By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
The Kings are in the midst of a full-blown youth movement, with not one projected starter who is even 30 years old. It's the right strategy long-term, but for 2009-10, more struggles are inevitable. The projected starting five actually contributed more turnovers than assists last season, and the defense allowed a staggering 109.3 points per game, which was the second highest total in the NBA. After making the playoffs for eight straight seasons, Sacramento is bound to miss the postseason for the fourth straight year in 2009.
Andres Nocioni: After getting traded from Chicago to Sacramento last season, Nocioni saw increased playing time, and as a result, better production, including 2.0 3PT on 44.1 percent shooting from downtown. He's the projected starter at small forward, and even though he'll battle Francisco Garcia for minutes, Garcia can shift over to shooting guard as well, so Nocioni should once again approach 30 mpg for the Kings. At 29, he's easily the oldest player who will be a contributor for the Kings this year, and he should be a solid if unspectacular option.
Francisco Garcia: Garcia is a sneaky good fantasy player, as he averaged 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.4 3PT while shooting 82 percent from the line and 44.4 percent from the field last season. His role won't be significantly different in 2009-10, so expect similar results. He may not be in the starting five, but between backing up Andres Nocioni at small forward and the injury-prone Kevin Martin at shooting guard, another 30 mpg is a safe projection.
Sean May: May is supposedly in the best physical shape since he came to the NBA and over his previous knee problems, so he wasn't a bad gamble for the Kings, who signed him to a minimum salary contract. While he's still a long shot to be a big contributor, there is an opportunity on a young team for the former top-15 draft pick. During the 2006-07 season, May averaged 11.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.5 spg and 0.7 bpg in just 23:53 mpg, so there is some upside here.
Omri Casspi: The Kings selected Casspi with the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft and need exactly what he brings to the table: toughness, passion and scrappiness. He needs to become a better shooter though, and it was somewhat surprising he will immediately come to the NBA instead of spending one more year in Israel to polish his offensive game. Casspi is a sleeper in keeper formats, but don't go expecting much in 2009-10.
Donte Greene: Greene was taken in the late first round of the 2008 draft, and while the team still likes his potential, he's not going to be a big part of their plans in 2009-10. He'll provide depth at the forward positions for now.
Jon Brockman: Brockman, a second round pick out of the University of Washington, is a bruising power forward but is not expected to make a big impact in 2009-10. The Blazers selected Brockman with the 38th overall pick, but his rights were traded to the Kings as part of a draft-day deal between the teams. He'll add grit and toughness but won't see many minutes during his rookie campaign.
Kenny Thomas: Management was expected to trade or buy Thomas out of his contract this summer because he has two years and approximately $17 million left on his deal. The nine-year veteran has an early termination option he's not expected to exercise. A trade or release hasn't happened yet, but he's in no way a part of Sacramento's plans this season. He averaged 1.4 points and 2.7 rebounds last year.
Kevin Martin: Although Martin's aggressive style has steadily boosted his free-throw-percentage impact over the past three seasons, his owners will be the first to tell you they'd rather he backed off a bit and stayed healthy. Martin has missed an average of 26 games over the past two years due to an assortment of injuries, the most serious being the ankle that caused him to miss 31 games last season. Reports of his recovery have been favorable thus far, and he should be ready for the start of the season. Health notwithstanding, Martin has proven to be a top-25 player on a per-game basis with strong contributions in four categories: points (24.6), three-pointers made (2.3), free throw percentage (86.7% on 10.3 attempts) and steals (1.2). His field-goal percentage has fallen off dramatically from an efficient 48 percent clip in 2005-06 to a mere 42.1 last season. The reason for this is more of a fluke than anything, as his effective field goal percentage on shots from close has dropped off from a healthy 58.8 percent in 2006-07 to an anemic 46.7 last season. Expect his field goal percentage to normalize this year as a result.
Beno Udrih: Udrih isn't a bad player, but he makes for a better backup point guard than starter, especially one getting paid $32.3 million over a five-year deal. The team drafted Tyreke Evans to act as the future point guard, but he's extremely raw at the position, so Udrih will start out the season getting the majority of the minutes there. Still, he's going to lose playing time as soon as Evans is ready to take over.
Tyreke Evans: Heading into the 2009 draft, many considered Evans to be the player with the greatest NBA potential. But stardom is probably a year or two away. A long and athletic guard who thrived in John Calipari's dribble-drive offense at Memphis, Evans is more a combo guard at this stage of his career. The best-case scenario for his development would probably be to spend significant time playing off the ball initially, a la Russell Westbrook last season. But Sacramento has one of the league's better shooting guards entrenched at the two spot - Kevin Martin - and a point guard - Beno Udrih - who was a huge disappointment last season, so Evans may be thrust into the point guard spotlight before he's really ready.
Sergio Rodriguez: The Kings traded their 31st pick in the 2009 draft for Rodriguez and the Blazers' 38th pick. While he was in Portland's coach Nate McMillan's doghouse the past couple of seasons, he possesses some legitimate potential, and Sacramento will give him an opportunity to show it.
Jason Thompson: While some questioned Sacramento's selection of Thompson with the 12th overall pick of the 2008 draft, it appears the team knew what it was doing, as Thompson is the franchise's future at power forward. During the final month of last season, he averaged 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks - not bad for a rookie coming from such a small college as Rider. With a starting spot locked up on a team lacking many scoring options, Thompson could be in store for a big sophomore campaign, and at age 22, he's only going to get better.
Kevin Martin: Especially while playing for a team void of talent, Martin can be an extremely valuable fantasy player, scoring a bunch of points with many threes and terrific shooting percentages. However, at 6-7, 185 lbs, he's simply not strong enough to withstand the rigors of an NBA season, as his recent string of injuries hasn't been totally the product of bad luck. He's too big of a health risk for what he'll cost in most fantasy drafts.
Article first appeared on 9/28/09