Blog Entry

Spotlight on the Kings

Posted on: December 22, 2009 10:21 am
Not long ago, ARCO Arena was one of the most unique and hostile environments in the NBA. The Kings are a long way from recreating those glory days, but it’s time to notice their surprisingly good start.

Sacramento improved to 13-14 Monday night with a truly amazing comeback from a 35-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Bulls 102-98. Caveat No. 1: This outcome said more about how dysfunctional the Bulls than how good the Kings are. Caveat No. 2: It’s ridiculously early to start talking about a playoff race, but the Kings are only 2 1-2 games out of the eighth spot with 55 games to go. Just saying.

What are the keys to the Kings’ early success? Where do they go from here? Let’s break down the team from Sac-Town:

Tyreke Evans: Brandon Jennings got much of the early buzz in the rookie of the year race, but Evans is fashioning a death grip on the award lately. Even if Blake Griffin comes back after the New Year, puts up consistent numbers, and single-handedly saves the Clippers, he will be hard-pressed to overtake Evans. This kid’s the real deal.

• Paul Westphal: Some thought the former Suns coach was coming back simply to go through the motions and cash a paycheck. Think again. Westphal, who hadn’t drawn up an NBA play since 2001, was the perfect coach for this team. He’s always excelled at coaching young players, and more importantly, he enjoys it. That kind of coaching is infectious.

Jason Thompson: After showing flashes as a rookie, Thompson is taking full advantage of an expanded role, more minutes, and increased confidence. His averages have increased in every major offensive category, starting with scoring (from 11.1 ppg to 15.4). What’s interesting is that the Kings’ brass aren’t necessarily surprised by Thompson’s progress. Sources say he’s improved about as much as the team expected.

Omri Casspi: While Evans, Jennings, DeJuan Blair, James Harden, Ty Lawson, and others have stood out in a surprisingly strong rookie class, no team has two rookies performing as well as Evans and Casspi. The first Israeli-born player in NBA history has exceeded the team’s expectations, emerging as a reliable starter with three 20-point games in the Kings’ last seven – two of them on the road.

Beno Udrih: As with Luke Ridnour in Milwaukee, most people assumed Udrih would fade into the background with a talented lottery pick starting from Day 1 in the backcourt. But just as Ridnour has with Jennings, Udrih has settled into a key support role for Evans. Not only can Udrih’s ball-moving abilities allow Evans concentrate on penetrating and scoring, he’s also shooting 53 percent from the field and 45 percent from point range, both career highs.

Kevin Martin: All of this is happening with the Kings’ best player out since early November with a wrist injury. Martin has begun shooting before games and is inching closer to his projected January return.

Disclaimer: The Kings understand that unexpected success can easily revert to expected mediocrity. GM Geoff Petrie and assistant GM Jason Levien also understand that Sacramento has enjoyed the third-easiest scheduled in the league thus far, with an opponent winning percentage of .452. Only the Nuggets and Celtics have had it easier. But the Kings’ rapid progress with this young group has changed the game for the front office as the trade deadline looms in February.

Having believed that this was probably going to be a non-playoff/development year, the team had every intention of letting Kenny Thomas’ $8.6 million expiring contract come off the books next summer and then explore at most a mid-level free agent. But if the Kings keep winning once Martin returns, Petrie is expected to be more open to dealing Thomas as part of a package that would bring back a solid front-line player with an eye toward transforming this lightning-in-a bottle start into a playoff berth.

Stranger things have happened. And at a time when the NBA is dominated by the haves at the expense of the have-nots, it’s good for the game when a plucky team from the hinterlands authors a surprising success story.

Since: Oct 29, 2007
Posted on: December 24, 2009 2:39 pm

Spotlight on the Kings

Here's my evaluation of Kings team (I'll include only guys worth keeping for the future):

PG - Sergio Rodriguez, Beno Udrih
SG - Tyreke Evans, Francisco Garcia
SF - Omri Casspi, Donte Greene, Ime Udoka
PF - Jason Thompson, Sean May
C - Spencer Hawes

Guys with high trade value that may not be needed with emergence of young guns - Kevin Martin, Kenny Thomas (he's just trash expiring deal)

Guys with low trade value, Cap burdens - Andres Nocioni, possibly Beno Udrih

What kind of trade they should do to make their team even better - Kevin Martin and Kenny Thomas for either quality PF/C type, starting caliber PG (since Tyreke is more in a SG mold) or some combination of youth players and future lottery picks

Since: Aug 16, 2009
Posted on: December 24, 2009 2:01 am

Spotlight on the Kings

Nevermind. This move makes little sense for the Kings since Martin's salary for 2009 is below $10 million and they only get to free up $7 million with the contracts being acquired so that move makes little sense. Also, Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster aren't exactly premium quality small forwards.

Also, Samuel Dalembert might be the biggest headcase in the league. He is mobile for a 7 footer but he has a terrible work ethic as his post game has barely improved since he came into the league. He has zero basketball instincts and has the worst assist/TO ratio in the NBA. I'm sure Portland could land someone else who's just as good for half the price.

This move really only benefits the 76ers, so there's some homerism for ya.

Since: Aug 16, 2009
Posted on: December 24, 2009 1:50 am

Spotlight on the Kings

Anyone think they could trade Kevin Martin? Since it's apparent that they can play without him and have two capable shooting guard in Donte Green and Tyreke Evans, it will be interesting to see what they do with Martin once he returns from injury.

Here would be my dream trade:

This is a three-way deal between the Kings, Trail Blazers, and 76ers.

The Kings need a small forward, the Blazers need a center, and the 76ers need a shooting guard.

King give up: Kevin Martin
Kings acquire: Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Steve Blake

Trail Blazers give up: Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Steve Blake
Trail Blazers acquire: Samuel Dalembert

76ers give up: Samuel Dalembert
76ers acquire: Kevin Martin

The Kings want to get rid of Martin's contract but don't want to acquire any long-term deals. Outlaw can start at small forward and Webster and Blake both have 1 year remaining on their respective contracts. This move gives the Kings the option to sign some big name free agents in 2010.

The Blazers need a center that is durable and doesn't get injured. Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are both out for the season. Samuel Dalembert hasn't missed a game since 2005. Dalembert allows this team to at least stay competitive for this season. Also, he is young, athletic, and a great shot blocker, who can become a great player if he is under the right coach. Also, if he doesn't work out, his contract ends in 2011. Also. Outlaw and Blake won't be needed once Nicholas Batum and Jerryd Bayless step into their roles.

The 76ers need someone who can shoot. Kevin Martin is young and can act as a superstar for this star less team. Martin provides someone who can shoot very well and can play defense. Also, Dalembert has been requesting a trade for about a year.

Since: Mar 2, 2009
Posted on: December 24, 2009 12:40 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2009 4:12 pm

Spotlight on the Kings

This team has the potential to challenge for it all in 2 years, if Petrie is patient I don't disagree with you that this team definitely has the young talent to become a very good Western Conference challenger...I think it might take around 4 years (with some playoff experience) to challenge "for it all."  I think if the Kings can keep the core group of:

PG Tyreke Evans (20)
SG Donte Green (21), Kevin Martin (26)
SF Andres Nocioni (30) Most likely gone.
PF Jason Thompson (23)
C Spencer Hawes (21)

PF/C Jon Brockman (22)
SG Francisco Garcia (27)
PG Sergio Rodriguez (23)
SF Omri Casspi (21)

I think these are the key contributors that the Kings will try to keep around...With that being said, I think the SF starting position and backup big men are the key issues for the Kings to address to become a LEGIT Championship Contender...
Nocioni will most likely be gone within the next few years so I think that starting SF is the key spot up for grabs....
Whether they would want to move Green, Martin or Garcia into that role is a possibility if they cannot sign a quality free agent or draft a good SF...
Also, they must improve the depth in the front court in order to compete with the other Western Conference contenders...
Lastly, they must make the playoffs a few times before they will realistically compete for the title...With the addition of a few good pieces I feel the Kings will be a playoff team no doubt, but I feel it will be closer to 4 years (assuming they keep most everyone around) that they are a Championship quality team. 

Since: Mar 29, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2009 3:22 pm

Spotlight on the Kings

The major issue maybe turning this team into the Portland Trailblazers, i.e. having so much young talent but not enough playing time to have them develop. Young talent is priceless, so they should look to make some moves to get some cap relief to set themselves up for free agency. Don't let the talent go to waste, capitalize! Sergio Rodriguez is one guy that could be an option for getting moved, young PG's are quite valuable.

Since: Dec 22, 2009
Posted on: December 22, 2009 8:00 pm

Spotlight on the Kings

Nice article.  However, you omitted a few other contributors: 

Jon Brockman:  This rookies energy off the bench is contagious.  He's a banger who is always making plays that don't always show up in the stats.  Diving for loose balls, tipped balls, hard fouls, big screens, offensive rebound machine, and could care less about scoring. Lead the PAC-10 in rebounding 2 straight years.   And now contributing nearly 4 rebounds in only 10 minutes per game.  He's a player. 

Francisco Garcia:  Has been out all year with injury and he can only improve the bench upon return.  Shot 40% 3pt, 13pts a game last year. 

Spencer Hawes:  He's having an up and down season so far, but he has all-star potential at center.  Remember, he's still only 21 years old and 6 or 7 years from his prime.  If this kid keeps working hard, watch out. 

Donte Greene:  He's a 6'11" shooting guard?  Apparently.  Has shown flashes of being a good player. 

Finally look at the age of their major contributors: 

Kevin Martin     
; 26
Tyreke Evans    20
Spencer Hawes  21
Jason Thomson 23
  Omri Casspi    21
Francisco Garcia 27
Beno Udrih     
Jon Brockman    22
Donte Greene    21
Sergio Rodriguez 23

This team has the potential to challenge for it all in 2 years, if Petrie is patient and doesn't break them up to make a run this year by renting a superstar for a year. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or