Power Ranking Every Key Sacramento Kings Player Before Season's End

Sim Risso@@SimRissoFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

Power Ranking Every Key Sacramento Kings Player Before Season's End

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    Either DeMarcus Cousins or Isaiah Thomas figure to be toward the top, but which one is No. 1?
    Either DeMarcus Cousins or Isaiah Thomas figure to be toward the top, but which one is No. 1?Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    As we get even further into the season, we have more information to use when compiling power rankings for the Sacramento Kings. That's obviously a good thing, but it won't skew the positioning too much, as the usual suspects—DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas—figure to be placed toward the top. 

    As usual, these rankings are individual rankings. Furthermore, a player is judged solely against his teammates. In other words, their overall standing within the NBA doesn't matter—only their status on the Kings.

    The whole scope of the season is largely what's being considered. That said, recent performance—for better or worse—will also be factored in. 

    With everything laid out, let's get to the rankings. To make things more interesting, be sure to add your input in the comments section below. 

    Note: Players who are currently hurt, like Carl Landry, or who have yet to appear for the Kings, like Royce White, weren't considered.

Honorable Mentions

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    Aaron Gray has been adequate as a backup center.
    Aaron Gray has been adequate as a backup center.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Aaron Gray

    Aaron Gray hasn't been playing much lately, although he did start in place of DeMarcus Cousins in a recent game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. When he gets in the game, his biggest assets are his defense and rebounding. His 10.2 boards, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 assists per 36 minutes show what he provides off the bench. None of that is great, but it's adequate for a backup center.

    Orlando Johnson

    There's not much of a sample size to consider with Orlando Johnson. He's only logged 50 minutes with the Kings. His best effort came in a four-point, two-assist, one-rebound game in a loss against the Lakers. Since then, the second-year player has played less than seven minutes in his last five appearances, and he's logged less than three minutes in his last two contests. 

10. Quincy Acy

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    Acy has had some spectacular dunks as a spark plug off the bench.
    Acy has had some spectacular dunks as a spark plug off the bench.Evan Vucci/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Quincy Acy's minutes have fluctuated since coming to the Kings, but one thing that's remained constant is his effort. He brings it when he's on the court. 

    He'll never be mistaken for much of a scorer, as his 6.6 points per 36 minutes indicate, but he has been filling up the stat sheet in other ways. His average of 9.0 rebounds per 36 is solid; it looks even better when considering 78 percent of his playing time has come at small forward since joining the Kings.

    The 23-year-old is also active on defense. His averages of 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes show he gives an effort on that end of the court. Considering Acy doesn't provide a ton on offense, and the Kings have more than enough scorers, the forward will keep getting opportunities as long as his defense is there. 

9. Travis Outlaw

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    Travis Outlaw has been solid on defense for the Kings.
    Travis Outlaw has been solid on defense for the Kings.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    This has been Travis Outlaw's best season since coming to the team. Admittedly, the bar wasn't very high, but he has been a solid contributor nonetheless.

    After losing his shooting stroke in his first two years with the Kings (.273 three-point percentage), he has once again found it, hitting 34.7 percent of his triples. That's a positive development, but Sacramento doesn't need him for his offense—it needs him for his ability to impact games without the ball.

    That's exactly what he's been doing.

    According to NBA.com, the Kings' defensive rating of 102.9 when Outlaw is on the court is better than any other player on the team. This also shows up in his individual defense, as he is holding opposing small forwards to a player efficiency rating of 6.8 and opposing power forwards to a PER of 23.1, according to 82games.com

8. Ray McCallum

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    The Kings have to be encouraged by the way Ray McCallum has been playing lately.
    The Kings have to be encouraged by the way Ray McCallum has been playing lately.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    One could make the argument for putting Outlaw above Ray McCallum. However, this is where recent play comes into consideration, and McCallum has been playing a much larger role since the team bought out Jimmer Fredette's contract.

    The rookie is still only averaging 11.8 minutes per game on the season. Yet he's seen that increase to 20.8 since the All-Star break. He's also been producing with more playing time, averaging 5.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Perhaps most notable considering his lack of NBA experience, he is only turning the ball over 0.6 times per game in the increased role.

    All of that is great, but what stands out most is the team's performance with him on the court. The Kings' net rating of 3.2 when he's on the court is the best of any current player, and he's the only one with a positive net rating, according to NBA.com.

    The offense is considerably better when he's on the court (109.1 offensive rating on; 102.6 offensive rating off). The defense is also marginally improved (105.9 on the court; 106.1 off the court). None of that is to say McCallum is better than Isaiah Thomas or deserves to start, because that would be ridiculous.

    But the rookie is showing that he has a future in the NBA, even if it's only as a backup. That's nice to see after McCallum rode the bench during the season's first half. 

7. Reggie Evans

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    Here's Reggie Evans doing what he does best: rebounding.
    Here's Reggie Evans doing what he does best: rebounding.Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Reggie Evans is the type of player the Kings had been lacking. He brings incredible energy, he's a good guy in the locker room, and he's embraced his role as a leader. 

    All of that is also showing up in the box score. His win shares per 48 minutes of .139 are third-best on the team—only Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins have been better. He's also averaging a team-high 13.8 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    We all knew he could rebound—he led the league in rebound percentage last season, after all—but nobody could have foreseen what he's provided on offense. His 11.6 points per 36 minutes and .583 field-goal percentage are both career highs. 

    What separates Evans from other backup forwards on the list like Acy and Outlaw is his playing time (19.4 minutes per game), which is considerably more than the other two. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that he is producing when he's in the game. 

6. Jason Thompson

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    As always, Jason Thompson has been consistent.
    As always, Jason Thompson has been consistent.David Sherman/Getty Images

    Jason Thompson is as steady as ever. Hopefully that doesn't come off as condescending, because it's not meant to be. Granted, he never wows with his numbers, but you can count on his consistency. There's something to be said for that.

    His 10.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per 36 minutes all resemble his career marks. The same can be said for his .505 field-goal percentage. He has also been playing a bit more center this year, as 27 percent of his minutes have been at the 5, which is the most since his first two seasons.

    While Thompson is always steady, the same can be said of the team's performance when he's on the court. According to NBA.com, the Kings have a net rating of minus-0.4 when he's on the floor. Among current players, only McCallum has been better.

5. Ben McLemore

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    McLemore is finally playing a bit better of late after stagnating for most of the season.
    McLemore is finally playing a bit better of late after stagnating for most of the season.Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    This is the lowest Ben McLemore has been rated on any of these power rankings. That's not to make any proclamations about his future, because it's still too early for that. But the fact the rookie hasn't improved much throughout the season is noteworthy, and he has to be judged accordingly.

    Anybody who's watched him play knows that he passes the eye test. The stat test? Not so much.

    His averages of 7.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists aren't awful. They're mainly discouraging because they're marginally worse than what he posted in the first two months of the season (8.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists). 

    Granted, the rookie has been a bit better in March, seeing his scoring rise to 8.6 points per game, which is close to what he did in the early portion of the season. He's also hitting 46 percent of his field goals this month. Considering McLemore has never made more than 40 percent in any single month, it's encouraging.

    Now isn't the time to panic on his future, but it would be nice to see him continue to progress. What he's done lately is a positive sign, even if it's only in a small sample size. And assuming he does improve, his rookie season will be seen as nothing but a blip on the radar. 

4. Derrick Williams

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    Derrick Williams has been playing better lately.
    Derrick Williams has been playing better lately.Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    In terms of future with the Kings, McLemore should be rated above Derrick Williams. But based on what they've done lately, the forward deserves the nod. 

    Williams has bumped his average up to 9.5 points per game, which is fourth-best on the team. His 25.6 minutes per contest is also the fourth-most on the Kings, so even if Williams isn't starting all the games, he's getting more playing time than those ahead of him on the depth chart.

    It's all for a good reason, though. He is making 48.4 percent of his field goals, and he's attacking the basket (5.6 free throws per 36 minutes). The 22-year-old also stopped shooting three-pointers as frequently. Considering he's only making 29.2 percent of them, that's a positive development.

    He is also valuable because he's able to play both forward spots. He's played 32 percent of his minutes at the 3 and 58 percent at the 4. He's also managed to log 10 percent of his time at center when the Kings go to a small lineup.

    Going forward, Williams figures to be an asset for the Kings. He's versatile, he's becoming more efficient, and he has more upside than most players on the team. 

3. Rudy Gay

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    With more than 40 games under his belt with the Kings, Rudy Gay is still doing what many thought he couldn't—play efficiently on offense.

    His 48.9 field-goal percentage is a career high, but he's not doing it at the detriment of his overall production. He's still shooting 15.4 field-goal attempts per game and averaging 20.4 points. He has also become more of a distributor, averaging 3.2 assists with the Kings. 

    However, the reason that he is not rated higher comes down to win shares. He's only produced 4.1 of them at a clip of .134 per 48 minutes. Those are both solid figures, but they're behind the other two players who are rated ahead of him. 

2. Isaiah Thomas

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    Thomas has quietly become one of the better players in the league.
    Thomas has quietly become one of the better players in the league.Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Isaiah Thomas is still getting it done in remarkable fashion. His average of 20.5 points per game is second on the team, and his 6.3 assists are tops on the Kings. 

    What stands out most in his performance is his improvement as a floor general. He still has a ways to go, but the assist numbers are encouraging. In fact, his 32.2 assist percentage is almost equal to the 32.7 percent that Greivis Vasquez—who is seen as a pass-first point guard—posted.

    One thing to keep an eye on is his increase in turnovers, as both his turnover percentage and turnovers per 36 minutes are the worst of his career.

    But you can't deny his overall production. In terms of that, no Kings player has posted more than Thomas' 7.4 win shares. In fact, only 20 players in the league have compiled more. That's remarkable considering he started the year as a reserve. 

1. DeMarcus Cousins

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    Although it's close, Cousins has been the best player on the Kings.
    Although it's close, Cousins has been the best player on the Kings.Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    DeMarcus Cousins gets the nod over Isaiah Thomas for a few reasons. However, the differences between the two are close enough to where one could argue either way.

    Cousins is more productive when he's on the court, which is indicated by his team-high .161 win shares per 48 minutes. One could opt to go with Thomas since he's produced more overall value, but that's only because Cousins has missed more time. In equal minutes, DMC would produce more, which we know due to his superior win shares per 48 minutes.

    The team also performs better when he is on the court. According to NBA.com, its minus-0.6 net rating is marginally better than the minus-0.7 it posts when Thomas is on the court. Admittedly, that's splitting hairs, but when you're dealing with two players who are so close, that's what you have to do.

    However, the one thing that makes Cousins the best choice is how much the Kings struggle when he's out. Sacramento has lost all 10 games when he didn't start, which leaves the team with a 23-33 record when he starts (.410 winning percentage). That's still bad, but it's considerably better than the .000 winning percentage when he's out of the lineup.

    Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-ReferenceAll stats reflect games played through March 17, 2014.

    If you want to talk Kings basketball, hit me up on Twitter @SimRisso