Just last year, the thought of DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay playing together at a high level would’ve been absurd. Mixing a headcase, the last pick of the 2011 draft and an overpaid bricklayer seems like a recipe for disaster.
Before Gay and Cousins were injured last week, the team has also gone a respectable 10-12 since acquiring Gay, especially compared to its 28-54 record last year, including wins over Portland, Miami and Houston despite having the third-worst defense in the NBA.
Although the Kings defense is still full of holes, their offense is now downright impressive thanks to the blended talents of Cousins, Gay and Thomas.
But is all of this sustainable? Let’s take a deeper look at their specific contributions on the more glamorous side of the court.
The Flow of the Offense
Without a doubt, these three players have each performed at an elite level offensively as a Sacramento King:
|Per-game Averages as a Sacramento King|
|Player||PTS||True Shooting %||PER||TOV|
To put this in perspective, if you combine the per-game scoring averages of these three players together, they combine to score more points per game (62.7) than the top three scorers on the Miami Heat (61.3), Warriors (62.3) or Houston Rockets (59.1), per NBA.com.
And they are not just scoring, but scoring efficiently. In fact, Cousins currently has the fifth-highest PER in the NBA this season, after Kevin Durant and LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Love. That’s not bad company, and combined with Thomas' and Gay's efficiency, it is a good indicator that the Kings will continue their level of play this season.
Sacramento’s elite offense has emerged thanks to better floor spacing and improved shot selection.
Cousins has always had a phenomenal post-game, but he often settled for tough fadeaways or long jumpers. His pick-and-roll has also always been dominant, as he possesses the ability to handle the ball and finish at the rim that is rarely seen in big men.
This year, after his huge contract extension, he’s mostly playing in the post and pick-and-roll, producing numbers like a true franchise centerpiece.
Thomas flashed the potential to be a great floor general coming off the bench his first season with his crafty moves and court awareness. He also showcases some range, as evidenced by his 2.0 three-pointers per game on 38.8 percent from deep.
Thanks to the trade, he is now the unquestioned starting point guard and has showcased the skills that were previously buried on the Kings bench.
Gay underwent a transformation this year, and it’s not because of his much-talked-about eye surgery. He’s taking less stagnant shots because of the offensive weapons around him, and as a result, his efficiency on pull-up jumpers has increased dramatically from 40.5 percent in Toronto to 47.1 percent in Sacramento this year.
He is able to play in the flow of offense, resulting in increased productivity in his drives and shooting across the board.
With each player playing to their strengths, they complement each other offensively like a true “Big Three,” resulting in exceptional efficiency and career highs in many of their offensive statistical categories.
The Bottom Line
Because of the efforts of Cousins, Thomas and Gay, their high-octane offense shows no signs of slowing down for the team moving forward. With a stronger supporting cast around them and an improvement on defense, they can become a playoff team for years to come.
The future is bright in Sacramento.