2011 NBA Season: Can the Sacramento Kings Make the Playoffs?

Branden FitzPatrickCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2011

Will this be the season that Tyreke Evans elevates his play to an all-star level?
Will this be the season that Tyreke Evans elevates his play to an all-star level?

This upcoming Sacramento Kings’ season has the feeling of “Play to Stay.” This means if the Kings have a strong year, they’ll bring the fans back.

The people of Sacramento are dying to root for a good basketball team again. Before the Oklahoma City Thunder became the new fascinating gem of the NBA, the Kings were the premier small-market team in the league. Arco Arena was one of the hardest gyms to snag a win from in the league, housed with one of the loudest fanbases in the NBA.

They truly were the greatest show on court.

However, players get old, and being a small-market franchise means you don’t get the marquee free agents that a certain Los Angeles team gets. Messing up in the draft is detrimental for small-market teams. There are a lot more Greg Odens than there are Kevin Durants.

With that said, I like what the Kings have done in the past couple drafts. Two years ago, they drafted a potential All-Star in Tyreke Evans. If he can stay healthy and shoot the ball better, he can definitely be the best player for a playoff team.

Last year, the Kings were lucky to have DeMarcus Cousins fall to them in the draft. He’s got the skill to be a special player, but does he have the mindset? We’ll see this season if he can improve his attitude. Sometimes wearing your attitude on your sleeve can be a negative trait, especially when it becomes a disadvantage for the team late in games.

With a solid young core intact and some interesting moves from the front office, this upcoming Kings season has some promise. Two years ago, Omri Casspi looked like a draft steal. However, after his play started to falter last season, he found himself playing less and less until he was eventually traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the once “untouchable” J.J. Hickson.

I love this move. One of the Kings' strengths last seasons was their ability to grab boards. Hickson isn’t the best rebounder, but he’s still a great pickup, especially if Samuel Dalembert departs for a new team. Mixing Hickson with Cousins, Jason Thompson, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Honeycutt, the Kings have an armada of young low-post talent. That’s also a lot of trade bait if they start the season strong and make a run for the playoffs.


Bringing John Salmons back was questionable, but if it doesn’t work out they can always use their amnesty clause on him. Re-signing Marcus Thornton should be a priority for them, considering the Kings have a lot of money to spend to reach the total salary minimum and he played well for them down the stretch last season. The Kings could use more depth at the small forward, so they should consider offering a contract to someone like Thaddeus Young or Jeff Green.

Then there’s Jimmer Fredette, the wonder from BYU. His situation is similar to that of Tim Tebow’s. Can his game translate to the NBA? Will he be able to get his shot off? Will any fast point guard blow right by him?

First off, Fredette isn’t J.J. Redick. He proved in college he could get his shot off because of how much he handled the ball and how much opponents focused on him. I don’t know how he’s going to stay in front of any decent point guard, but Fredette won’t be starting if the Kings bring back Thornton. This means he can be that spark the Kings need off the bench.

Right now the Kings have two things going for them: They have a lot of rebounders, and they have a lot of scorers.

If this team can learn to play a little defense, could it make the playoffs? Absolutely.

This will be Evans’ third season, the time when most franchise players take the leap. If this new Kings agenda is going to be for real, this would be the season when the signs start to show. How fitting it would be for the Kings to have a strong year, win the fans back and get the new stadium required to keep them in Sacramento for the foreseeable future?

With half the Denver Nuggets starting lineup either stuck in China or leaving in free agency, that’s one team that doesn’t look like a playoff team anymore. New Orleans probably won’t have Chris Paul, so you can count it out. Then the Blazers could either be a No. 6 seed or miss the playoffs entirely.

The Kings making the playoffs isn’t that far-fetched, and if the San Francisco 49ers season has proved anything, winning reminds the fanbase why they loved you in the first place.