Despite many missed games from some of their top stars, the Sacramento Kings managed to put up a respectable record of 38-44 last season. This season, though, things will be a lot tougher. The teamís top overall player from the last few seasons, Ron Artest, was traded to Houston, and Mike Bibby was sent to Atlanta mid-season last year. Kevin Martin is still on the team, and is an All-Star caliber player, but he wonít be able to get them wins on his own. There are some talented players on the roster, but for the most part, this is a team full of either unproven role-players, or underachieving lottery picks. The future for the Kings looks good, but the now looks pretty dismal.
Offense: Kevin Martin was the teamís leading scorer last year, and has improved his scoring output each season he has been in the league. Without Ron Artest dominating the ball in Sacto this season, Martinís point per game average should go even higher, possibly into contention for the scoring crown. After Martin, though, there really isnít anyone who can score without help. John Salmons has shown great potential when given the chance, and this year he will a full opportunity to produce, but there is no guarantee that he can carry this team if Martin goes down again. Beno Udrih did a fantastic job filling in for Mike Bibby, and this year he should do the same. He has a nice outside shot, and can get in the paint, but has yet to show that he can be reliable on a consistent basis. The Kings donít really have a post scorer, as Brad Miller is more of a mid-range shooter, and Mikki Moore doesnít shoot the ball unless he has to. The Kings could possibly put up over 100 points a night, but it will be tough even with a running offense.
Defense: The Kings traded away elite defensive player Ron Artest, and are now left with no truly solid defender. Kevin Martin is an okay defender, but thatís it. John Salmons is a good perimeter defender, but hasnít shown the rest of his abilities on a consistent basis. Brad Miller and Mikki Moore are two big bodies in the post, but can be easily manipulated by faster, stronger players. The Kings will be a horrible defensive squad, and thatís all there is to it. They have a few players with potential to be good defenders, but thatís it at this point. Not until the season starts will we see just how terrible the defense will, or will not be.
Strengths: Kevin Martin is Sacramentoís strength for this season, as he is the lone star that this team can rely on all game long. He seems to be their only strength this year. Their future, though, looks to be bright as this team has some very talented young players, and in 2010 will be in position to go after a big name free agent. As for now, though, they will have to wait, and Kevin Martin will be carrying the Kings the whole way.
Weaknesses: Sacramentoís offense is a shell of what it used to be. Their defense is atrocious. With so many unproven, young players, the bench will be very ineffective this year, save for Bobby Jackson. There are too many weaknesses to go over, but hopefully the Kings can prove most of these possibilities wrong, or else they will be at the bottom of the league, and back in the lottery.
Five Players to Watch:
Kevin Martin - Kevin Martin, Sacramentoís most efficient scorer last year, will now be given full control over the teamís offense, and will be unleashed on the league. Martin is a solid outside shooter, but is deadly from mid-range. Martin always seems to moving through defenses, much like Richard Hamilton and Reggie Miller, and is constantly looking for an easy basket. Kevin Martin is an All-Star player, and will have to carry this team. Being in the West, however, he wonít be able to carry the Kings too far.
John Salmons - Salmons filled in perfectly for both Kevin Martin and Ron Artest when they went down last year, and is a great role player alongside a superstar. He will finally get a chance to play major minutes on a consistent basis this year, and he will produce big games. Salmons has talent, and smarts, but he wonít be able to replace the value that Artest brought to this team. All Salmons needs, though, is to be a reliable side-player to Kevin Martin, and he will be.
Bobby Jackson - Jackson will be back in Sacramento, and has always been a fan favorite because of his hard-nosed effort, and excitable plays. Jackson will bring some much needed leadership to this team, and will be a great asset off the bench. The biggest value for having Jackson around is that he will be a great role model for Beno Udrih, Bobby Brown, and Donte Green. Jackson can show them the ropes, and make the transition to the NBA game much easier for Brown and Green, and will provide relief for Udrih when heís under pressure. Losing Artest was tough, but getting Bobby Jackson in return may have made this the right move.
Beno Udrih - Udrih will get the chance to be a full-time starter all season long for the first time in his career. He should put up good numbers, and will be a tough player to guard on the perimeter. If Udrih can play a level-headed game all year, and remain consistently efficient on the offensive end, the Kings wonít need to look elsewhere for a new point guard. If Udrih proves that he is still too raw on the offensive end, Geoff Petrie may start shopping for a replacement, and Udrih will go back to being a bench player.
Spencer Hawes - The former lottery pick had a very slow rookie season, but had shown flashes of being a suitable replacement for Brad Miller down the line. Hawesí game is actually very similar to that of Brad Millerís, and former Kingsí player Vlade Divac, so it seems that a transition into the offense would not be too difficult. But, it has been. Hawes closed out last season with a string of great games, but this year he needs to be able to advance his game and put up good numbers on a consistent basis. Brad Miller isnít getting any younger, Mikki Moore isnít getting any better, and Shelden Williams seems to be going nowhere, so Hawes needs to step up for this team. Along with rookie Jason Thompson, Hawes can could play a big part in this teamís future, but if he canít produce right away this year, he might be following Shelden Williams down the lovely road to Bustville.
Playoff Hopes: None whatsoever. Unless Kevin Martin is the second coming of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson mixed together, the Kings still wouldnít have a shot. The future looks nice, and watching Kevin Martin play is truly a blessing, but this team will have little effect on the league this year.
Prediction: 5th Place, Pacific Division