Year-End Grades for Every Key Sacramento Kings Player
The calendar year of 2013 may be coming to a close, but the 2013-14 NBA season is in full swing. That includes the new-look Sacramento Kings, who have had an eventful year both on and off the court. In fact, the team's roster is much different from the last time we did these player grades only a few weeks back.
As a team, the Kings have been struggling for much of the campaign. However, there are a few players on the team who are having career years so far. Two of them, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, have been putting up star-caliber numbers. Other players have had years similar to what we've come to expect while others have dropped off from their past production.
Before we get into the grades, let's go over the criteria. First, grades are based on each player's past performance. So they're graded against themselves, not the other players in the NBA at their position. Second, since we've already done a grades piece this season, the players' performance on the previous grades will be considered. If they dropped off a bit, then their grades will also likely drop off a bit.
With the parameters set, let's get to the grades. Let me know in the comments section below if you agree or disagree with the evaluations.
Unless noted otherwise, all stats current through games played on Dec. 22.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
Since he was recently acquired via trade, Quincy Acy doesn't have much of a sample size to go off of. But the forward has been solid in his opportunities on the floor.
Acy is averaging 3.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, 0.4 assists and 0.2 steals in 16.2 minutes of action per game. On a per-36-minute basis, that comes out to 8.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 0.9 assists and 0.4 steals.
Perhaps most impressive of Acy's play so far for the Kings is his ability to impact the game during his short bursts of playing time. He has a win shares per 48 minutes of .151, which is third on the team. His .727 field-goal percentage, while unsustainable over the rest of the season, is also a team high.
When the Kings added Acy, he wasn't viewed as anything more than an energy guy off the bench. That's exactly what he's provided, although he's probably been even more effective than Sacramento expected.
DeMarcus Cousins has kept up the torrid pace he started off the season with. He's unquestionably the Kings' best player, and has shown himself to be one of the best centers in the NBA.
Cousins is currently setting career highs in points, assists, steals and minutes per game. His 49.6 percent field-goal percentage is also a career high, along with his .163 win shares per 48 minutes and defensive rating of 102.
Part of DMC's statistical outbreak can be attributed to his usage percentage of 33.8, which is the highest in the league. It shows the Kings have run their offense through Cousins more than any other team has run its offense through any one player. Yet in the case of Cousins and Sacramento, it makes sense. He's clearly the team's best option, so it needs to keep feeding him the ball.
Last time around Cousins got an "A" for his efforts. Since he's kept it going, his grade remains the same.
Jimmer Fredette may have benefited from the Rudy Gay-Greivis Vasquez trade more than anyone else currently on the Kings. He went from a player who was lucky to get in on some nights to the team's primary backup point guard.
In his enhanced role, Fredette has performed about as one would expect. He's looked good in some games and overmatched in others. But he's doing the little things right. He's rebounding the ball better than ever (5.3 rebounds per 36), getting steals (1.6 steals per 36) and finding open teammates (3.7 assists per 36). He's also hit on 53.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
He's still got some work to do. His turnover percentage (14.3), player efficiency rating (13.9) and field-goal percentage are all worse than last season. But he's given the team a decent option as someone to back up Isaiah Thomas.
Last time around Fredette got a "B+." His production has dipped a bit since then, but not to the point where he's become a liability.
Rudy Gay's proven to be a solid acquisition for the Kings so far. He's produced on offense, and most importantly, he's done so in an efficient manner.
Gay averaged more points while with Toronto (19.4) prior to the trade, but the manner in which he got there wasn't exactly ideal. It took him 18.6 field-goal attempts to get his 19.4 points, and Gay shot a lackluster 38.8 percent from the floor.
Through six games since the trade, Gay's averaged 18.8 points. But he's getting there on 14.0 field-goal attempts per game and is shooting 50 percent from the floor. He's also posted a career-high PER of 18.1 with Sacramento.
The production the Kings have received from Gay is exactly what they hoped for. He's still scoring at a solid rate, but he's not detracting from the team's offensive flow to do so.
In only three games of action, Aaron Gray has already accomplished more than he did during the early part of the season in Toronto.
Gray's played more minutes, scored more points, hauled in more rebounds, blocked more shots and turned the ball over less than he did with the Raptors. Granted, it's an extremely small sample size to go off of.
Between Gray and Acy, the Kings have two players that can be utilized as solid backups. Acy gets more playing time when Sacramento goes against teams with smaller lineups, while Gray plays more against teams with larger frontcourts.
Beyond the versatility provided, Gray also gives Sacramento a solid option as a replacement for Chuck Hayes, who was part of the trade. That's a plus considering he's much more affordable than Hayes and his deal expires after the season, opposed to Hayes, who was locked up through 2014-15.
Ray McCallum has only recently started getting into games for the Kings. He's still only logged 15 minutes on the season over parts of six games. His total line is two points, two rebounds, one assist and two turnovers during that time.
The rookie should see more playing time as the season goes along. Head coach Mike Malone has indicated as much. Starting point guard Isaiah Thomas has had a big workload since Greivis Vasquez was traded away. Malone wants to give McCallum more playing time as a result, per Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.
“At some point, we have to give Ray an opportunity to play because we have to see who he is and get a real look under the hood, if you will,” Malone said. “I have to do a better job of trusting some of those guys and not running Isaiah into the ground, which is unfair to him.”
As you would expect of a rookie, Ben McLemore's had his ups and downs.
McLemore went through a rough stretch recently, shooting only 17.1 percent and averaging only 4.4 points in 29.4 minutes over a five-game stretch. He's come out of it over this last three games, though, hitting 72.7 percent of his shots and averaging 13 points in 28 minutes per game.
It's hard to take anything too seriously as far as McLemore is concerned. He's raw, but he's also extremely talented, so as long as he's still improving, it will be a positive development for the Kings. And so far, he hasn't come close to plateauing, meaning Sacramento should be encouraged by his play.
Hamady Ndiaye has been riding the bench of late. The center hasn't appeared in a game since Dec. 18. However, he's provided the Kings about all they could ask for in his opportunities.
Ndiaye has played decent defense and rebounded the ball well in his 74 minutes of action, as he's averaging 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes. Those obviously aren't star-caliber numbers, but given that Ndiaye had played 83 minutes over three seasons coming into 2013-14, they're certainly acceptable.
Like McCallum, most of Ndiaye's opportunities will come in short bursts. It's difficult to produce in those scenarios, especially for a player without much NBA experience. So anything the Kings can get from Ndiaye is a bonus.
Given his expectations coming into the season, Ndiaye hasn't disappointed. Therefore his grade reflects that of a player who provided pretty much what was expected.
Travis Outlaw has cooled off since his ridiculously hot start to the season. That said, he's still been a solid contributor for the Kings.
His field-goal percentage has dipped to 39.3 percent, which is worse than what he posted last season. However, Outlaw's still hitting 32.4 percent of his three-point attempts. He's also posting the second-best total rebound percentage of his career and the best turnover percentage.
When Outlaw was graded last time around, he was holding opposing small forwards to a PER of 13.8 and opposing power forwards to a PER of 19.4. According to 82games.com, he's now holding small forwards to 6.9 and power forwards to 19.8, so he's still playing solid defense.
Even if Outlaw's offense continues to dip, as long as he's playing solid defense he'll be a valuable member of the Kings. Given where he was at entering the season, that's still a solid development.
The Pizza Guy has been delivering all season long. Isaiah Thomas went from a very nice story as the last pick in the 2011 draft to a solid regular over his first two seasons. This year Thomas has established himself as a borderline All-Star.
Thomas is averaging 18.8 points, 5.7 assists, 1.4 steals and is shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from downtown. He's currently one of five NBA players with those averages. The others—LeBron James, Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe and Monta Ellis—are all pretty recognizable names.
He's been one of the Kings' two best players throughout the season. He's first on the team in win shares per 48 minutes (.164), total win shares (2.7) and PER (22.2). Thomas has also improved as a distributor, setting career highs in assist percentage (.327) and assists per 36 minutes (6.6).
With Thomas and Cousins in the fold, the Kings have two players unequivocally worth building around. You couldn't have said that about The Pizza Guy entering the season. That's certainly progress.
Jason Thompson's season has gone pretty much as expected. He plays 20-25 minutes per game and provides decent production during that time.
He's dropped off a bit over past seasons, partially due to a bit less playing time, but also simply because he's been slightly less productive in his minutes on the court. His per-36-minute averages of 11.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.9 blocks are all below his career averages. The same goes for his field-goal percentage of .497 and his PER of 10.7.
However, Thompson isn't substantially below what he's done throughout his career. So his production has dipped, but it hasn't fallen off the map. The same will be true of his grade—it'll dip from what it's been in past rankings, but it won't fall off the map.
For whatever reason, Marcus Thornton has struggled to get his game going this season.
Part of his struggles could be attributed to less playing time, as Thornton's only averaging 23.6 minutes and has been a DNP-Coach's Decision in six contests so far. However, Thornton's had other years where he had similar playing time, even if he got in almost every game, yet his numbers didn't dip this much.
His per-36 average of 12.5 points is well below his career mark of 19.0. His field-goal percentage of .370 and his three-point percentage of .298 are also substantially behind what he's done through the duration of his five seasons.
With Ben McLemore in the mix, it's understandable to see Thornton's numbers dip a bit. But the amount to which they've decreased is somewhat alarming.
Derrick Williams has been a pleasant surprise since coming over from the Minnesota Timberwolves. After getting off to a slow start with the T-Wolves, the former No. 2 pick has started to pick up his play.
Williams is currently coming off the bench for the Kings, but he's still getting plenty of playing time, averaging 26.2 minutes per with Sacramento. That's a career high in playing time for the third-year pro.
Williams' scoring average of 10.8 points is less than the 12.0 he averaged last season. However, he's been much more efficient with Sacramento. The forward his hit 48 percent of his field goals and 33.3 percent of his three-pointers with the Kings, both of which are career highs. His PER of 15.2 is also a career high.
He may never put up numbers expected out of the No. 2 pick in a draft, but at least Williams is still developing. Despite being in his third NBA season, he's also still only 22 years old, so there's still a chance for improvement. Regardless, he's provided more to the Kings than they could have expected.
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