October 22, 2008
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Sacramento Kings
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Kings

For whatever reason, Kevin Martin still surprises people. Every team in the league knows not to go for his ball fake, yet somehow Martin's exaggerated ball fake gets people in the air and puts him on the line and you have no idea how it has happened. He is one of those guys who finds a way to improve something in his game each year. He has a quiet demeanor, he doesn't have blinding speed or bouncing athleticism, and he's got that ratchety-looking shot that makes you wonder, How does he wind that thing up? He came out of Western Carolina after the Kings had fallen out of contention, and as a result people ignored him. He doesn't get the respect he deserves, and therefore he kicks opponents' butts every night. He is the best player on this team, and the departure of Mike Bibby has given him even more room to grow.

Ron Artest was obviously their most talented player, but moving him gives them stability. My understanding is that he bullies his coaches and teammates, and he's so volatile that you almost have to break your own team rules in order to keep him on the team.

I think they paid way too much for Francisco Garcia this summer [$30 million over five years]. On a good team, he would be a backup, but they gave him starter's money. I think Garcia and coach Reggie Theus have a strong relationship and Theus has helped improve his confidence. Garcia is the kind of guy who would rather be a part-time contributor to a winning team than a big-time member on a loser. He is slow laterally, but he's a good team defender who will occasionally block a shot. The big issue with him is that he will drive the ball past his defender but he bails out at the first sign of contact, and that makes him a poor finisher.

Brad Miller had a bounce-back year after a lot of people questioned whether he was finished. He shot the ball better and made fewer mistakes and turnovers. After a disappointing year, you can either show that you're going to continue to play poorly or that you have enough pride to find a way to come back. I can understand guys having trouble finding motivation to work hard every summer, but it's easier to be motivated if you've been getting your butt kicked.

John Salmons is a good complementary player for them to build with. He's really good at getting to the rim, he's long and defensive-minded, and he can guard multiple positions because of his size.

Spencer Hawes is a versatile big man who can put the ball on the floor, but he needs to get stronger. He isn't a traditional post player, and he would have fit in well as a facilitator when they were running their high-post sets under Rick Adelman.

Shelden Williams has gotten beat up by everybody as a guy who got picked way too high in the draft by Atlanta [No. 5 pick in 2006]. His game is just so limited. He's a below-the-rim player who doesn't have athletic moves. It's not his fault he was drafted too high, but he'll always get blamed for it.

Rookie forward Jason Thompson can shoot from range, he has a little bit of bounce athletically and he can do multiple things. He runs the floor and he's a willing passer. He is too unselfish at times. He is going to need an open-minded coach to bring the best out of him.

Beno Udrih landed in a good place. He had a nice shortened season [65 games], and it will be curious to find out if he's worth the money they gave him this summer [$32 million over five years]. Udrih wasn't the toughest guy in San Antonio, though I think Gregg Popovich regrets cutting his feet out from under him so quickly.

I don't think a lot was expected of Theus, but he tried to be positive with the players and that made him look better in relation to Eric Musselman, who beat them up the year before.

I don't see an identity for this team as it tries to rebuild. They have a lot of guys with something to prove, but I look at this roster and I see mediocrity.


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