13 SACRAMENTO KINGS

October 27, 2014

2013--14 RECORD: 28--54 (4TH IN PACIFIC) COACH: MICHAEL MALONE (2ND SEASON WITH KINGS)

SPOTLIGHT

DeMarcus Cousins's churlish behavior—which has led to suspensions for arguing with his coach, confronting a critical broadcaster, punching an opponent in the stomach and accumulating too many technical fouls—and his 97--194 record as a King have obscured the fact that he brings the goods consistently. In 2013--14, the 6'11", 270-pound center ranked ninth in scoring; reached career highs in shooting percentage and free throw attempts; led the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage; and had a better Player Efficiency Rating than Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. The fifth pick in 2010 looked the part of a budding superstar, and he'll now be paid like one, with his maximum four-year, $65.6 million extension kicking in this season.

There's work to be done, though. Cousins needs to display more patience in the post, reduce last season's career high of 3.5 turnovers per game and continue to raise his efficiency. He also has to move his feet more and use his hands less on defense, where Sacramento hasn't finished higher than 20th in points allowed per possession since 2005--06. (Cousins showed progress over the summer at the FIBA World Cup, where he controlled the paint in Team USA's gold medal victory over Serbia.) And, of course, fewer lapses in focus would help. Fundamentally, however, Cousins is turning out to be every bit the force down low that the Kings hoped he would be.

PROJECTED LINEUP

(2013--14 STATS)

STARTERS

PG

DARREN COLLISON*

11.4 PPG; 3.7 APG; 46.7 FG%; 37.6 3FG%

SG

BEN MCLEMORE

8.8 PPG; 2.9 RPG; 37.6 FG%; 32.0 3FG%

SF

RUDY GAY

20.0 PPG; 6.0 RPG; 2.9 APG; 45.5 FG%

PF

JASON THOMPSON

7.1 PPG; 6.4 RPG; 0.7 BPG; 50.6 FG%

C

DEMARCUS COUSINS

22.7 PPG; 11.7 RPG; 2.9 APG; 49.6 FG%

BENCH

PG

RAMON SESSIONS*

12.3 PPG; 4.1 APG; 2.4 RPG; 42.9 FG%

PF

CARL LANDRY

4.2 PPG; 3.2 RPG; 0.3 APG; 51.7 FG%

*NEW ACQUISITION

BEST CASE

McLemore and Stauskas progress, and Sacramento finally gets back on track after years of aimlessness.

WORST CASE

A misguided collection of veterans and prospects leaves the Kings with no clear means of advancement.

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE KINGS

DeMarcus Cousins has everything you want from a big man—except for his emotional outbursts and turnovers. Your defensive work has to be done early because he loves to run to the block in transition. You have to meet him at half-court, keep a body on him and force his catches away from the basket. He's still good enough to step out and hit a jumper, but you prefer to take away the deep post position.... The Kings don't have a great partner for Cousins at power forward. Derrick Williams is a spread four, but as a shooter he makes you cross your fingers. Jason Thompson is decent. Reggie Evans is a rebounding specialist. Carl Landry is not the best complement, because his strength is playing through the post, and that forces Cousins outside.... I'm between Rudy Gay's critics and supporters. He has all the tools, but where has Gay's game led to winning? ... Isaiah Thomas [who left for the Suns] is a better player than his successor at point guard, Darren Collison, but the Kings are expecting Collison to be more effective at setting up Cousins and moving the ball. Backups Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum can provide some of the pick-and-roll play that Thomas supplied.... The team has two top 10 picks who play the same position in Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas. With his shooting, size [6'6"] and athleticism, Stauskas will be a legitimate starting two guard sooner rather than later. People say McLemore is a good shooter; I haven't seen it. And I don't see enough from him as a pick-and-roll player and as a creator off the dribble—stuff you expect from your two.

PHOTOROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGESCousins needs a lot more support. FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)