During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each team in the upcoming season.
In this edition, we examine the Sacramento Kings.
Two Key Factors to a Successful Sacramento Kings Season
It seems like the Sacramento Kings have been re-building for years; that’s mainly because they have been. The Kings have struggled for a while now and can’t seem to get out of this poor period. For a team that has an All-Star on its roster, the Kings hierarchy has failed to build around star center DeMarcus Cousins. From the free agency signings to the many draft picks, the Kings have issues bringing in quality talent.
Moving on from Rudy Gay
During the 2013-14 season, the Kings acquired forward Rudy Gay from the Toronto Raptors. Gay has given the Kings three solid years, but he appears to be producing less and less every year. Set to earn just over $13 million during the upcoming season, Gay is a player who the Kings shouldn’t carry anymore. He is not improving and is set to earn even more money next season.
This Kings team needs to look forward; keeping players like Gay will only hold the team back. Despite not actually getting anywhere with their previous attempts, the Kings are re-building once again. Gay is a player who can easily be traded, with recent reports suggesting that there are plenty of suitors. The Kings should trade Gay and move on from the 30-year-old forward.
Developing Willie Cauley-Stein
In the 2015 NBA Draft, the Kings selected big man Willie Cauley-Stein No. 6 overall. The seven-foot Cauley-Stein developed slowly in his rookie year, showing promise as the year went on. Cauley-Stein averaged seven points, 5.3 rebounds, and one block per game in his rookie season. He is now 23 years old heading into his sophomore year.
After starting 39 games in his first year, Cauley-Stein will fight to be named the starting power forward. The Kings would do well to start the promising young man. Cauley-Stein will need to develop his offensive skill-set, as the big man out of Kentucky is a defensive specialist. If Cauley-Stein can develop the other side of his game, then there is no reason why the big man can’t team with Cousins to form one of the more promising front-courts in the association.
Cauley-Stein will develop faster if he is the starter; the same goes for essentially any second-year player. DeMarcus Cousins could also benefit from having Cauley-Stein on the court alongside him. Adding a talented young big man will take pressure off of Cousins, allowing him to focus more on the offensive side of his game. Cauley-Stein can rebound and defend well, not to mention that he’s seven feet tall. His skill-set could free up Cousins to dominate on a regular basis.
In the past, Cousins has often looked like a one-man wrecking crew. With Cousins being so talented, he needs to be surrounded by solid role players. Cauley-Stein is a good first step, as the power forward fits the bill. Sacramento has a long way to go if it’s to be competitive once again, but the development of Cauley-Stein could be the start of something special in Sac-town.