The Kings are a completely expected 0-3 on the season, with an average differential of about minus-8. They’ve dropped three road contests in a row to the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers—all of which they deserved to lose. Coming into the season, there was little debate about where the Kings rated in the Pacific division, and now, the only question is how many games they’ll end up behind the Phoenix Suns.
The Kings’ roster is a mess, as we’ve discussed in this space before. It’s full of gunners who don’t pass or defend. So it’s no wonder Sacramento is dead last in the NBA in offensive efficiency. On an individual basis, Marcus Thornton leads the Kings in scoring at 18.7 points per game, but of course he’s doing it while shooting 40 percent. I’m pretty sure it’s a team requirement that no wing player is permitted to score efficiently for the Kings.
Tyreke Evans continues his four-year downward spiral, posting an average of just 13.7 points and 3.7 assists per game—both career lows. He’s pulling down eight rebounds per game, though, so there’s that.
The Kings’ best player, DeMarcus Cousins is putting up just 15.3 points per game on an unfathomably bad shooting rate of 38 percent. If there’s a more physically gifted seven-footer with a worse field-goal percentage in the league, I’d like to see him. Cousins is immensely talented, but on this team, there’s not nearly enough direction, organization or teamwork for him to thrive.
The real tragedy of this season is that the Kings’ lottery pick, Thomas Robinson, basically has no chance to become a viable NBA player. It won’t be his fault, of course. It’s just that Sacramento is basically an experiment by the NBA to see how many terrible influences and selfish players can fit onto one roster. Robinson might have become a solid, hardworking rebound machine if he’d been drafted by another team. It’s too bad that he’s doomed to a few years as a King. Now we’ll never know what he could have become.
Realistically, Sacramento only poses a threat to the Warriors because they’re playing their first home game of the season and a number of bad teams (including Charlotte and Orlando) got a little bump in performance in their home openers.
Cousins has always been an issue for Golden State, but Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli can both match up with his size—if not his quickness. Hopefully, he’ll continue his abysmal shooting performance.
Two keys to watch on the Warriors’ side tonight: how the offense looks and Mark Jackson’s rotations.
The offense worked best against the Clippers (and better than it has all year) because the Warriors were less predictable and more freed up than they’d been in their first two contests. The less plays Jackson calls, the better things seem to flow on offense.
On the rotation front, we’ll see if Carl Landry continues to eat into the less effective David Lee’s minutes at power forward. Landry has been the Warriors’ best player thus far, and he was a critical component to their upset victory over the Clippers. Whether he ever ends up starting over Lee or not, it’s become clear that he’s the go-to option down the stretch. Expect him to continue drawing fouls and/or scoring on the block at will.
Oh, and Bogut will be back in the lineup after sitting out the Clipper game on the second night of a back to back. He’ll still be on a 20-minute limit, though, so Ezeli will get an opportunity to continue his upward trend.
Overall, the Warriors have to win this one because this is the type of contest in which good teams take care of business. If the Warriors think they’re one such team, they can’t mess around with the Kings.
Prediction: Warriors 109, Kings 94