NBA training camps are underway, meaning it’s time again for Dime’s team-by-team season previews. Last year we debuted the “Highs and Lows” system — predicting the respective ceilings and basements for each team. In other words, what is the realistic best-case and worst-case scenario for the 2009-10 campaign?
Added: Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jon Brockman, Sergio Rodriguez, Sean May, Desmond Mason
Lost: Rashad McCants, Ike Diogu, Bobby Jackson, Cedric Simmons, Calvin Booth
Ceiling: Entertaining Lottery team
If you’re a Kings fan, this is going to be a rough year. If you’re a patient Kings fan, there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel, as there are some solid, young pieces of the puzzle to like here. It starts in the backcourt, where Tyreke and Kevin Martin have the ability and potential to be one of the most explosive guard tandems in the League in due time. Evans is a big point guard and K-Mart is a crafty two, both of whom create matchup problems and are tough to handle. Andres Nocioni immediately endeared himself to the Arco Arena crowd with his hustle plays and toughness — and he’s got some game, too, averaging 13.7 points and 6.0 boards in his partial season with the Kings. Francisco Garcia is reminiscent of Stephen Jackson without the insanity/goon factor, and Donte Greene showed some Rashard Lewis-type flashes as a rookie. Young bigs Spencer Hawes (21) and Jason Thompson (23) provide a promising foundation to build upon and showed potential as an effective 4-5 combo. And they still have Kenny Thomas‘ expiring contract, an $8.5 million trade chip that could be turned into some more precocious talent. Sacramento isn’t a threat to make the playoffs by any stretch, but under new coach Paul Westphal they’ll put on the track spikes, get up a lot of shots, and create some entertaining moments.
Basement: Worst. Team. Ever.
While they have guys who can score, the Kings’ defense is going to get ripped up. Westphal has never been much of a defensive coach, and he goes into this situation already behind the 8-ball: Last year the Kings gave up 109 points per game, second-worst in the NBA, as well as a League-worst 48.3% from the field. Their toughest defender, Nocioni, is kind of a dunk magnet who was disillusioned with the whole franchise about a month into his tenure. Evans is a scorer rather than a true playmaking PG, Martin isn’t much of a passer and he can’t stay healthy, and Garcia also looks like an injury waiting to happen; he broke his finger playing for the Dominican Republic over the summer. And like most bad teams, Sacramento doesn’t have depth (except for small forward). Even in a pretty weak Pacific Division, Sacramento is going to lose a LOT of games, many of them in embarrassing fashion.
*** *** ***