Warriors’ Lee likely to miss opener at Sacramento (Yahoo Sports)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Power forward David Lee is expected to sit out Golden State’s season opener at Sacramento on Wednesday night with a strained left hamstring.

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Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers looked to score a win Friday night when they faced the Sacramento Kings in a preseason clash. The Lakers were eager to prove that the combination of veteran superstar Kobe Bryant and rookie phenom Julius Randle was enough to keep them in contention but faced a tough test from a young Kings squad.

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Sacramento Kings 2014-15 Season Preview: Roster Breakdown, Win-Loss Prediction

The expectations for the Sacramento Kings have changed heading into this 2014-15 season. 

Last season—in his first year as owner and with a new general manager and head coach—Vivek Ranadive wasn‘t concerned with the team’s win-loss record. It was a good thing, as the Kings ended up finishing with a 28-54 record, identical to the previous season.

However, Ranadive‘s outlook has changed this season. The owner talked to reporters at media day and told them he expected an improvement in the team:

Last year, when the season started, I said it wasn’t going to be about wins and losses. When I came here and we bought the team, there was dysfunction in the locker room, there wasn’t mutual respect, the arena was literally falling apart, the roof was falling down.

So we brought in a new team, we restored stability, restored respect, we put in a strong culture. But this year, let’s be clear, it is about wins and losses.

While the owner declined to put a specific number or expectation on the table, he did add, “We have to do a lot better than we did last year.”

Making the sort of improvements the ownership expects will be a task in the difficult Western Conference. The Kings didn’t add any marquee players. They drafted Nik Stauskas and signed Ramon Sessions, Darren Collison, Ryan Hollins and Omri Casspi in free agency. 

The franchise’s biggest trump card is more familiarity with head coach Mike Malone in his second season with the team. Hopefully that, coupled with improvement from players already on the roster, will be enough to make serious headway.

However, there are still plenty of question marks. Starting with…

 

Biggest Question Mark: How Do They Replace Isaiah Thomas’ Offensive Production?

The Kings lost one of their key players when point guard Isaiah Thomas signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns. As a restricted free agent, the Kings were able to execute a sign-and-trade with Phoenix, but the package the Kings received (a $7 million trade exception and the rights to Alex Oriakhi) doesn’t compare to the production they lost.

That means Sacramento will need to replace Thomas’ production through other means. 

Most notably, Collison and Sessions will be asked to fill those shoes. But despite Thomas’ 5’9″, 185-pound stature, they’re big shoes to fill.

The point guard averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists in 34.7 minutes of action. He also produced a team-high 6.4 offensive win shares.

Going off of what Collison and Sessions did last season, the duo combined for 23.7 points and 7.8 assists in 52.6 minutes. The two also produced 6.9 offensive win shares. 

It’ll require a similar effort—if not a better one, considering each will probably see a small reduction in playing time—to make up for what the Kings are missing. 

However, if the preseason is any indication, they should be up to the task. Their 25 combined points and 9.3 assists would do the trick. But there’s obviously a big difference between the preseason and the regular season. 

Yet if the Kings are to make the jump in the standings the front office expects, that production will need to hold up.

 

Best Five

Point guard: Darren Collison

Shooting guard: Nik Stauskas

Small forward: Rudy Gay

Power forward: Jason Thompson 

Center: DeMarcus Cousins

This is more of a projection of the best five players for the majority of the season. Although no starting lineup for the regular season has been announced, Ben McLemore will probably get the nod over Stauskas to start the year. He’s started five of the team’s six preseason games at 2-guard.

However, Stauskas‘ shooting ability, which we’ll get to momentarily, should be enough for him to supplant McLemore by the end of the season.

Point guard is also up in the air, with Collison or Sessions the two options to start. Collison gets the nod here for a couple reasons.

For one, he’s started four of the six preseason games, while Sessions has only started two. Collison is also primarily a point guard, whereas Sessions is capable of playing both backcourt spots (52 percent of his minutes came at the point and 48 percent at the 2 between his stops in Charlotte and Milwaukee last season). 

Power forward is the other spot that has a few options. Namely there’s Carl Landry, Reggie Evans and Thompson. Thompson started 61 games there last season, and he’s started five of six games this preseason. 

Not to mention Thompson, along with Evans, had a very strong training camp.

All of those factors give him the edge. 

Center and small forward really aren’t up for discussion. Cousins is the team’s best player, while Gay is unquestionably its second-best player. Both made Team USA for the FIBA Basketball World Cup and are the cornerstones of this franchise.

If the Kings are to do anything at all this season, it’ll be because of the production they get from Cousins and Gay.

 

Youth Movement

Stauskas was the Kings’ only draft pick this offseason.

The former Michigan Wolverine plays shooting guard and figures to have a prominent role with the Kings. He’s averaged 24.4 minutes during the preseason and has started one of the five games he’s appeared in. 

The player who’s started the other games at 2-guard is also a youngster—Ben McLemore. The 21-year-old is entering his second season in the NBA. After a lackluster rookie season, the Kings are hoping to see improvement from McLemore in 2014-15. 

How the two of them play will be a big determining factor in whether the team can live up to those lofty expectations. McLemore will need to find more consistency to his shot—he only made 37.6 percent of his field goals and 32 percent of his three-pointers as a rookie.

Stauskas, on the other hand, has a great shot. He’s made 36.8 percent of his three-pointers during the preseason and knocked down 44.1 percent of them in his two years at Michigan. His major adjustment will be to the increased speed and physicality of the NBA game.

Adding an additional layer to the equation is the long-term outlook of whether the two of them can develop next to one another. With both playing the same position and being incapable of switching to the 1 or 3 for extended periods of time, they’ll need to progress without huge playing time. It’ll also be interesting to see if the presence of Stauskas has any effect on McLemore‘s psyche.

Those were some concerns listed by NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper when the Kings drafted Stauskas.

There’s also the possibility power forward Eric Moreland plays with the Kings. The rookie is intriguing because of his ability to block shots and rebound—two blocks and five rebounds in 20 preseason minutes—but he’s likely to spend most of the year in the D-League.

 

Team Award Predictions

 

Best Offensive Player: DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins’ was the team’s highest scorer last season (22.7 points), and it figures to be much of the same this time around. 

Without Isaiah Thomas on the team, who was one of three Kings players to average more than 20 points, the ball will go to Cousins with even more regularity. That’s saying something considering the center was third in the league in usage percentage, trailing only Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

But with Cousins, it’s not a case of only volume. He gets his points in an efficient manner. In fact, he was fifth in player efficiency rating, with only Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Anthony Davis ahead of him.

Between his ability to get to the charity stripe (9.3 attempts per 36 minutes), his efficiency and his touches, Cousins will be Sacramento’s best offensive player. While it’ll require improvement from all over the roster to meet expectations, the Kings will go as Cousins goes. 

 

Best Defensive Player: Omri Casspi

There were a few directions to go for the team’s best defensive player. Truth be told, Cousins could also win this one as well. However, for the sake of change, let’s look at a different player in Casspi.

Casspi deserves recognition because of his ability as a wing player. According to 82games.com, he held opposing small forwards to a PER of 6.9 last season. With 15.0 being league average, Casspi did a solid job shutting down the opposition. 

His previous team, the Houston Rockets, were also a stronger defensive team when he was on the floor. They posted a 103.9 defensive rating with Casspi in the game, opposed to a 107.2 defensive rating when he was on the bench. 

Considering Gay is the unquestioned starter at small forward, Casspi can fill a similar role in Sacramento. Meaning he can be a defensive sub who comes in to help slow down opposing teams. That’s an important option to have as he can not only help on defense, but he can do so while giving Gay a rest.

 

Most Improved Player: Carl Landry

Based on last year’s production, nobody is likely to improve as much as Landry. That’s mainly because he was so poor last year, rather than him making a dramatic improvement over his previous production.

Last season was Landry’s first back in Sacramento, after he played for the Kings during a previous stint a few years ago. Unfortunately he was hurt for most of the campaign, only appearing in 18 games throughout the season.

However, his scoring (4.2 points), rebounding (3.2) and win shares per 48 minutes were the worst of his career. Of course, Landry also played fewer minutes, both per game and overall, than he had during any other season. That could partially explain the decrease in scoring and rebounding.

Yet his per-minute production was also the worst of his career. His points (11.7) and assists (0.8) per 36 minutes, player efficiency rating (11.2) and free-throw rate (2.6 attempts per 36 minutes) were all career worsts.

At just 31 years old, it’s unlikely Landry’s athleticism suddenly fell off a cliff. Simply by returning to previous production, he’ll be the team’s most improved player.

 

Team MVP: DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins is clearly the Kings’ most valuable player. Without him, the team would be lost, which is saying something considering it hasn’t been too productive to begin with. 

For evidence, look no further than what happens when Cousins misses games. Last season the center missed 11 games. The Kings’ record in those 11 games he missed—0-11.

He also led the team in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks per game. Not to mention he had the most total win shares, defensive win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, the highest PER and the lowest defensive ranking.

At only 24 years old and coming off an offseason working with Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Cousins won’t see that production decrease. If anything it’ll increase. That means last year’s team MVP will also be this year’s team MVP.

 

When the Dust Settles… 

Ranadive and the front office may be expecting dramatic improvement in the team’s win-loss record, but it likely isn’t in the cards. 

It’s just too tough to compete in the difficult Western Conference. Not to mention the Kings haven’t added enough quality players to expect a dramatic improvement in their on-court talent. That means what’ll it’ll really come down to is how they adjust to a second year in Malone’s system.

More familiarity with the coach and his expectations will definitely help. But at 28-54 last season, there’s just too much ground to make up to even qualify for the playoffs. So even if the Kings improve, it may not be enough to satisfy those expectations. 

At this point, a better question isn’t whether the Kings make the playoffs—it’s whether they can do enough to earn Malone and general manager Pete D’Alessandro another year at the helm. 

Final Prediction: 31-51

 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

How do you think the Kings will do? Let me know on Twitter @SimRisso.

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Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs 10/20/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The San Antonio Spurs looked to build momentum heading into the season when they faced the Sacramento Kings in a preseason clash on Monday night.

The Spurs’ preseason had been rocky at best, and they faced a tough test from a Kings squad eager to jell before the season gets underway. 

Watch the video for full highlights. 

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Sacramento Kings Make It Official, Pick up Option on Ben McLemore

As of yesterday (10/19) the Sacramento Kings General Manager, Pete D’Alessandro, announced that Ben McLemore’s option has been picked up for the 2015-16 NBA season. Ben McLemore, who averaged over 15 points a game at Kansas, was drafted in the 1st round by the Sacramento Kings. He is clearly a work in progress but Sacramento feels that he is someone worth investing in. On Wednesday, against the Brooklyn Nets, Ben McLemore had scored 22 points in 40 minutes. Also good to mention that he had a 53 shooting percentage for that game. It’s very early to say that he isn’t going to continue the consistency of averaging 20 points per game but it is also very early to count him out. For now, I’ll say that it is a smart move. The post Sacramento Kings Make It Official appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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5 Questions the Sacramento Kings Need Answered During the Preseason

While the preseason may not count in the standings, it’s still an important time for franchises like the Sacramento Kings to gain information that can be used in the regular season. 

It’s a time when questions about the rotation, filling voids from the previous season and integrating new players into the system can be worked on. For the Kings, they need to find answers in all three categories.

The team needs to figure out how to divvy up minutes between a packed yet inexperienced backcourt. There needs to be a balance between playing the best players but not at the cost of youngsters who are still in the developmental stages of their career.

The same can be said of a power forward position that has many options, although more experienced, who need to be woven into the game plan.

There are questions about the offense, particularly replacing the scoring that was lost when Isaiah Thomas moved on to the Phoenix Suns. Along with that comes integrating new players into the system who were brought in to help fill that void.

All of those things will be important in determining how the regular season plays out. So while the preseason doesn’t count, it’s far from meaningless.

Begin Slideshow

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5 Questions the Sacramento Kings Need Answered During the Preseason

While the preseason may not count in the standings, it’s still an important time for franchises like the Sacramento Kings to gain information that can be used in the regular season. 

It’s a time when questions about the rotation, filling voids from the previous season and integrating new players into the system can be worked on. For the Kings, they need to find answers in all three categories.

The team needs to figure out how to divvy up minutes between a packed yet inexperienced backcourt. There needs to be a balance between playing the best players but not at the cost of youngsters who are still in the developmental stages of their career.

The same can be said of a power forward position that has many options, although more experienced, who need to be woven into the game plan.

There are questions about the offense, particularly replacing the scoring that was lost when Isaiah Thomas moved on to the Phoenix Suns. Along with that comes integrating new players into the system who were brought in to help fill that void.

All of those things will be important in determining how the regular season plays out. So while the preseason doesn’t count, it’s far from meaningless.

Begin Slideshow

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Sacramento Kings Season Preview: Team Projections

It’s just about half way through NBA preseason, and isportsweb is back for its second round of season previews. In our first preview, we picked apart the Kings roster. Now, it’s time to create a bold forecast of just how successful this young Sacramento team will be in 2015.
The Deep Pacific
The Pacific division is extremely competitive, let alone the entire Western Conference. The Golden State Warriors, L.A. Clippers, and Phoenix Suns are all on the brink of being surefire playoff bets. Due to the combative nature of the Pacific division, the Kings will have to try to compete on a much larger scale that is the Western conference. It is unlikely for Sacramento to overtake the Warriors or the Clippers this season. In order for the Kings to have a legitimate chance at the playoffs, they will need to surpass the Suns for that three-spot.
Best Case Scenario
In a perfect world, the Kings take the eight-seed and make the playoffs. Over 30% of the Kings wins last season came against teams that made the playof

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Realistic Expectations for Nik Stauskas’ Rookie Season with the Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings selected shooting guard Nik Stauskas with the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft. Now they need to find the best way to utilize him in what figures to be a crowded backcourt. 

Of course, the team selected another shooting guard the year before in Ben McLemore. McLemore‘s presence alone made the position an intriguing one to watch. It’ll be interesting to see whether the two youngsters can develop with what’s likely to be some sort of timeshare. 

Veteran guard Ramon Sessions was also signed by the Kings this offseason. While Sessions has been primarily a point guard during his seven-year career, he’s also logged time at the 2. His presence could also have an effect on the way Stauskas‘ rookie season shakes out. 

With all things considered, what type of role is Stauskas looking at as a rookie, and in light of playing time, what type of production can the Kings expect from him? 

Those are the two questions we’ll examine. 

 

Stauskas‘ Skill Set

Before we look at the other players on the roster, let’s look at what Stauskas brings to the table. After all, his ability will be a major determining factor in how much he plays and how productive he can be. Regardless of who’s in front of him, the Kings will find time for the rookie if he’s effective. Likewise, his playing time will wane if he doesn’t maximize his opportunities.

In way of his skill set, one thing is clear of Stauskas: He can shoot the ball. No wonder he’s a shooting guard.

The 20-year-old knocked down 44.1 percent of his three-pointers during his two years at Michigan. It wasn’t like he did it in a small sample size either. 

Stauskas played 75 games at Michigan and launched 390 three-point attempts. That averages out to more than five three-point attempts per game. 

What’s interesting about Stauskas, however, is his effectiveness from all areas of the three-point arc. Unlike some players who stick to only one or two areas for their production, Stauskas is lethal from nearly everywhere. 

Just take a look at his college shot chart, via ShotAnalytics.com. 

As you can see, there’s red bordering the whole arc, with the exception of straight away. The shot chart also indicates Stauskas utilized each of the areas with frequency. 

While his shooting touch is a nice attribute, there’s more to it than that. For one, Stauskas isn’t simply a spot-up shooter. He can knock down shots off the dribble as well. Here’s what Draft Express’ Matt Kamalsky wrote about the guard’s shooting versatility and how he stacked up against other guards in his draft class:

“Scoring a sample leading 1.156 points per-jump shot, Stauskas was tremendously consistent both off the catch (49% FG%) and off the dribble (38% FG%) as a sophomore.”

In addition to his shooting prowess, Stauskas was effective as a ball-handler in Michigan’s offense, specifically in pick-and-roll situations. Once again, here’s Kamalsky with the breakdown:

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Stauskas‘s profile is that he led this group of players with 29.5% of his possessions coming as the ball handler on the pick and roll. Averaging 4.6 pick and roll possessions per-game, up from just 1.5 per-game a year ago, the Canadian shooting guard picked up much of the slack left behind by Jazz point guardTrey Burkein Michigan’s half-court offense while continuing to shoot the ball in spot-up and off screen situations at an All-American level.

That ability means Stauskas can help the team in more ways than one. It should also help him carve out playing time in an increasingly crowded backcourt. 

 

The Competition

There are a couple players likely to impede Stauskas‘ playing time, chiefly McLemore. After being drafted highly a year ago, he was the Kings’ starting 2-guard for much of last season. That experience is what will likely give him the upper hand as the season opens. 

McLemore‘s rookie season was underwhelming in a lot of ways. Most notably his production on offense was lacking. 

The shooting guard only averaged 8.8 points per game and 11.9 points per 36 minutes. He also only knocked down 37.6 percent of his field-goal attempts and 32 percent of his three-pointers. 

However, he did pick it up a bit down the stretch. Over his last 21 games, McLemore averaged 12.4 points on 40.7 percent shooting from the field and 32.7 percent from downtown. He also chipped in 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists over that time frame. 

Perhaps no game was as encouraging as his last of the season, though. In it, he scored a career-high 31 points on 9-of-20 shooting. But what stood out most were his 15 free-throw attempts. In order to be effective, McLemore needs to attack and get to the line. 

As pretty as his jump shot may look, it wasn’t very effective, as McLemore only made 31.5 percent of his jumpers as a rookie. But as Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro told Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, he likes McLemore‘s progress and thinks he can shoot the ball much better than he showed:

We’re really happy with Ben. We’re seeing continued progress with him. You can see when guys get to their second year, the level of comfort becomes a lot greater. Nik eventually will experience the same thing. But Ben is very different from Nik. Ben is an incredible athlete, and he can shoot the ball very well but struggled last year.

That comfort level may be what pushes McLemore over the top as the season tips off. However, if, as D’Alessandro suggests, Stauskas begins to experience the same thing, it should open up more playing time for him. 

Yet Stauskas also has to compete with Ramon Sessions. 

For the first five years of his career, Sessions was primarily a point guard. That’s changed over the last two seasons, however.

In 2012-13, Sessions played 46 percent of his minutes at the 1 and 54 percent at the 2. Last season, he logged 52 percent of his time at the point and 48 percent at shooting guard. You can expect a similar breakdown with the Kings.

Sessions will get a lot of minutes due to his ability to handle the ball. That’ll allow him to share the court with both point guards and shooting guards.

It’ll also allow the Kings to employ a position-less approach, which they’d like to implement.

What sets Sessions apart is his ability to create for himself and for others. It’s a unique skill set that makes him a true combo guard.

As a scorer, Sessions has averaged 16.4 points per 36 minutes. But it’s how he gets those points that’s noteworthy. 

Take last season as an example. More of Sessions’ field-goal attempts came at the rim (462 of 769) than in any other zone. Yet only 42.2 percent of those were assisted. The rest were opportunities he created for himself. 

That also explains his 6.6 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes.

Yet he can also create for others.

Throughout his career he’s averaged 6.5 assists per 36 minutes and 4.7 per game. That includes last year, where he saw those numbers dip to 5.5 and 4.1, respectively.

That versatility will ensure Sessions gets plenty of playing time. But it will also make it so he can be paired with either Stauskas, McLemore or Darren Collison

In other words, Stauskas won’t be competing for minutes with Sessions as much as he will with McLemore.

 

Stauskas‘ Role and Expectations

There isn’t much to go off in forecasting Stauskas‘ role with the team. About the only thing we do have are summer league stats. They’re somewhat helpful since both the rookie and McLemore were on the team together. 

In the Las Vegas Summer League, McLemore averaged 29.1 minutes per contest, while Stauskas played 28.9 minutes a night. Those two figures were tops on the team. 

What you can glean from that is the Kings tried to give McLemore and Stauskas equal playing time.

However, those figures are problematic for a couple reasons. First, it’s summer league. While the Kings wanted to perform well—and they did, winning the summer league title—they were also focused on development. 

Secondly, both Stauskas and McLemore were starters on that team. That won’t be the case in the regular season. 

But just because they both won’t start, it doesn’t mean they won’t share the court together at times. D’Alessandro indicated as much when the Kings drafted Stauskas

It’s worth mentioning that was prior to the addition of Sessions. That’ll likely cut into their shared court time, but it’s something we’ll see, especially if the Kings pursue their position-less approach. 

Of course, the other component is how Stauskas will fare when he’s on the court. That’s a bit harder to forecast, but we have a few indications. 

For one, we know he has the ability to knock down shots, both off the dribble and in spot-up opportunities. That should provide some scoring for the shooting guard. 

Furthermore, it’s a skill the Kings are lacking, considering they only made 33 percent of their three-pointers in 2014-15. That’ll provide more opportunities than he might otherwise get. 

We also know he’s a decent ball-handler and distributor for a shooting guard. He showed as much running the pick-and-roll at Michigan last year and during the summer league, when he averaged 2.0 assists per night. 

With Sessions and Collison on the team, that won’t be Stauskas‘ primary role, but it’s one he’ll fulfill in spurts. 

So what does all this mean for Stauskas‘ expectations as a rookie?

It means you can expect ample playing time, some scoring and more efficiency than we saw from McLemore a year ago. 

It won’t be a Rookie of the Year-caliber season for Stauskas—he won’t have the same liberty that other rookies like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker may get—but it’ll be a good foundation for what’s looking like a promising career. 

 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

What are your expectations for Nik Stauskas? Let me know on Twitter @SimRisso

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Sacramento Kings sign guard Ramon Sessions

Sacramento Kings sign free agent guard Ramon Sessions

      
 

 

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