By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
After making the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, the Kings have been home during the postseason each of the last two years. Playing in a highly competitive Pacific division, Sacramento finished in fourth place last season, its first under head coach Reggie Theus.
With Mike Bibby
and Ron Artest
both traded away, there's a youth movement in Sacramento. Theus returns as coach, and Kevin Martin
is clearly the team's franchise player, which is remarkable since he was a late first round draft pick who entered the league without much fanfare or expectations. Still, Martin and his supporting cast are unlikely to contend for the playoffs in a still loaded Western Conference, so there are going to be some growing pains. The aim is for more of Sacramento's young players like Spencer Hawes
or rookie Jason Thompson
to emerge as viable building blocks alongside Martin and veterans like John Salmons
, Beno Udrih
and Francisco Garcia
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
After signing a five-year contract extension worth approximately $33 million during the offseason, Udrih should see the majority of point-guard minutes. He averaged more than 35 minutes per game after taking over as the team's starter last season, which seems like a good number to expect for this year. Kevin Martin
is the Kings' shooting guard, and he should see more time on the court than any other player, probably close to around 37-38 mpg, though his thin frame adds some injury risk. John Salmons
will battle Francisco Garcia
for the starting small forward spot, with Salmons entering as the favorite. Both are locked into long-term deals, so each will receive plenty of playing time regardless. Mikki Moore
looks like the starter at power forward, but with youngsters Jason Thompson
and Spencer Hawes
lurking, his minutes figure to be limited. Brad Miller
will be the starting center after he returns from a five-game suspension to open the year, but he's a candidate to be traded at some point.
Miller had a nice bounce back season following a 2006-07 effort that had us wondering whether injuries and poor conditioning had done him in. While Miller is still not in top shape, the 32-year-old managed to play through some minor ailments to average 13.4 points and 9.5 rebounds in 34.9 minutes per game while improving in all categories before an elbow injury eventually cut short his season. Miller remains one of the better passers at the position and can take his scoring to mid-range but faces some uncertainty in the coming season. In addition to the potential for physical breakdown, Miller will have several younger big men behind him like Spencer Hawes
, Shelden Williams
, Mikki Moore
and rookie Jason Thompson
looking for playing time. The Kings are in a rebuilding mode after dealing Mike Bibby
last year and Ron Artest
this offseason, so Miller's age doesn't play to his advantage with this bunch this year. One other word of caution: Miller will serve a five-game suspension to start the season because he violated the NBA's drug policy.
The 10th pick in the 2007 draft, Hawes should get much more playing time this season. He's a problem defensively, but Hawes can score and is one of the best passing big men in the game already. He could see significant action if Sacramento continues to rebuild and trades Brad Miller
midseason. If given the opportunity, Hawes would be an asset in field goal percentage and blocks, as he averaged 2.2 swats per 48 minutes during his rookie campaign. Additionally, he's capable of racking up assist numbers that are rare for someone center-eligible.
Salmons may have set a record for most days on the "most added" and "most dropped" lists last season. Every time a key member of the Kings – Mike Bibby
, Kevin Martin
or Ron Artest
– went down with an injury (or suspension), Salmons would get the call. And every time someone returned to the lineup, Salmons' value would plummet. This could be the year he finally gets the opportunity to play a full season as a key rotation player – the trade of Artest to Houston should open up the starting small forward spot for him. We expect him to thrive in the role. During the 41 games Salmons got a chance to start in Sacramento last season, he was extremely productive, averaging 17.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.6 spg while shooting 49.7 percent from the floor and 81.1 percent from the line. Sacramento is in rebuilding mode with very few scorers on its roster, so Salmons could flourish.
Like John Salmons
, Garcia put up fairly solid numbers when Mike Bibby
, Ron Artest
and Kevin Martin
were out of the Sacramento lineup for various reasons. With Bibby and Artest in different uniforms this season, Garcia will have the opportunity to prove that his numbers in limited duty were no fluke. In 20 starts last season, Garcia averaged 16.4 points, 4.6 boards and 2.6 assists in less than 37 minutes. He has a pretty decent outside shot (.391 from downtown), a 6-7 frame and the longest arms this side of Tayshaun Prince
, which allows him to get his jumper off over just about anyone and to disrupt passing lanes and challenge shots on defense. He also has the added benefit of experience in Reggie Theus' system, having played for Rick Pitino at Louisville when Theus was an assistant coach. We're expecting Garcia to split time this season backing up Martin and Salmons at the two and three spots.
Solid veteran presence but not much upside. Moore should lose minutes as the team gets the youngsters more and more involved.
Taken with the 12th pick in the 2008 draft, Thompson comes from little known Rider college, making the selection a big surprise among most pundits. He averaged 12.1 rpg during his senior year, ranking second in the nation. There's an opportunity in the frontcourt for someone to step up.
Green joins fellow rookie Jason Thompson
battling for minutes at one of the forward spots.
Once a top-five pick in the 2006 draft, Williams is nothing more than depth at this point. He'll only see action in games that are out of hand.
Thomas averaged 1.4 ppg last season, making him completely irrelevant.
Martin's rise from obscurity to elite status continues to amaze. He proved his breakout 2006-07 season was no fluke, with another 20-plus point, 4.5-board, 2.1-assist and 1.0-steal campaign. The only guards to outscore Martin on a points-per-game basis: Kobe Bryant
and Allen Iverson
. Martin also shoots very good percentages for a perimeter player – better than 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three. The only black mark on his season: he was sidelined from early December to early January after suffering a groin injury. That, combined with a late-season knee injury, limited him to 61 games, down from 80 the year before. Neither injury is expected to present an ongoing problem. We're expecting continued improvement and excellent numbers from Martin for a few reasons. First off, he has the reputation of the quintessential gym rat, constantly taking shots and working to improve his game. Second, he's an excellent fit in Sacramento's up-tempo offense under Reggie Theus. And finally, a full season with no Mike Bibby
and no Ron Artest
should mean more shots will go to the King that most deserves them.
Udrih is the rare fantasy "waiver-wire all-star" who was an actual waiver wire player last season. He was traded from the Spurs to the T-Wolves late in the preseason, only to be waived by Minnesota. With Mike Bibby
hurting, Sacramento picked up Udrih for point guard depth; Udrih quickly emerged as the best backup point west of Jose Calderon
– making it much easier for Sacramento to pull the trigger on the deal that sent Bibby to the Hawks. Now, armed with a spiffy new five-year contract, Udrih enters the 2008-09 season as the Kings' starting point. As a full-time starter in Reggie Theus' up-tempo sets, Udrih shouldn't have much trouble surpassing last year's career-high averages in points (12.8) and assists (4.3). But durability could be a concern – Udrih just about doubled his career-high in minutes last season. The wear-and-tear seemed to take its toll, as Udrih missed 10 games in late March and early April with a back injury.
The former fan favorite returns to Sacramento to act as a scoring option off the bench.
Douby averaged 22.3 ppg during Las Vegas summer league play and could see an increase in minutes this season.
Hawes' rookie numbers certainly don't jump out at you, but if you examine them more closely, he was productive whenever given the opportunity, averaging 12.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.5 spg and 1.6 bpg over eight starts. Hawes isn't a rebounding machine, but he can score and is an extremely gifted passer. With Sacramento now in a full-blown youth movement, Hawes figures to see plenty of run this season, one way or the other. Starting center Brad Miller
is suspended for the first five games of the year, injury-prone and a candidate to be traded.
Miller bounced back after a disappointing 2006-7 campaign with a solid season last year, leading the team with 9.5 rpg. However, he's suspended for the first five games of the year, and at 32 years old, doesn't make much sense playing on a rebuilding team like the Kings. Second-year center Spencer Hawes
figures to cut into his minutes, and a trade also seems like a real possibility; the uncertainty of where his new landing spot might be is some cause for concern.
Article first appeared on 9/28/08