Kings

Player-by-player examination of the 2016-17 Kings

Player-by-player examination of the 2016-17 Kings

Opening night is finally upon us. When the Sacramento Kings take on the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, they do so with plenty of new faces from the team that finished last season 33-49. Here is a quick look at the team that will take the floor during the 2016-17 campaign with the hopes of snapping the Kings’ decade-long playoff drought.

Who’s Gone

After Sacramento decided not to pursue Rajon Rondo, the former All-Star took big money to join the Chicago Bulls. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson will be asked to fill the void left by the NBA’s leading assist man from last season. Also leaving the Kings are Seth Curry (Mavericks), Quincy Acy (Mavericks), James Anderson (Turkey), Caron Butler (free agent), Eric Moreland (free agent), Duje Dukan (Croatia) and Marco Belinelli (traded to Hornets).  

Who’s New

With Rondo leaving, Vlade Divac took a one-year, league minimum gamble on Lawson with the hopes that he can turn around his career. Veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo was inked to a 2-year, $25 million deal with a team option in year two at $1.5 million. At the wing, Garrett Temple (3-years/$24 million) and Matt Barnes (2-year/$12.5 million) were added for depth. Anthony Tolliver was brought in to play the stretch four position. He’s on a two-year $16 million deal with a team option at $2 million in year two. With two draft day deals, the Kings were able to make three selections in the first round, drafting big man Georgios Papagiannis (13th overall), wing Malachi Richardson (22nd overall) and power forward Skal Labissiere (28th overall).  

Who’s Left

DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh season with the Kings and expected to play a huge role in the upcoming season. Despite politely asking for a new address during the summer, Rudy Gay is back for another season in Sacramento. Ben McLemore is entering his fourth season with the Kings after being selected with the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. Forward Omri Casspi returns for his third straight season in Sacramento, although he’s played for the Kings for five of his eight NBA seasons. Point guard Darren Collison is in the final year of his 3-year, $15 million deal that he signed in the summer of 2014. Big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos are back for year two. Cauley-Stein was selected with the sixth overall pick last year and Koufos is in the second season of a 4-year, $33 million deal.   

The Starters

Ty Lawson - Point Guard

The 28-year-old veteran will man the point guard position while Collison is out for the first eight games of the season (league suspension).  Lawson spent last year bouncing between Houston and Indiana, playing in a combined 66 regular season games. The speedy guard is coming off a down year and looking to get back to the player that averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists during the 2014-15 season in Denver. He is expected to lead the second unit once Collison returns to action Nov. 8 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Arron Afflalo - Shooting Guard

Afflalo joins the Kings after playing last season for the New York Knicks. The 31-year-old shooting guard brings a stabilizing influence to the Kings’ backcourt. He’s bounced around the league a bit, but he can shoot from the outside (career 38.5 percent from 3-point range) and has a nice post game for a guard. He’ll be asked to play major minutes early in the year

Rudy Gay - Small Forward

When Gay signed a 3-year extension in 2014, it was with the understanding that he would form a nice 1-2 punch with DeMarcus Cousins under head coach Michael Malone. Three coaches later, Gay has already informed the team that he will opt out at season's end. He is coming off a down offensive season, but his role in George Karl’s system was limited a season ago. The 30-year-old forward has every reason to put up big numbers as he approaches free agency next summer.

DeMarcus Cousins - Power Forward

The franchise cornerstone big man is fresh off Olympic gold and looking for his first playoff berth. After averaging 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season, Cousins has clearly cemented himself as the game’s best pivot. He’ll be asked to open the game at the power forward spot, but will spend most of his season manning the center position. He’s taylormade to play in Joerger’s high-post style of play and primed for his third straight All-Star bid.

Kosta Koufos -- Center

Teams around the league like to start big and then make mid-quarter adjustments. Koufos knows Joerger’s system from their time together in Memphis. He will get the nod early, but expect plenty of Willie Cauley-Stein, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver and Omri Casspi alongside Cousins as Joerger looks for the right mix. Koufos is a defensive-minded big that can rebound and score efficiently around the hoop. He’s in the best shape of his career and will likely be asked to open the game guarding the opponent's tough big.

The Rotation

Garrett Temple

While Collison is out, the Kings will ask Temple to play plenty of point guard minutes behind Lawson. After game eight, the versatile wing will play minutes at the 1, 2 and 3 as a perimeter stopper. He’s not a scorer, but Temple is a great locker room influence and plays with an infectious tenacity that fans will instantly appreciate.    

Ben McLemore

After starting 190 games in his first three seasons in the league, McLemore will get an early shot to play behind Afflalo at the two. He’s had plenty of struggles, but the former first round pick can shoot, he’s a big time leaper and he has the tools to be a very good NBA defender. If he can’t show that he’s ready to play rotational minutes during Collison’s absence, it could be a long season on the bench for the 23-year-old guard.

Omri Casspi

Casspi was a lethal weapon last season as both a starter and a reserve for Karl. He shot an impressive 40.9 percent from 3-point land and 48.1 percent from the floor on his way to a career-best 11.8 points per game. Casspi is in a dogfight for minutes with Tolliver, Barnes and Temple. He missed time during camp with a hip issue and an illness, but he finished camp strong. When the Kings go small, expect Casspi and Barnes to form a strong forward combination.  

Matt Barnes

At 36, Barnes showed that he has plenty left in the tank last season playing for Joerger in Memphis. Not always the most popular player amongst the fans, the Sacramento-native plays a gritty brand of basketball that has earned him the trust of his coaches and teammates. He’s likely not going to log 28.8 minutes or average 10.0 points per game like last season, but he’s a quality veteran presence that can still run the floor like a gazelle and lock down forwards on defense.

Anthony Tolliver

The Kings shocked the NBA world a bit with their investment this summer in the 31-year-old Tolliver. Another team-first guy, Tolliver can hit the open 3-ball, play defense and shock you with a sneaky block here and there. Joerger loves veterans and this is one handpicked by new assistant GM Ken Catanella. Can he bring the “Tolliver Effect” to Sacramento?

Willie Cauley-Stein

It’s not that Cauley-Stein has fallen out of favor in Sacramento, but he’s up against some serious veteran contenders for minutes this season. The lanky defensive stopper still looks slightly uncomfortable in the Kings’ new system. He will get his bearings eventually and make a nice addition to Joerger’s small ball lineups. Cauley-Stein has never been asked to run a high post or hit a 20-foot jumper in his young career. He’ll get minutes, but how many will depend on quickly he can acclimate to the new offensive and defensive schemes.

The Rest

Skal Labissiere

The rookie out of Kentucky has been the talk of camp. He has tremendous length and athleticism, but he’ll need time to develop. Labissiere will see time in Reno with the Bighorns, but expect the Kings to keep him around the team so their staff can develop this top tier talent.

Georgios Papagiannis

Another young big that needs development time in Reno, Papa G has trimmed down considerably since we first saw him walk in the door. The Kings will be patient in bringing the 7-foot-1 center along. He is a giant with a soft touch both inside and outside. If he can learn the high-post system and continue to show improvement in his physique, the Kings might be onto something in year two and three.

Malachi Richardson

Lost in a numbers game at the wing, Richardson will commute back and forth from Reno with his fellow rookie class. The smooth shooting guard/forward has great size and length to play the two, but his shot selection and accuracy must improve to make an impact at the NBA level. Coaches rave about his demeanor and he routinely beats veterans in 3-point shootouts after practice.
 

Kings learn another harsh lesson, blow massive lead in loss to Nets

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Kings learn another harsh lesson, blow massive lead in loss to Nets

SACRAMENTO -- The hum of a stocked glass-door refrigerator in the corner was the only discernible noise in the Kings’ locker room Tuesday night. The weight of a monumental 123-121 loss to the Brooklyn Nets hung in the air, and no one was in a mood to speak to the media.

In a season of harsh lessons, blowing a 25-point fourth quarter lead and giving up the winning bucket with 0.8 seconds remaining may have been the straw that broke the Kings' backs.

“It’s just a bad loss,” a frustrated De’Aaron Fox said.

“We blew it. I hate losing, especially like that,” rookie Marvin Bagley said.

After destroying Brooklyn with a 20-0 run to begin the second half, the Kings looked unbeatable headed into the fourth quarter.

Bagley was having another breakout game. Fox looked finished for the evening when Joerger turned to Yogi Ferrell off the bench.

Sacramento led by 103-78 heading to the final frame. They were well on they’re way to their 35th victory, and a move back to .500.

Then, D’Angelo Russell caught fire.

The Kings have seen a player do something similar in the past. Golden State’s Klay Thompson hit the team for 37 points in a third quarter of a game back in Jan. 2015. But this was different.

This wasn’t a run to blow a team out. Russell’s 27-point outburst in the fourth came in a hostile environment, as every point cut into a big deficit. The All-Star guard finished the evening with 44 points out of necessity for his club, and the Kings had no answer.

“Well, that certainly can be a tough one to take, but it’s a good opportunity for our guys to learn and hopefully we’ll be in those opportunities again in the future where we have a lead and we don’t relax,” coach Dave Joerger said. “We relaxed and were very casual, didn’t run back on defense, turned the basketball over a ton and took a lot of jump shots because we thought it was going to be easy.”

The lead evaporated quickly. Sacramento started missing shots, and turning the ball over. Russell started pulling up for 3-pointers on the break, and hitting them.

A stunned Golden 1 Center crowd was silenced as the Nets hit the Kings with one blow after another.

“They made shots, we turned the ball over, they got it going and got hot and they finished the game better than we did,” Fox said.

When Russell missed a couple of shots, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson picked up the slack. When they needed a big 3-pointer, veteran Jared Dudley knocked it down.

Joerger tried different looks in the fourth, but nothing seemed to work. Sacramento shot just 22.7 percent in the final 12 minutes, and turned the ball over seven times. Only Buddy Hield hit more than one shot in the final 12 minutes, and even he went just 2-of-6 from the field, and missed all three of his 3-pointers.

“They wanted it more than us,” Hield said. “They out-toughed us. Outplayed us. They were the guys that were the most confidence. They were talking, having fun. They took the fun away from us in the fourth quarter.”

[RELATED: Why Christie never can forget LeBron's famous first dunk]

In the end, the Nets hit big shots and the Kings came up short. The ball got sticky, the game slowed down and a team with a lot to play for handed Sacramento a devastating loss.

“We kind of relaxed in that moment and the basketball gods punished us. That’s how it goes,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.

With the defeat, the Kings dropped to 34-36 on the season. Combined with a Los Angeles Clippers victory, Sacramento fell seven games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with 12 games remaining.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-121 loss on Nets' unreal rally

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Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-121 loss on Nets' unreal rally

SACRAMENTO -- Desperately needing a win over a tough Brooklyn Nets team, the Kings looked like world beaters in the third quarter.

Then it all fell apart Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center.

Riding an incredible performance by D’Angelo Russell, the Nets erased the Kings' 25-point third-quarter lead. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got a flip to fall with eight-tenths of a second remaining, and Buddy Hield’s desperation heave came up short as Brooklyn pulled out a shocking 123-121 win.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped to 34-36 on the season, with their slim playoff hopes fading even more.

The good run

Sacramento held a 66-58 lead going to intermission, and then the third quarter happened. The Kings came out on fire, punishing the Nets with a 20-0 run to open the second half.

Brooklyn slowed woke up to score 20 points in the quarter, but the damage was done. Sacramento outscored the visitors 37-20 to take a 25-point lead into the fourth.

The Kings shot 69.6 percent in the quarter, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Harrison Barnes scored 12 of his 17 points in the quarter, and Fox added nine as the Kings hit the jets and blew the Nets off the court.

The not-so-good run

An NBA game doesn’t end after 36 minutes, and the Kings learned that the hard way.

Led by an incredible fourth-quarter outburst from Russell, Brooklyn (37-36) stormed back in the final 12 minutes and maintained its position as the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed.

Russell torched the Kings for 27 of his game-high 44 in the final period, single-handedly bringing the Nets to victory. He didn’t hit the game-winner, but with all of the attention focused on him, the Nets found a way to put the ball in the basket.


Bagley puts on a show

The rookie is growing by leaps and bounds every time he steps on the court. After dropping in 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds against the Bulls on Sunday, he destroyed the Nets' front line on Tuesday.

Bagley shot a perfect 8 of 8 from the field in the first half for 17 points. He backed that up after the break, finishing with a team-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

The 20-year-old is looking to finish the season strong. He’s posted back-to-back 20 point games despite playing on a minutes restriction.