The Sacramento Kings last made the NBA Playoffs in 2006, meaning that a passionate fan base has been waiting a decade for a return. But given the strength of the Western Conference, and the Pacific Division that the Kings are part of, the climb back to respectability has been a difficult one. On the positive side the Kings open a new arena in downtown Sacramento this season, and in center DeMarcus Cousins they have a two-time All Star who rates as one of the best players in the NBA. But who will help Cousins as new head coach Dave Joerger looks to bring success to a struggling franchise?
Here’s a look at the roster:
Kings Projected Starting Lineup
G: Darren Collison (14.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.3 apg) Collison made just 15 starts at the point last season, but with Rajon Rondo signing with the Bulls he’s the best option to take over the role. Collison finished last season with an assist percentage of 21.7, second-best on the team behind Rondo, and his main job this season will be to get Cousins the ball in spots where he can be most successful. It should be noted that Collison has been suspended for the first eight games of the season as a result of his guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery.
G: Arron Afflalo (12.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg) Afflalo played in 71 games for the Knicks in 2015-16, getting off to a late start due to a left hamstring injury suffered just before the season began. A good defender at the off-guard position, Afflalo shot 44.3 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three. He should have scoring opportunities as teams will focus their attention on stopping Cousins in the post.
F: Rudy Gay (17.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) Gay shot just over 46 percent from the field for the Kings last season, starting all 70 games in which he played. If anything it would benefit Gay, and by extension the Kings, if he could get to the foul line more often in 2016-17. Last season Gay averaged just 3.6 attempts per game, but just over half of his field goal attempts were within nine feet of the basket and in according to Basketball Reference. Get to the line more, and Gay could end up being a more efficient scoring option for the Kings.
C: DeMarcus Cousins (26.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.3 apg) Cousins has developed into one of the stars of the league, with his scoring average increasing in each of his six seasons as a pro in addition to grabbing 11 rebounds or more per game in four of the last five years. While he does tend to rack up the technical fouls, sitting out two games last season due to suspension, his skill set makes him an indispensable player for the Kings.
C: Willie Cauley-Stein (7.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) Cauley-Stein has always been an athletic big man, going back to his high school days when he was also a wide receiver on the football team. The goal now is to get the 7-foot-1 center to use that athleticism in adjusting to the pro game, and he made some strides in that regard as a rookie. Cauley-Stein shot 56.3 percent from the field, ran the floor well and was second on the team in offensive rebounding percentage (10.3).
Kings Projected Bench
G: Garrett Temple (7.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg) The loss of Rondo creates a void at the backup point guard spot, with Collison now inserted as the starter. With Temple being on a guaranteed contract he could be the player Joerger picks for the job, but Jordan Farmar and Ty Lawson are also in camp (non-guaranteed contracts). The 6-foot-6 Temple, who can play any of the three perimeter positions, made 43 starts for the Wizards last season.
G: Ben McLemore (7.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg) McLemore played in 68 games for the Kings last season, making 53 starts. With the Kings needing to make significant improvements on the defensive end of the floor, moving McLemore into the sixth man role with Afflalo getting the starting nod may be the best approach.
G: Malachi Richardson (Rookie) Richardson was one of Sacramento’s two first round picks in June’s NBA Draft, with the Syracuse product benefitting from good physical measurements at the Combine and a very good month of March. While Richardson was solid for most of the season, he really didn’t take off until postseason play when he helped lead the Orange to the Final Four. He’s another shooter for a team that ranked tenth in the NBA in three-point percentage in 2015-16.
F: Omri Casspi (11.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) Casspi made 21 starts in 69 appearances for the Kings last season, shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc. The only guard/wing with a higher offensive rating than Casspi’s 109 last season was former King Seth Curry, who finished the year with an offensive rating of 114.
F: Matt Barnes (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.1 apg) The Sacramento native returns to his hometown after playing in 76 games for the Grizzlies last season. He’s certainly familiar with Joerger for that reason, and in Barnes the Kings have a tough wing who defends well and has generally been a good shooter throughout his pro career. Barnes has averaged at least ten points per game in three of the last four seasons.
C: Kosta Koufos (6.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) From a percentage standpoint Koufos was Sacramento’s best offensive rebounder, as he finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.4. Koufos shot 53.2 percent from the field in 2015-16, and he’s a key member of the Kings’ bench unit. That will once a again be the case, especially when considering the youth of some of Sacramento’s other front court options.
C: George Papagiannis (Rookie) The decision of general manager Vlade Divac to swap the draft right of Marquese Chriss with the Suns for those of Papagiannis on draft night was one that raised eyebrows. Papagiannis, who had a brief stint in the States at Westtown Academy, was taken 13th overall in the draft after playing for Panathinaikos in Greece. At 7-foot-1 he has good size, but this is a pick that could need some time to develop.
Other Players in Kings Training Camp
G Ty Lawson
G Jordan Farmar G Isaiah Cousins G/F Lamar Patterson
F Anthony Tolliver
F/C Skal Labissiere
Only Tolliver and Labissiere have guaranteed deals going into training camp, with the latter being a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Tolliver’s a solid veteran better known for his defense, and he should help the Kings there. As for Lasbissiere, after an inconsistent season at Kentucky his pro success will be determined by how he adjusts to physical play. Labissiere had issues with this at Kentucky, playing his best when allowed to roam as opposed to simply staying around the basket.
As for the other four spots, Lawson, Farmar and Cousins are all looking to make an impression in the point guard competition. Lawson and Farmar are both established veterans, with the rookie Cousins receiving a $100,000 guarantee that’s rare for an un-drafted player. With Collison being suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, the offseason signings of Farmar and Lawson make it clear that the front office knew it would be without Collison for a period of time. And Patterson’s a wing who has NBA experience with the Hawks, as he played in 35 games for them last season.
Kings Coaching Staff
Head coach: Dave Joerger (First season; 147-99 career record.)
Assistant coaches: Elston Turner, Bob Thornton, Bryan Gates, Duane Ticknor, Jason March, Nancy Lieberman, Dan Hartfield, Larry Lewis
UPDATE (10/19): The Kings waived guard/forward Lamar Patterson.
UPDATE (10/24): The Kings waived guards Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Farmar.