2013-14 NBA Season Preview Player Power Rankings for Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have undergone a ton of change, from the top on down, since the end of last season. There's new ownership, a new front office, a new coaching staff and a handful of new players throughout the roster.
Training camp and preseason provided a platform for evaluation. Through them, the team was able to whittle all of its non-guaranteed contracts down to the 15-player limit.
But defining the players on the roster is only part of the battle. From there, Sacramento needs to evaluate everyone and figure out how their abilities will best help the franchise. That means earmarking roles based on team needs and the skill sets provided.
Most of these concerns have been clarified through training camp and preseason.
For some players, an increase in playing time or prominence might be in order. For others, their standing on the team may have taken a hit due to performance issues or injury concerns.
There's not a ton of time left for things to change, so what you see today will largely resemble the regular-season roster and the hierarchy of everyone's standing on it.
Unless noted otherwise, all stats via Basketball-Reference.
(Note: Only the roster's current composition is considered. So while a player like Carl Landry figures to be an important piece on the Kings going forward, the fact that he's expected to miss the next three-to-four months will certainly effect his current standing. Likewise, players who figure to have a more prominent long-term role but might not have one this year will be ranked accordingly. In other words, this is a ranking of players based on their expected production as the season gets underway.)
No. 15 Through No. 11
15. Carl Landry
Carl Landry is No. 15 simply because of his injury situation. The power forward is expected to miss the next three or four months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hip flexor.
When he comes back, Landry will be entrenched in the rotation. However, since he's out for such an extended period of time, he's essentially an afterthought, which explains his current placement in the power rankings.
14. Hamady Ndiaye
With DeMarcus Cousins and Chuck Hayes under contract, Ndiaye was somewhat of a longshot to make the team as the third center. The injury to Carl Landry, which weakened the depth in the frontcourt, ended up helping his cause.
However, Ndiaye hasn't played much at all in the preseason (only five minutes over two games), so he could be looked at as a developmental piece.
Yet Ndiaye could be intriguing because his best attribute—shot-blocking ability—is one the team's other centers aren't providing.
13. Travis Outlaw
Travis Outlaw could potentially benefit from Landry's injury, as he's played some power forward in the past. Yet judging on what we've seen from Outlaw over his first two seasons with the Kings, it's hard to expect much from him.
The forward should see some playing time, yet he's currently behind John Salmons and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in the depth chart at the 3. Considering that small forward is the Kings' weakest position by far, it doesn't bode well for his standing on the team.
12. Chuck Hayes
Judging Chuck Hayes' role on the Kings is an interesting proposition.
On the one hand, he hasn't shown much in his first two years with the team, so a huge increase in his production doesn't seem likely.
On the other hand, Hayes is going to be the backup center to DeMarcus Cousins, so he'll get playing time.
Ultimately, Hayes' on-court production simply doesn't move the needle much. He's a solid interior defender and he can pass the ball well from the high post.
Other than that, he doesn't bring much to the table. He can't create his own shot and he doesn't have enough range to spread the floor. His main attribute is his leadership ability. That's certainly helpful, but he doesn't need a ton of time on the court to provide it.
11. Ray McCallum
Deciding between Jimmer Fredette and Ray McCallum was probably the toughest part of the power rankings.
McCallum figures to have a better long-term future with the Kings. There's also a good chance that his role on the team becomes larger than Fredette's by season's end, but as things stand right now, Fredette gets the nod.
As a rookie, McCallum is an unproven commodity. He should provide value, especially with his ability to facilitate an offense, but he figures to experience ups and downs as he goes through the season. Until he acclimates to the NBA level, his inexperience should limit his playing time.
No. 10: Jimmer Fredette
While Fredette lacks the ceiling of McCallum, he's already gone through two NBA seasons. He knows what to expect.
Perhaps more importantly, the Kings know what to expect from him.
It's hard to envision Fredette playing more than 10-15 minutes a night with the depth in the backcourt, but he does bring some attributes to the table. He's obviously an excellent three-point shooter (38.4 percent for his career), and he can run the team at the point in spurts.
Also boding well for his season is that head coach Mike Malone has had Fredette playing both the 1 and 2 in the preseason. The versatility should provide even more opportunities for the third-year player.
As long as he can provide a spark on offense when he's on the court, he'll continue to get playing time. At this point, that's probably all that's expected of Fredette.
Barring something unforeseen, he'll be a role player on the Kings. Those guys have value, but they're usually not too prominent in the makeup of a team.
No. 9: John Salmons
John Salmons is still in the mix for the starting job at small forward, which happens to be the team's biggest weak spot. Considering the position he plays, Salmons will get opportunities, just don't expect a ton from him.
Salmons actually improved in 2012-13 when compared to his previous season with the Kings. However, that's more of an indictment on his 2011-12 performance than an endorsement on what he did a year ago.
He can still provide a bit on the offensive end, especially compared to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Yet Salmons has gone backwards on defense, which is a shame considering how good he used to be as a wing defender.
He'll play 20-25 minutes a night, but his production should mirror the 8.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists he posted since returning to Sacramento. That's certainly nothing to write home about.
No. 8: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
It's fitting that Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and John Salmons are ranked as the eighth—and ninth—most important players on the Kings.
Each of them figures to have a fairly prominent role on the team, yet not much is expected from either one.
Mbah a Moute is virtually an all-defense player.
In fact, he posted minus-0.8 offensive win shares on offense a year ago. So not only did he not provide much on offense, he actually detracted from the team on that side of the ball.
Yet the Cameroonian is a pretty solid defender, with a career defensive rating of 104 points allowed per 100 possessions. His 6'8", 230-pound frame also allows him to log some time at the 4.
Considering the team's defensive deficiencies, Mbah a Moute will provide overall value, but he could, once again, be a black hole on offense.
No. 7: Patrick Patterson
Having Patrick Patterson for a full season should help the Kings, especially now that Carl Landry is expected to miss an extended period of time.
What's to like about Patterson is what he brings to the table that is not present in the team's other bigs. Most notably, Patterson can spread the floor with his three-point shooting. Not only does he keep defenders honest with the shot, he's actually good at it, knocking down 38.6 percent.
His rebounding could stand to improve (6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season), which is something he's been focusing on this offseason. If it does, it would add another skill to his game.
Even if it doesn't, the power forward should have a pretty prominent role on the Kings by virtue of his offensive prowess.
No. 6: Ben McLemore
Like with Ray McCallum, Ben McLemore's ranking is largely a function of his inexperience.
The Kings have yet to name a starter at shooting guard, so McLemore could move up in the rankings. Yet the up-and-down nature of most players' first year in the league means the rookie could be inconsistent.
Nobody doubts McLemore's talent, which is why the Kings have also given him plenty of playing time in the preseason, as he's averaging 25.3 minutes per game. However for right now, Marcus Thornton is the safer bet of the two shooting guards.
As the season goes on and McLemore gets more comfortable, he should get more rope to work with.
He's clearly the future of the position for the Kings, but the future isn't now, and the bigger focus will be on his long-term development.
No. 5: Jason Thompson
Jason Thompson may be the most consistent player on the Kings. He doesn't have the highs of some players, but he also doesn't have the lows. Those guys tend to be undervalued, which is not a mistake I'm willing to make.
There's been no announcement as to whether Thompson or Patterson will be the starting power forward when the season gets underway.
Regardless of what Coach Malone decides, Thompson will be a key contributor and one of the team's under-the-radar players.
He provides the ability to play the 4 or 5, but with Cousins entrenched at center, there won't be a ton of minutes available there. Yet Thompson provides an alternative to Chuck Hayes, which could be a good thing depending on how Hayes performs.
Thompson doesn't have near the range of Patrick Patterson, but he's a better rebounder (9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes for his career) and a more consistent defender.
He's also only missed 16 games in his five-year career, so not only is he productive when he's there, but he's also impacting nearly every game.
In short, we know what the Kings will get from Thompson. He'll average nine-12 points, six-eight rebounds, roughly one assist and shoot 50 percent from the field, and he'll do that virtually every night.
That may not be flashy, but it's a valuable commodity to have.
No. 4: Marcus Thornton
Marcus Thornton can flat-out score.
He averages 19.4 points per 36 minutes, and those numbers stay the same regardless of his role.
In his first full season with the Kings, he put up 19.3 points per 36 minutes as a starter.
Last year, as a bench player, the shooting guard tallied 19.1 per 36. It's safe to say we can probably expect similar production from the Bayou Bomber in 2013-14.
Beyond raw scoring statistics, it's also the way Thornton scores that makes him so valuable. He wants the ball at the end of games, and more often than not he converts in those situations. In fact, since coming to the Kings, there have been 14 occasions where Thornton hit a shot to tie the game or give the Kings a lead within the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
His ultimate role for the season is still up in the air, but that's really beside the point. Regardless of when his number is called, Thornton will be ready.
No. 3: Isaiah Thomas
Ever since he came into the league, Isaiah Thomas has had to deal with doubters. All he's done is rise to the occasion time after time.There's no more reasons to doubt Thomas; he's one of the best players the Kings have.
All Thomas does is produce.
Last season he put up averages of 13.9 points and 4.0 assists in 26.9 minutes per game. There's no reason to think he won't duplicate it once again.
Yes, Thomas and Vasquez are battling it out for the starting point guard spot, but who wins the job is really of no consequence to Thomas' production. No matter what, he'll get close to 26.9 minutes again, and he'll provide as expected when he's on the court.
The third-year player can impact games as the point man or playing off the ball, which will provide opportunities for him to get plenty of run on the court. He's also productive as a starter or coming off the bench.
Simply put, the guy can adapt to any situation and remain consistent.
Unlike a player like Marcus Thornton who can score in any role, Thomas can score and pass. That makes him a more valuable piece if both end up coming in off the bench.
No. 2: Greivis Vasquez
Maybe I'm falling into the familiar trap of underestimating Isaiah Thomas, but I've got to think Greivis Vasquez ends up as the starting point guard.
Vasquez is considerably bigger than Thomas, he's a better defender, and he's a much better floor general, as exemplified by his 9.0 assists per game last season.
Beyond that, his skills are more conducive to a starting role, whereas Thomas could more easily come into a game and fit right in.
Furthermore, the Kings went out and traded for Vasquez, which indicates that the team envisions him as a player it can build around.
Vasquez's abilities facilitating an offense should keep DeMarcus Cousins happy and productive. And it's not like there's a huge difference between his scoring ability and Thomas', as Vasquez averaged 13.9 points last season.
The Kings don't have a ton of great individual players. To succeed, they need to play team-oriented offense. That's something they haven't been doing in recent years and it's part of the reason they've struggled.
Vasquez is the best bet to reverse that trend.
No. 1: DeMarcus Cousins
The best part about doing these power rankings is that deciding who is No. 1 is always a no-brainer.
Of course, it's DeMarcus Cousins. He's the only player on the Kings with the potential to be an All-Star this year.
With his new max contract in hand, this is Cousins' team for the foreseeable future. That could be a scary proposition, or it could be the motivating factor he needed to maximize his abilities. As the leader of the Kings, any success they have will be largely attributed to Cousins, just as any failure will also be put on him, and rightfully so. That's what happens when you're so immensely talented.
The Kings are lucky to have a player of his caliber. Cousins has the potential to be the catalyst that turns this thing around. With a pass-first point guard in Greivis Vasquez and a new front office firmly behind him, the sky's the limit.
Whether he reaches the stars will be solely up to him.
If you want to talk basketball, hit me up on Twitter: @SimRisso