Culture of Hoops

2016-17 NBA Season Preview: Sacramento Kings

Image courtesy of Michael Tipton/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Michael Tipton/Flickr.

Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs

Presenting an NBA preview of the Sacramento Kings that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Sacramento Kings are on the verge of kicking off their most exciting season since their high octane early 2000’s days. This isn’t to say that they have abnormally high expectations, rather that they have a brand new shiny stadium right downtown and the city of Sacramento is buzzing.

What’s Good… A new stadium, a new look, a new coach, some new faces. Kings’ first year head coach Dave Joerger, formally of the Memphis Grizzlies for the past decade including serving as the team’s head coach for the last three seasons, will bring some of that “Grindhouse” mentality to Sacramento and surely have the Kings playing harder and defending at a higher level than George Karl ever did. The Kings gave up an NBA-worst 109.1 points per game last season and, in a league dominated beyond the arc, also gave up a league-high 10.2 threes per contest. That’s surely not great.

Much like what Mike Malone started to do before getting prematurely axed by the front office, Joerger will help DeMarcus Cousins break some of his bad habits and form him into not just a good basketball player, but a smart one. Cousins is obviously the most important piece for the Kings because whether or not he buys in will determine the overall success of not only this season, but years to come. Coming off of a Gold Medal run in Rio under Mike Krzyzewski and his top notch staff and being surrounded by the best players in the world all summer, there is no better time than now for Cousins to step up and become a positive leader both on the floor and in the locker room. But it is now or never.

What’s Bad… Their roster isn’t great and Rudy Gay has already become a distraction by letting the front office know that he in fact will not pick up his player option at the season’s end. Continuity is something that the Kings have lacked for over a decade now and Gay, who is a damn good player in this league, has already seemingly packed his bags. Now Kings GM Vlade Divac is going to have to make the decision to keep or trade Gay sooner rather than later, as I explained in a piece last month.

Roster-wise, they did make some decent moves over the offseason but nothing that really makes you jump out of your seat. Who is going to score? With Cousins as their best player, are they going to be one of the last teams in the league to still run their offense through their big man? Joerger was able to do that in Memphis with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but Cousins doesn’t have the same passing ability and understanding of the game that those two have and he surely doesn’t have a point guard like Mike Conley Jr., who, over the summer, quickly went from constantly being overlooked and underrated to the highest paid player in the league. In an era that is currently dominated by point guards, there is a reason why Memphis couldn’t afford to let their man Conley walk and why Sacramento will continue to struggle without an elite guard of their own.

The X-Factor… Continuity. Stability. Buying in. All of the things stated above boil down to the X-Factor. If Vlade can deal Gay early in the season and get something decent in return then they can move forward and find that togetherness and winning mentality that is so desperately needed. If not then this season will be yet another “rebuilding” effort with another roster shakeup to come. At some point the Kings need to figure out just what exactly they are doing.

Bet On… Another season of being just good enough to not get a top pick. It’s really the worst way to be. Either tank or make the playoffs, but neither? Not a good look. Mediocrity gets you nowhere in the National Basketball Association or in life, for that matter.

The Crystal Ball Reveals… DeMarcus Cousins and Dave Joerger will form a solid bond and work well together, allowing for some positive growth and continuity as well as a winning attitude. Cousins’ experience on the Olympic team will help him grow into the leader that the Kings need. The City of Sacramento is revived by the new arena alone, but it will be another season of being marginal at best with the 2017-2018 campaign being the season that finally changes things in the State Capitol.

The Kings will finish 38-44; 11th in a still tough but much more balanced Western Conference. I say balanced because the Warriors are going to rest up as much as possible after last season’s playoff disaster, Oklahoma City is going to take a tremendous hit without Kevin Durant, the San Antonio Spurs are taking shape into a new direction and Gregg Popovich doesn’t care about the regular season and the Los Angeles Clippers are not dependable. This Western Conference regular season is going to look much more like the Eastern Conference from a year ago where you have a lot of near .500 teams with less of a tremendous drop off to your 17-win Los Angeles Lakers or your 23-win Phoenix Suns from a year ago.

Follow Rich Peters on Twitter and Instagram.

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