A lot has changed for the Kings since the 2012-13 season ended. The team was sold and the new ownership group cleaned house, bringing in a new general manager and coaching staff. They added a few veterans and had a strong draft but remain a year or two away from completing a full rebuild. Unfortunately, the team just gave a big contract to center DeMarcus Cousins, obviously hoping to make him the centerpiece of the franchise but also hurting their chances of landing another big name free agent next off-season.
There is a lot of things to like about this new Kings squad, one that should certainly expect to win more games than last year’s crew, but it is far from a complete product.
Points Per Game: 10th
Points Allowed Per Game: 30th
Rebounds Per Game: 25th
The Kings landed Vasquez in a three-team deal with the Pelicans and Blazers and he now finds himself battling for the starting job with Isaiah Thomas. After a couple of years of being a fairly mediocre bench player, he got a chance to start and blossomed into a passable one-guard last season in New Orleans. He averaged a decent 13.9 PPG and an impressive 9.0 APG but shot just .433 from the floor, ranking 22nd among qualifying point guards. He takes too many long-range shots despite not being a particularly efficient scorer which could very well allow young Isaiah Thomas to keep his starting job.
In 62 starts last season, Thomas shot a slightly better .442 from the floor, averaging 14.5 PPG and 9.5 APG. Thomas is also a better three-point shooter and averages about a steal per game. At just 24, he’s entering his third season in the league and should be given the chance to start and continue to improve.
Fredette, a former lottery pick out of BYU, continues to show improvement as a three-point specialist off the bench but doesn’t have much value beyond that. He averaged just 14 MPG and 7.2 PPG but shot an impressive 42 percent from three field and 41.7 percent from three-point range. His averages per 36 minutes are 18.4 PPG and 2.4 3PPG which is solid but hardly a complete product.
McCallum was the Kings’ second-round pick in this year’s draft out of the powerhouse that is Detroit Mercy University. Small school or not, McCallum was impressive in his final season, averaging 18.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, and 1.9 SPG while shooting a very solid 49 percent from the floor. He may turn out to be a solid pick but doesn’t figure to have much of a role on this team with three solid point guards ahead of him but he’s one for Kings fans to keep in mind for the future.
Shooting Guards: Ben McLemore, Marcus Thornton – Grade: C+
McLemore was the seventh-overall pick in this year’s draft and will be expected to start immediately. He only played one year in Kansas but looked very impressive, averaging 15.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and shooting a very strong 49.5 percent from the floor and 42 percent from deep. At just 20, the guy is a natural shooter with very solid skills and good size. The abilities are there but he’ll need to mature over the next season or two to be an elite starter in the NBA.
Thornton is primarily there for his shooting as well but his isn’t nearly as good. He shot a solid 37 percent from three-point range last season but just 43 percent from the floor and didn’t contribute much in any other category. A former-second round pick in 2009, both the Hornets and Kings tried to give him a chance to start but he’s clearly a second-round bench talent.
Although he’s primarily been a starter, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is really a rotation player who plays hard with very good defensive and rebounding skills but not a whole lot of offense. After shooting a very strong 51 percent in 2011-12, his field goal percentage plummeted to a career-low 40 percent last year. He’ll get his 25 MPG but he’s only out there for his defensive skills.
Salmons hasn’t been the same player we saw in Chicago and Milwaukee since returning to the Kings, averaging just 8.8 PPG and shooting just 40 percent from the field last season, despite playing 30 minutes per game. He’s a serviceable three-point shooter but, at 33, is clearly on the decline and doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table.
Outlaw has been a bench player since he came out in 2003 and is merely a pulse on the bench, not someone who figures to make any impact. It’s unclear how much playing time he will even see but his .418 shooting, 5.3 PPG, and not a whole lot anywhere else leaves a lot to be desire.
Thompson is a very solid shooter, making 50 percent of his shots last season while averaging 11 PPG and 6.7 RPG. He has solid defensive abilities and, at 6-foot-11, he has the size to bang with just about anyone in the paint.
Landry was an excellent rotation player for the Warriors last season, averaging 10.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and shooting a great 54 percent from the floor. That’s 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. He signed as a free agent with the Kings and quickly suffered an injury in the preseason, tearing a hip flexor. He will be out for three-to-four months which is a huge hit for the Kings.
Patterson, however, is a very serviceable rotation player himself. He didn’t play as well after being traded from the Rockets to the Kings last season but looked great as he shot 52 percent from the floor, 38.6 percent from deep, and averaged 11.6 PPG and 4.7 RPG while playing 26 MPG for the Rockets. He’s not as good a rebounder or defender as Landry but has a more diverse offensive skill set and has shown the ability to be an efficient scorer.
Centers: DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes – Grade: B
There is a lot to like about Cousins. His 17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 1.4 SPG last season are all excellent and the signs of a physical big man with a significant presence in the paint. The problem is his 46.5 percent field goal shooting. Among qualifying centers, only Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert shot at a lower rate. You have to shoot over 50 percent to be an elite center and Cousins has not shown that he can. Despite that, the Kings rewarded the 23-year-old center with a four-year max contract which sounds just like something the Kings would do.
Hayes has been around for eight years but has barely played over the last two. Last season, he averaged just 2.7 PPG and 4.0 RPG while playing 16 MPG. He shot just 44 percent from the floor and isn’t particularly good at anything except rebounding so he’s just there to give Cousins 10-15 minutes off per game.
Coach: Mike Malone – Grade: B+
Malone has been an assistant with the Knicks, Cavaliers, Hornets, and Warriors over the last 13 years and will get his first chance to be a head coach for the Kings. He was the highest-paid assistant coach in Golden State and was voted the best assistant coach in the NBA in a survey of the league’s general managers. He certainly has some talent to work with but rebuilding this perennially losing team is a multi-year project. It’s hard to see the Kings doing much of anything in 2013, yet again.
Team Grade: C+