Crown ’em: The Kings will make a playoff push in 2011

09.13.10 8 years ago 31 Comments

Tyreke Evans (photo. Nicky Woo)

Geoff Petrie, former two-time NBA Executive of the Year (’99, ’01), was the guy who put the Sacramento Kings on the map.

After drafting sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic in ’96 and flashy point guard Jason Williams out of Florida in ’98 — behind the likes of Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter — the Kings began the rise to championship contention. The team made other moves as well to help boost the roster: signing Vlade Divac in free agency and trading away Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber. With the Kings running a Princeton-style offense led by creative playmakers Webber, Williams and Divac, they turned into the most exciting team in basketball, but their team defense seemed to disappear at inopportune times, and some of the players were criticized — Williams for his flash-over-substance style of play, and Webber for his failure to step up against the toughest competition.

After back-to-back first-round playoff loses to the Jazz and Lakers, the Kings came back and beat the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2001 playoffs before being swept by the Lakers. After that, the Kings started making moves. Williams was traded to the Grizzlies for Mike Bibby in hopes of having a less turnover-prone point guard that could slow the pace. The next year the Kings made it to the Western Conference Finals, but lost to the Lakers in seven games. Things didn’t get any better after Webber was injured, which led to Stajokovic being traded and eventually Bibby being shipped to the Dirty South while the fans watched their team fall apart.

Fast-forward to the fourth pick of 2009 NBA Draft, where the Kings selected point guard Tyreke Evans. After averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds — joining Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only rookies to average at least 20, five and five — Evans was named Rookie of the Year. Evans is more of a scorer than a distributor, but he has the potential to be a great player in this League. He’s already stated in a Yahoo! interview that he’s been working on his jumper in the offseason:

“Me and my friends would talk about it at the house, how I’d miss one (outside shot during Kings games in his rookie season) and then the next play they already knew I’d be going for a layup or kick it out or something like that,” Evans said. “But the guys who play this game at the top in this League — guys like ‘Melo and LeBron — they shoot with confidence. That’s just how I’ve got to think. It’s not being selfish. It’s being aggressive.”

But what does this mean for the Kings’ future? Luckily for Evans, he will have some strong bodies working in the post along with shooters on the perimeter. The Kings got better defensively this summer by drafting Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, who dominated in the Vegas Summer League with averages of 14.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. The only knocks on Cousins are his alleged character issues, which the Kings addressed by hiring his former high school coach, Otis Hughley, as an assistant coach/overseer for Cousins.

If Cousins matures and avoids trouble, the Kings have the makings of a potential contender. It typically takes a great big man and a great perimeter player to contend in the NBA; Cousins and Evans fit the bill. Athletic shot-blocker Samuel Dalembert could be a nice complement to Cousins inside, and the Kings also drafted 7-foot Hassan Whiteside, who led the NCAA’s Division 1 in blocks as a freshman.

But if there’s anyone that’s going to help Tyreke right away it’s Carl Landry (16.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Landry brings his scrappy-toughness to Sacramento; he bangs in the paint, grabs boards, and has a nice outside shot as well. It’s not far off possibility for the Kings to grab an 8th seed out West, especially if injuries start to pile up on teams such as the Trail Blazers, Hornets, Jazz, Mavericks and Spurs — which most likely will happen.

Sacramento has a young, solid roster, but their future all depends on whether or not they can mature as a team, play as a team and defend as a team. In the talented Western Conference, the Kings are going to have to scrap for every game in hopes of placing a crown above Sacramento.

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