, which sits at a career mark of 41 percent. Brooks has never been particularly efficient, but he has the skills to fill the net up when necessary.
Brooks may never average almost 20 points per game again like he did in 2009-2010 with Houston, but if he ever wants to have a consistent starting job again, he must show that he can improve his overall play. His size makes him a defensive liability, and he also needs to stay healthy.
If he can't improve, he may be relegated to the bench for the rest of his career.
Marcus Thornton can score with the best of them, but his defense remains an issue.
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Marcus Thornton might be one of the most underrated offensive talents in the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points per game last year, and 21.3 points per game in a limited 2011 season. He can hit the hole and can shoot the three as well as anyone.
But Thornton's issue isn't on that side of the ball. His struggles are on defense, where he has the tools but has yet to use them. Thornton struggles defending even low-tier players and is generally awful at fighting through screens.
The other issue with Thornton is that he's not especially efficient. Similar to most of the players on this young team, he's an explosive talent that sometimes plays a bit recklessly.
Thornton can score, we all know that. Now, he must take the next step and prove he can be a complete star in the NBA.
Jimmer Fredette's skills didn't translate well in his rookie year, so his sophomore campaign is critical to deciding his future as an NBA player.
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No one expected Jimmer Fredette to come into the NBA and set the league on fire, but a lot of people expected better than this. Fredette was remarkably inefficient as a rookie, shooting only 38.6 percent and averaging 7.6 points.
Fredette came out of BYU with the ability to score 50 points in any given game, but his season high was 20. He rarely scored in double figures in consecutive games despite averaging just under 20 minutes a game.
Fredette has a huge amount to prove as an NBA player. He has all the offensive talent in the world, but when it doesn't translate to the NBA, what does he do? It's the Jimmer's job to become a better overall player, because if his offense can't be successful, he'll need to draw back on something else.
DeMarcus Cousins must prove that he's ready to take the next step in his third season.
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DeMarcus Cousins is so close to being the next great NBA big man. All he needs to do is improve two things: defense and field goal percentage.
Cousins has all the skills to be one of the best all-around big men this league has seen in a long time. He is 270 pounds and can bang down low, and he has pretty good hands. He can block shots and steal the ball. But he needs to improve defensive positioning and has to learn to bring it on every play. He will be an elite defender if he can learn to do that.
The other thing about Cousins is he only shot 45 percent last season, a figure that needs to improve. He led the league in shots at the rim last year but had the lowest percentage of converting those shots of any player.
But it's a correctable issue. If he can become more efficient, we might be looking at a 25-point, 12-rebound behemoth for the next several years.
Tyreke Evans must prove that he's a legitimate franchise point guard.
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Perhaps no player in the NBA has as much to prove as Tyreke Evans, the fourth-year guard from Memphis who has steadily declined in each year of his career.
Evans has frustrated Kings fans for the last two seasons. Since averaging 20 points and six assists in his stellar 2009-2010 rookie year, his points have dipped to 17.8 in 2011 and 16.5 in 2012 and his assists have fallen to 5.6 and 4.5.
It's stunning, really, considering Evans had one of the best rookie seasons the NBA has seen in a long time. But his offense has been lacking, especially in his perimeter game, and his defense, at times, is horrid.
And there's another thing: Evans is fighting for his job. Yes, the 2010 Rookie of the Year is being pushed by second-year rising star Isaiah Thomas. Thomas, a second-team All-Rookie selection out of the University of Washington, came on strong last season and electrified the league with his quickness and energy.
Evans has to match Thomas' ability, or he could be on his way out of Sacramento. It would be a stunning decline for a player who was considered a franchise savior just three years ago.