Rudy Gay Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images of new coach and Aaron Brooks playing the replaced point guard, as it was the same in 2013-14 with Mike Malone playing the new coach and Greivis Vasquez playing the replaced vet guard. In 2014-15, management decided to skip the temptation to fix the offense via Thomas insertion and decided to sign a cheaper, lessqualified vet to run the point guard position upon his ouster. Yes, we know this doesn’t make any sense, but this is what Kings do every year. Not realize what they had in Isaiah Thomas, not until their offense shuts down because of poor point guard play. Go figure. Management, led by GM Pete D’Alessandro, is just hoping his big-scoring duo of center Cousins and Gay, both coming off a gold-medal winning turn as USA Basketball teammates at the 2014 World Cup, continues to play big during this NBA season. The 24-year-old Cousins has made strides in his offensive game, though it is slow to translate to the team end of things. C o u s i n s ’ 2 6 . 1 P l a ye r Efficiency Rating along with his .555 true shooting percentage seems to indicate that the 6-11, 270 pounder with 23-point and 12-rebound averages in 32 minutes per game has indeed arrived as a star. However, he had the third worst gravity score, as measured by SportVU, in the league, indicating he is a poor floor spacer, which also shows why his offensive Real Plus-Minus is so low for a player of his stature (-1.10 oRPM). When Cousins can start commanding double teams, that is truly when we shall see the Kings become much better offensively than 19th in the league (102.9 points per 100 possessions). Gay was brought in to create better floor spacing, and he has somewhat (+0.69 oRPM) with his 16-feet-and-in game, but he too has a long way to go in bringing out opponents’ pack-the-paint defenses with his poor shooting on long 2s and 3s (35.3 percent on 16-to-22-footers and 31.0 percent on 3s). This is especially frustrating when Cousins and Gay play with another frontline teammate, Jason Thompson, who is not known for his floor spacing skills either. In the meantime, the unitiated will tout Cousins and Gay for their 20-plus scoring averages at Kings. But you will know they have truly arrived as team leaders when their offensive games start to make standouts out of shooting guards, power forwards and role players alike. As it stands nowadays, players are brought into the Kings offense on a turnstile. They get their chance to start, then get their chance to back up and then they’re sent out of town. You see the names—Sessions, McLemore, Stauskas, Omri Casspi (again), Derrick Williams, Carl Landry (again)—and wonder if it’ll be any different this year. OUTLOOK There are signs of optimism on the Kings horizon: the team is staying in Sacramento; the Kings have a passionate owner; the front office is making good hirings (Mike Malone as head coach and stats guru Dean Oliver on the basketball operations staff); the team is in good salary cap shape. But do not expect Sacramento to make some Phoenix-like rise up the standings this year. We’ve seen too much from their starters already to be surprised much by Collison, McLemore, Gay, Thompson or Cousins. Rookie Nik Stauskas may have some upside if his shot translates at the NBA level, but other than that, we’ve seen these guys before. SPOTLIGHT: DeMarcus Cousins It is obvious Cousins is the best player on this team, but he needs to be watched for other reasons. Can he become a leader? Can he make his teammates better? Can he get his technical-foul problem under control? He tied for first last season with 16 techs, along with Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. Can he get his personal-foul problem under control? His 270 personal fouls ranked only behind Andre Drummond and Amir Johnson last season. Can Cousins become a positive influence in the locker room? Sacramento Kings brass has made no secret Cousins is the future of this franchise. Ownership invested a junior max 4-year, $65.5 million contract in him a year ago, and he has not disappointed thus far. That said, Cousins’ trade value will never be higher than it is right now. With no sign of improvement on the Sacramento horizon, now is the time to watch Cousins the closest. Is he playing for fantasy basketball stats and All-Star Game notices or is he playing for the Sacramento Kings? If management is satisfied, roll with Boogie. But this is the season you have to watch his team closely.
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