It’s anybody’s guess what the Sacramento Kings ultimately will become this season.
They could end up in the playoffs or the lottery. Currently, more folks likely would wager their valuables on the lottery.
Yet, three games into their campaign, the schedule indicates we’ll likely be receiving a GPS-type directional indicator before we sit down for turkey.
The Kings not only play their next four games at Arco Arena, but eight of their next nine and 10 of their next 13.
Sacramento opens its home campaign against the Toronto Raptors tonight before games Wednesday and Saturday nights, respectively, against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies.
Statistics don’t mean much at this juncture; nor do records.
However, there are a few indicators, if proven to be reasonably legitimate, that prove somewhat telling.
So far, the Kings appear to have nine to 10 players capable of playing productive ball. One of the many questions surrounding them will be how consistently they can perform. Another will be what type of defensive mentality they can establish as a unit.
Sacramento has just one set of back-to-back games – Nov. 21 home vs. New Orleans and Nov. 22 in Salt Lake City against Utah.
The Kings were the lone NBA squad to begin its season with three road games, yet the schedule presents an opportunity for Sacramento to establish itself capable of successfully competing – or not.
There are a couple of phases the Kings immediately will have to correct if they are to take advantage of the early schedule.
The Kings won two of three road games despite consistently committing dumb, careless fouls. It’s one thing to foul defensively in an attempt to prevent a player from establishing good position or easily penetrating its defense.
Fouling to prevent lay ups or dunks are good because they are the last line of defense.
It’s another thing to foul by needlessly reaching or gambling to make a steal, particularly in the backcourt. Those fouls merely fuel the opposing offense as well as weaken the Kings.
Sacramento’s ability to convert fast-break opportunities has to improve. Three-on-two advantages are basic basketball plays that have to be converted at a high rate if the Kings are to continue as a high-scoring squad.
It would help if the Kings get the ball into the hands of Beno Udrih at every opportunity. Tyreke Evans may be listed as a point guard, but at this stage of his career, the talented second-year guard goes for his better than creating opportunities for others.
It is easier for a team to improve offensively. Everyone wants to score, but few want to make the mental and physical commitments required to defend.
Individually, the Kings have to be impressed by rookie DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, Francisco Garcia, Samuel Dalembert, Luther Head, Udrih, Darnell Jackson and Evans.
Cousins has been a force offensively and has been the lone back-to-the-basket post weapon. Additionally, the 20-year-old can and will pass.
Landry has been its most dependable scorer, but does most of his work facing the basket.
Garcia and Omri Casspi have combined to shoot 12 of 23 from three-point range, while the rest of the squad is six of 23. Casspi was incredible with six of seven in the win over Cleveland, but was zero of six during the previous two games.
Hence, there is a level of consistency yet to be established. As good as Casspi was offensively, his hustle and toughness defensively were equally important to the win.
Dalembert, in a combined 23 minutes during two games, has shown he can anchor the defense and provides a badly-needed shot-blocking presence. Like most defensively-oriented centers, he wants to prove he can be a scorer.
Dalembert has been in the league too long to become something new. His offensive game should be limited to put-backs and rolling to the hoop on screen-roll plays. That’s it. Jump shots should be a rarity for Dalembert.
If Head and Jackson can continue to produce at relatively similar levels, they will provide coach Paul Westphal options one month ago he had no reason to believe existed. The pair has been solid and consistent, characteristics only a coach truly can appreciate.
Jason Thompson has to figure out how to become more effective offensively. The guy misses more four-to-six footers than normally imaginable. Meanwhile, exactly what the deal is with Donte Greene is unknown to me at this point. I’m interested in asking a few questions this week to try to get a clue.
Organizationally, the Kings did not expect Jackson to make the team entering training camp. Head was a question mark at best. So his current assist-to turnover numbers of 10-to-one certainly qualify as a surprise.
It’ll be fun to see what other surprises the Kings have to offer this month.