Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Sacramento Kings’ 3-1 start? They’ve done it with virtually no production from recent lottery picks Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas. Sacramento is winning with defense and timely post scoring from DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, which makes such success despite all-encompassing struggles of their young shooting guards even more impressive. And as McLemore demonstrated on this effortless, soaring fast break alley-oop in the Kings’ back-to-back road win over the Denver Nuggets last night, he and Stauskas have the talent to make Sacramento far more dangerous offensively.
Whoa. It’s rare that Kenneth Faried meets his match in terms of speed and explosiveness, but McLemore got him here. The second-year Kansas product leaps from just outside the dotted cirle; Faried obviously wasn’t expecting lift-off like that.
McLemore is the Kings’ starter, but found himself on the bench in crunch-time last night after another dispiriting performance. He’s yet to score more than seven points or attempt more than five shots in any game, a problem considering his playmaking and defensive exploits leave much to be desired.
Stauskas hasn’t fared any better. The rookie accrued three fouls in just two minutes of play against the Nuggets, a pair of which came in succession while battling to keep Arron Afflalo from deep post position. After scoring nine points on 10 shots in the season-opener, Stauskas has managed only three total points in as many games.
With Cousins and Gay so frequently commanding the ball and defensive attention during isolation situations, Sacramento’s offense would receive a tremendous boost if McLemore and Stauskas could provide some long-range relief. While it’s the Los Angeles Lakers who have received the brunt of criticism for mostly eschewing three-pointers, the Kings actually rank just below them by attempting 11.8 shots from beyond the arc per game – the second-lowest mark in the NBA.
Just imagine how much more effective Cousins, in particular, would be if defenses had to respect the shooting threat of the Kings’ perimeter. With starting point guard Darren Collison, Gay, and reserve guards Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum topping out as streaky from deep, that onus falls on McLemore and Stauskas – and their reputations suggest each youngster should be up to the task.
At this point, impact plays like this lob or an effective Stauskas pick-and-roll would even be icing on the cake. Providing space comes first, and that’s where McLemore and his rookie backup need to be far better for Sacramento to make good on its early-season promise.
What do you think?
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