The Sports Informant

Your inside source for West Coast sports. Yeah, it rhymes.

A season of change for the Sacramento Kings

By Scott Levin
Sports Informant Contributing Writer

The Kings shot out of the gate last season, surprising the NBA with a 13-14 start that injected life back into the flailing franchise.

Unfortunately, Sacramento went 12-43 from that point on, showing the immaturity expected from one of the youngest teams in the league.

This season, the Kings have infused their roster with more size and young talent. The landscape in the Western Conference hasn’t gotten any easier, so if the Kings want to enjoy any success, they will have to nail down some key areas.

 

1.       Finding a consistent third scorer

Tyreke Evans cemented his status as the team’s go-to-guy early on last season. And Carl Landry established himself as a reliable No. 2 option. But for the Kings to be truly successful this season, they will have to find a third scorer to produce on a consistent basis.

It could be Beno Udrih, who finished third on the team in scoring a year ago. Francisco Garcia, now recovered from his severe wrist injury, will receive playing time and has proven that, when healthy, he can provide scoring punch. Donte Greene may be primed to make another leap as he tries to fulfill his well-known potential.

Last season, Sacramento was the only team in the Pacific Division with less than three 13+ points-per-game scorers. The aforementioned candidates have shown they can deliver on some nights. The Kings need it every game.

2.       The development of the young veterans

DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside are both brimming with talent, but as rookies, they are expected to endure some growing pains. Greene and Jason Thompson are not rookies. The two players are entering what could be their make-or-break third season.

Greene may never see another chance to be the Kings starting small forward. He currently faces no big-name competition for the role. But with the Kings projected 2011 cap space and another first round pick, additions will be coming. If Greene wants to factor into the Kings future, it is on him to seize the job and run with it.

Thompson will look to carve out a role on the Sacramento bench. His rollercoaster sophomore season raised some concern after Thompson seemed like a key piece to the future as a rookie. The key with Thompson will be exhibiting the calm, workmanlike approach he used at the end of last season.

3.       Staying healthy / Role players emerging

With Sacramento, it seems like every season the team is forced to make do without a key player. From Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic to Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia, the Kings have been hit hard by the injury bug. Already the team will be without new center Samuel Dalembert to open the upcoming season.

Clearly, the only indispensable player is Evans – the Kings struggled to a 2-8 record in the 10 games missed by Evans last season. Sacramento addressed its lack of depth in the offseason and are now better suited to handle key injuries.

Inevitably, players like Pooh Jeter and Antoine Wright will have to make key contributions, just as Jon Brockman and Ime Udoka did last season.

4.       Exploiting mismatches

Sacramento suddenly finds itself with a wealth of big men. And head coach Paul Westphal proved last season that he will play any player at any moment. The Kings have the talent and the versatility to create mismatches for opponents.

Landry can slide to the small forward at times and punish weaker defenders in the post. Evans, Garcia and Udrih can play together, giving the Kings three qualified ball-handlers on the floor. Greene can play three positions, using size to beat shooting guards and quickness to defeat power forwards.

In past seasons, the Kings would be forced to react to opponents’ strategies. But with a sudden influx of versatility, Westphal can surely look to exploit other teams’ weaknesses and be the aggressor.

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