Sacramento Kings: How to Get Back into the Playoffs
It is no secret that the Sacramento Kings have been a losing franchise for most of their history. The only winning seasons have been the glory days of Chris Webber, Vlade and the rest of the gang, and throw in a few of the Mitch Richmond years.
Geoff Petrie has done a decent job in getting rid of the bad contracts of aging stars such as Webber, Peja and Bibby.
Coming from the many recent losing seasons are talented draft picks who quite possibly can bring the Kings back into the playoffs.
My hometown of Sacramento also has a one-year extension to keep the Kings in town, and to do so, it must put a winning squad on the court.
I will break down the many things the Kings need to do in order to get the team back into the playoffs and keep the Kings in Sacramento.
1. Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins
Evans and Cousins are the Kings' most talented players and must develop to allow this team to grow.
Cousins is poised to become one of the better centers in the league, and if he can keep his head on straight and stop whining, then he could possibly be an All-Star. We have to remember that he is 19 years old and has only played one season so he will mature and get better.
Evans is a guard with incredible ball-handling skills and he can get to the hoop anytime he wants. The only problem is that when teams go into a zone defense, Evans' driving ability is diminished. He must continue to improve his midrange jump shot and focus on not relying on the three-ball.
Another problem I see with Evans is that he is not a point guard and cannot create for others. Placing him at the 2-guard spot and playing a more run-and-gun offense would help him develop.
Evans has a big problem passing the ball so allowing someone else to facilitate the offense will improve his game.
Although the two players are very young and inexperienced, they will be the keys in helping the Kings win more games. They will be a great combo for years to come, and we will soon see who will be Batman and Robin.
2. Develop Jimmer into a Point Guard
What I like about Jimmer Fredette is his willingness to do whatever is needed of him. What the Sacramento Kings need of him is to become the future point guard.
Jimmer mania will hit Sacramento once the lockout ends. There will be fans packed in Power Balance Pavilion and Jimmer jerseys everywhere. The Maloofs drafted Jimmer because he will sell tickets, but if he can learn to be a facilitator and lead this team, then he can become more than what the Maloofs wanted.
We all know Jimmer can shoot the ball with perfection and range, but we also know many have said that his biggest weakness is his defense. With the NBA allowing teams to play zone defense, I believe it can mask any of his defensive deficiencies.
The key for Jimmer on this team is to hit the open shot, but also to get the offense moving. The Kings were stagnant on almost every possession last year, and many have called the Kings roster a black hole with the ball.
Jimmer needs to watch and study Steve Nash's game. We all knew that Nash could shoot the ball when he first entered the league, but somehow after a few seasons, he developed his point-guard skills, and Jimmer must do the same.
He will have a dominant big man in the middle and a strong slashing guard at his disposal. On this team, Jimmer doesn't have to score a lot of points. All he needs to do is be the point.
3. Use Their Height to Dominate
The Kings have four solid, young big men who can help this team reach the next level. We all know Cousins has All-Star potential and he will be a staple in the middle for years to come.
The Kings also traded promising small forward Omri Casspi to the Cavaliers for power forward J.J. Hickson to form a strong, athletic frontcourt with Cousins. Hickson needs to develop some consistency and must mature. This move allows PF Jason Thompson to move to the bench and give the Kings a solid three-man rotation up front.
In last year's draft, a long, athletic Hassan Whiteside fell all the way to the second round and the Kings jumped at the opportunity to draft him. Whiteside was projected as a lock in the first round and if he entered this year's draft, would have been drafted in the top 10.
The reason he fell was his lack of maturity, but from a recent interview, Whiteside seems poised to prove everyone wrong. He has great shot-blocking ability, which reminds me of Marcus Camby. He is probably a year away from cracking the rotation, but when he does, you better watch out.
With enough size and skill down low, the Kings will be allow to compete against the top teams in the league. Rebounding and clogging the middle will win this team a few more games this upcoming season.
The bigs will also allow young guards Evans, Thornton and Jimmer to do what they want on the perimeter.
4. Sign Guard Marcus Thornton
The Kings must sign restricted free agent Marcus Thornton. In 27 games for the Kings, Thornton scored 21.3 points per game and brought a much-needed scoring punch to this team.
Thornton is an undersized shooting guard, and with Jimmer and Tyreke on the roster, it would be best if Thornton was regulated as the sixth man on the bench. Every great team in this league needs a sixth man who can change the pace of the game and score a lot of points, and Thornton does exactly that.
He brings what J.J. Barea and Jason Terry brought to the NBA Champions Dallas Mavericks, and what Bobby Jackson did in the glory days of the Kings. Having a great bench player is another piece in having success and winning in this league.
With other sixth men such as J.J. Barea, Jamal Crawford and J.R. Smith hitting the free agent market, the Kings should be able to sign Thornton at a reasonable price.
5. Fire Paul Westphal
Coach Paul Westphal is one of the lowest-paid coaches in the NBA, and at times last season, he seemed to not care. One of the main reasons the Maloofs chose to hire Westphal was because he was willing to accept a low salary.
This hire was the wrong one for the Kings.
With such a young team, the Kings needed a coach who is patient and willing to allow the players to develop. At times last season, the Kings didn't run any offensive sets. Westphal gave the ball to Tyreke and allowed him to do whatever he wanted. The team lacked an identity because Westphal did not care.
Paul Westphal sits on the bench to cash in paychecks. He has no motivation or passion for this team. The Kings need a coach who is patient, willing to help develop his young talent and infuse an identity that will utilize this team's strengths.
I really hope the Kings would bring back Rick Adelman or someone comparable, but the Maloofs are just too cheap. What a shame.
6. Sign Veteran Free Agents
This young Kings team lacks veteran leadership. John Salmons and Francisco Garcia are definitely not what this team needs. Both players' talents are diminishing and they are also very selfish players.
So the Kings must look to sign some veteran free agents.
Last season, the presence of center Samuel Dalembert helped Cousins and Thompson develop and mature last season, and the Kings need some more of that. Dalembert is a free agent and will be long gone to a contender next season so the Kings must look elsewhere, but there are a few players that the Kings can target.
The Kings lack a solid starting small forward, and there are few veterans out there who can fit the role. Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier or Grant Hill would all be solid veterans who can help this team. They would instantly be the leaders of this team and respected.
Each of these players would probably prefer to sign with a contender, but if one is available and interested, then the Kings should at least try to sign one of them.
With the Kings drafting Jimmer Fredette as their point guard of the future, they must sign a veteran point guard who can mentor him. Someone who has point-guard skills and is willing to teach would be ideal. Other then Jimmer, the team does not have a point guard on the roster, and please don't say that Tyreke Evans is a point guard.
When the lockout ends, the Kings should target Earl Watson or T.J. Ford. Each are solid veterans who won't cost much and can contribute right away. They can either start or come off the bench, and neither would ever complain.
The Sacramento Kings play in a small market and the bigger free agents will always pass to sign with the bigger market teams. So the Kings must allow their young players to develop and must sign solid veterans at a low cost to come to town.
7. Get New Owners
Before the 1998 season, the Sacramento Kings were the laughing stock of the NBA. When the Maloofs purchased the majority stake of the team, the Kings instantly became exciting and winners.
Fast-forward 13 years later with some bad contracts, some injuries and the bad economy, and the Sacramento Kings almost became the Anaheim Royals.
The Maloofs demanded a new arena or they would move the team elsewhere, and on top of that, they wanted the city to pay for it. The Maloofs also stated that they were one of the teams losing a lot of money, and that they were not willing to sign any players.
I know these brothers are some smart guys, but you have to spend some money in this league to be competitive and make money.
There are a few factors as to why the Maloofs have turned their backs on the city of Sacramento. For one, the Palms has been losing money for years and the financial hardship of the casino has probably put the family in a panic. The Maloofs also have been frustrated with the past few losing seasons after entering the league with so many wins. The lack of fans in the seats and the arena being outdated have put a bad taste in their mouths.
This family has not been willing to spend any money for the past few years and it is evident that it wants out.
The city of Sacramento is willing to build new arena, but need the help of the Maloofs to pay for it. The Maloofs should realize that if they spend some of their money over the next few years on the arena and the team, then they would actually reap the benefits once again.
I appreciate everything the Maloofs have done for us over the years, but these past few years have been brutal. This team is in need of new owners who have the passion to uplift a small-market team just as the Maloofs once did.
The Sacramento Kings have some solid young pieces for the future, but with a little bit of subtracting and adding throughout the organization, this team can be back in the playoffs real soon.