October 25, 2012
NBA Enemy Lines
Sacramento Kings
2011-12 Record: 22-44
DeMarcus Cousins (15) led the NBA in offensive rebounding last season. (Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Their roster is rotten. The one good thing I can say is that for such a young team, Keith Smart is probably the perfect coach. He's so positive, and that's what they need because their two main guys, DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, appear to be clueless. So at least Keith will be upbeat every day in the way he deals with them.

Cousins has all the tools. It's amazing to see the talent he has -- along with the lack of discipline he shows. It's like he always knows better, even though he takes a lot of bad shots. He yells at the referees and doesn't get back on defense. Look, everybody makes those mistakes sometimes, but Cousins seems to do it regularly. He looks as if he has very little control of his temper. It is sad. Whether he's yelling at a ref or dunking on somebody and pounding his chest, he always looks like he's miserable.

The Kings deserve some responsibility for what they're enabling Cousins to become. There appears to be no accountability in the organization. I understand the theory of giving people the space to do their jobs and be professional, but in Sacramento there is no sign of anybody's being in charge. They never learn from their mistakes. They, of all people, draft a guy like Cousins, who needs discipline desperately, and it becomes a very bad situation for him. He really needed to play for someone like Gregg Popovich or Jerry Sloan or Pat Riley or Larry Brown, who would respect his talent by not letting him get away with stuff.

[Chris Mannix: What to expect from the Kings this season]

Evans has no clue how to play. He needs to be moved out of that organization. It has been a disaster because they didn't know where to play him, which is not necessarily their fault -- although we may look back and recognize that it was their fault. They tried him at the point, then at the 2, then the 3; he has never known what he was trying to be, and it has been too much on him. I definitely don't think he's a point guard. Maybe in the end he's just one of those guys who doesn't have a position and nobody knows what he really is. The only sure thing is that he needs to be in a new system away from that whole environment.

He's not a great shooter and he's not a great passer. He's a guy who has played point guard most of his life, but he was a scoring point guard who was so strong that he overpowered guys. He was never really a point guard who can help you win. Maybe his best spot in the end is going to be as a sixth man, your third guard. There's nothing wrong with that -- Kevin McHale and Manu Ginobili were sixth men. He might be a Jamal Crawford type of sixth man. He's obviously got some tools because of his size and strength and what he's able to do with the ball at his size. But what does it tell you about Sacramento that after three years in the NBA he still doesn't know what to do with his talent?

[Rob Mahoney: Evans hasn't earned a big payday ... yet]

I'm not a fan of Isaiah Thomas' because I don't think he's a point guard. I view him as a guy who passes only because he has to. But I also acknowledge that a lot of people in the league like Thomas and would disagree with me. When I watch him drive it inside, I think he's looking to score and the only reason he passes is because he has no choice against the bigger defenders. Between Cousins, Evans and Marcus Thornton, they have a team that doesn't have enough basketballs to make use of everybody, and the last thing they need is a shoot-first point guard.

Aaron Brooks is OK as a backup. He's not a true point guard, either. He's like that third guard who comes in and scores as your backup point, which is sort of like the role I was discussing for Evans in his next life with another team. Brooks is like Thomas in that he'll drive into the paint and he has to pass it because he's too small to score over the big trees. Brooks and Thomas are good as backups, but neither one is good enough to be a starter on a good team.

Thornton is another starter who doesn't have a clue how to play, and he doesn't defend. When they picked him up from the Hornets, he played better than I expected. He started and played well, but they were terrible as a team. He shot the ball every time he touched it. His perfect role is to be a microwave guy off the bench. Maybe he'll get a little bit better defensively, but I don't see big improvement from him as he grows older.

Then they go out and get James Johnson, who was given an entire season to start for a bad team in Toronto and couldn't get it done. It's like they keep adding more of the same to their roster.

Jason Thompson is one of the most overrated players in the league. Last year he had his best year, but he still doesn't do anything really well. He would be fine if he was your second or third big guy off the bench. But he doesn't shoot it great. He's not a very good defender -- he's foul-prone. He's an OK rebounder. He's not an explosive athlete. He doesn't play like he's 6-11. He's another example of how nobody ever gets better in Sacramento.

You have to worry about No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson. Who are his role models going to be? How is he going to improve? Who is going to intervene on his behalf? His approach should be to focus entirely on a guy like Smart, who will stay positive with him every day. That's pretty much the only hope.

[Lee Jenkins: Pacific Division preview]

John Salmons will be coming off the bench, which is fine. But there is no need for him in Sacramento. They have other guys doing what he does. Do you see what I mean about their roster? They have Francisco Garcia, another guy who needs to be moved. He was a big disappointment in the first half of last year and then he played better in the second half. In the right situation with the right team, maybe he can be a helpful player. But he's done in Sacramento because the rotation is so crowded between him and Salmons and their other guys. They have a lot of guys who do the same things and should be coming off the bench to do it.

I'm surprised Travis Outlaw hasn't turned out to be better. He has great length, he can shoot -- he's good from medium range -- and he's really long. He's athletic enough and he can pull a big man out away from the basket and shoot it, or he can post up a little guy to shoot a turnaround jump shot. Maybe he can become more of a 4-man.

It was a nice thing that the Kings gave Chuck Hayes a big contract even after he failed his physical initially [before last season, when a heart exam showed an abnormality], but it was not the best business decision, either. He had a role on a decent team in Houston, but with this team he serves no purpose. He's not going to start. He's really not a center; he's an undersized 4, actually. He needs to be in the perfect situation and this is not it. This team has too many issues to get through before he can begin to make a difference.

Jimmer Fredette will be in Europe in a year or two. He has no future in the league. None. He can't create his own shot, he has a hard time coming off screens for a shot and he's not a point guard. Most of his shots are going to remind you of what he did in college -- he pulls up 6 feet behind the pick-and-roll because nobody will be out that far to guard him. They've tried to put him in the pick-and-roll, but he lacks the size and strength. He is possibly the worst defender in the NBA. I can't think of somebody worse. I'm telling you, Steve Nash is an all-world defender compared to this guy.


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