Sacramento Kings: Complete Season Preview and Primer

Shaun TobackCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2011

Sacramento Kings: Complete Season Preview and Primer

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    Never in the history of sports fandom has anyone been more excited for sub-.500 basketball than I am for the 2011-2012 Saramento Kings.

    Alright, that might be a bit hyperbolic, but still….damn, it’s good to have basketball back!

    Maybe it’s the fact that the NBA lockout left a void in my sports-viewing life the size of LeBron James’ ego.

    Maybe it’s the fact that the Kings, for the first time in a long time, have a team filled with young question marks who could surprise everyone.

    Or maybe it’s just the masochistic side of my personality that enjoys watching players like Boogie Cousins and Tyreke Evans who, despite an enviable amount of talent, could be arrested at a Sacramento-area strip club without surprising anyone.

    Whatever the reason, there is no shortage of excitement surrounding the beginning of the NBA season. So without further ado, here is far, far more coverage on the Sacramento Kings than you will likely see anywhere else—perhaps more than you would want to see anywhere else.

    Take it with a grain of salt, and go Kings.

The Starting Lineup

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    The Sacramento Kings starting lineup will likely be determined by whether or not the team manages to acquire a legitimate center to replace Samuel Dalembert.

    Little known fact: “Dalembert” is actually Haitian for “disappointment." Interesting stuff. 

    Although Dalembert will never be an impact player, he would have given the Kings some nice flexibility after Chuck Hayes’ problematic heart left the team short on frontcourt depth. The lineup that follows is based on players who are currently rostered with the team, although a Dalembert-like addition would certainly improve things in the city of Kings.

    PG: Tyreke Evans

    SG: Marcus Thornton

    SF: John Salmons

    PF: JJ Hickson

    C: Boogie Cousins

    Full disclosure: Jason Thompson will probably start at PF over Hickson. But I’m sick and tired of watching Jason Thompson do nothing, so as long as I’m in charge of the Kings lineup, even in hypothetical form, J.T. is coming off the bench.

    Evans, Salmons and Cousins are basically locked into starting roles.

    Even though ‘Reke has at no point in his career shown that he is capable of playing point guard on a consistent basis, that is where he will start the season. C’est La Vie, I guess. At the very least, it will be fun to watch Sacramento’s front office try to alternately talk themselves into Evans and Jimmer Fredette as starting point guards, even though neither is truly suited for the job.

    Salmons is the starting SF by default, since the days of Francisco Garcia: NBA Starter seem to have mercifully come to an end.

    And although Cousins may not be a true center, neither is anyone else on the Kings roster, so he will presumably start the year at the 5.

    Marcus Thornton had a “break out” year of sorts last season when Evans went down, which allowed Thornton to shoot the ball completely without conscience.

    We’ll see how that works out for a full season. He will begin the season as a starter, but depending on the development of Jimmer Fredette, he may be moved to the bench, where he can fulfill his inevitable destiny as an energizer-bunny/gunner sixth man.

Player with the Most Pressure: Tyreke Evans

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    Kings fans aren’t going to like hearing this, but the franchise’s best move may be to trade Tyreke Evans.

    He was spectacular in his rookie season but hasn’t improved since. And while the promise displayed during his first year in the league is still present, time waits for no man, especially an inefficient scoring guard.

    Back in 2009, the Kings could afford to suffer through ‘Reke’s lapses in judgment and blackhole-esque offensive game.

    Now, time is running out. The franchise has another player they can build around in DeMarcus Cousins and a number of guards who are able to approximate Evans’ production. Sure, Thornton and Jimmer may not be as good as Evans individually, but together they make a pretty decent facsimile of the former ROY’s game.

    No matter how you slice it, Evans will feel the pressure. If he improves, but the team does not, he will certainly be expendable. If he treads water yet again, but the team grows as a unit, he is also expendable.

    In order for Tyreke to cement his status as franchise cornerstone, he will have to simultaneously improve both his game and the players around him.

    Talk about pressure.

Holes to Fill

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    The Kings are an interesting team because they are overloaded in some areas and drastically overmatched at others.

    They have crazy depth at shooting/scoring guard, but don’t have a true point guard on the roster.

    Their stockpile of young, athletic big men is impressive, but there isn’t a true center in the bunch.

    They have a ton of small forwards, unfortunately, none of them are good.

    While it may seem like I’m being awfully critical of the Kings roster, I’m really not. They are truly one or two pieces away from being a really, really interesting team in the West.

    If they can add a true point guard to their stable of talented 2s, it would go a long way towards steadying what is a very young and volatile roster.

    And if they can replace Dalembert with another live body, it would allow Cousins to move to PF (where he is most comfortable) and would create a dynamic bench with Hickson, Garcia, Jimmer, Donte Greene, Jason Thompson and Marcus Thornton (assuming a real point guard arrives in Sac Town at some point).

Thing I'm Most Excited for

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    Jimmermania, baby!

    I’m not going to lie; after watching the magic that Tim Tebow has been able to bring to Denver, I’ve basically never been more excited about anything as I am about Jimmermania.

    It’s going to be awesome.

    Jimmer will bring all the hope and good faith that Tebow brought to the Broncos, only with far greater accuracy. I see Jimmer taking the NBA by storm, establishing himself as the greatest shooter in the league and raining 3-pointers mercilessly upon all competition.

    I’m picturing his game as a real-life version of what happens when you got 'Nique hot in NBA Jam, only way better. And way, way whiter.

Thing I'm Least Excited for

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    1,000 words.

Player to Watch

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    Get ready to get your Boogie on, Kings fans. Because DeMarcus Cousins is the key to your whole season.

    Great guards are sometimes on bad teams. But a great big man is never on a bad team. A team with an all-star caliber center or power forward will always be competitive; and in DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings have a player who could be one of the best big men in the league.

    To say that Boogie has some growing up to do is like saying that the Miami Heat have a chance at winning the 2012 NBA championship. It’s an epic understatement. And even though there is virtually no chance that Cousins puts all of his knuckleheaded-ness behind him, if he can grow up 50 percent over last year, the Kings will see exponential results on the floor.

Predictions for the Season

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    Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. Vegas oddsmakers and people who actually “know stuff about basketball” will likely tell you that the Kings won’t be very good in 2012.

    They will point to the fact that the NBA game is played with only one basketball, a fact that certainly hurts a team with Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons in the mix.

    But the shortened NBA schedule will reward teams with young legs and depth, and the Kings have both in spades.

    And while I’m not in love with Sacramento’s roster as it is currently constructed, I do believe that they will surprise people. I’m guessing that most will put the Kings at around 20-23 wins. But I’m going over. Waaaaay over.

    I think the Kings will win 33-35 games and sneak into the playoffs (where they will immediately and unceremoniously be eliminated). I think that they will find a point guard somewhere along the way and move Evans to the 2, where he will flourish. I think Jimmer’s the real deal. I think Boogie Cousins will make the leap.

    And I have absolutely nothing to back up any of these claims.

    Maybe I’m just getting excited for the return of NBA basketball. I don’t care. This is my prediction, and I will stand by it even as the Kings are losing their fourth game in five nights at home to the Raptors.