Team Preview #18: Sacramento Kings
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 27th, 2008
LAST SEASONThe Kings went 38-44 (would have been #8 in the East), which was semi-impressive for 1st year coach Reggie Theus considering Bibby, Kev-Mart & Artest all missed a chunk of games. In February, they traded Bibby (the last player left from their '01-02 squad that made it to the Western Conference Finals) to Atlanta for spare parts.
Somewhat strangely, the Kings finished 8th in scoring & pace factor, but 29th in rebounds & assists.
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene, Bobby Brown, Jason Thompson
Key Losses: Ron Artest, Anthony Johnson
On June 30th, Ron Artest decided not to opt out of the final year (worth $8 million) on his current contract. The next day, he regretted the decision, saying that he was "blinded by friendship" and had "misleading information." Soon after, co-owner Joe Maloof told Artest to "take a deep breath and quit flying off the handle with comments that don't make sense." The Kings must have had enough of Ron's craziness, because they traded him to Houston for Bobby Jackson and rookie prospect Donte Greene less than two weeks later. B-Jax returns to Sacramento, where he was a fan favorite from 2000-2005 and was named the 6th Man of the Year in '02-03. He averaged 15.2 points on 46.4% shooting that year, both career-highs that have yet to be matched. After posting an excellent 19.2 PER in '03-04, his rating has fallen drastically (down to 13.5 last season). At 35 years old, I thought he was done, but he started a couple of games against Utah in the Playoffs (in place of Rafer Alston) and played fairly well.
Donte Greene played just one year at Syracuse before turning pro. As a freshman, he led the Orangemen in scoring (a la Carmelo Anthony) and blocks (1.6), and set a freshman record with 90 made threes. Unfortunately, he had to attempt 261 treys to make that many, shot just 41.8% from the field, and is considered a project who lacks defensive intensity. To replace the veteran Anthony Johnson (now Orlando's backup PG), they signed the 23-year old Bobby Brown, who averaged a solid 6.3 assists to just 2.2 turnovers in Summer League play. Brown played in Europe last season, but before that he attended Cal St. Fullerton, where he averaged 20.2 points, 5.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 3.0 threes per game as a Senior. At #12, the Kings selected agile big man Jason Thompson. He becomes the 1st man from Rider University to play in the NBA since "Smokin" Herb Krautblatt scored 13 points in 10 games for the Baltimore Bullets in 1948. (OK, I doubt that was really his nickname, but the rest are actual facts). He usually played against weak competition, but in a game vs. Kansas St., he had 24 points (9-14 FG), 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers, while #2 pick Michael Beasley had just 13 points (5-11 FG), 10 boards, 1 steal, and 1 turnover.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEWith Artest now in Houston, this team is officially Kevin Martin's. He averaged 36.3 mpg last season and should see 37-38 minutes of action, score 25+ points, and lead the league in free throws made in '08-09. Joining him in the backcourt is point guard Beno Udrih. Udrih struggled when he had to split time with Bibby, but in 51 starts, he averaged 35.2 minutes, 14.4 points, 5.0 assists, .9 steals, and .9 threes while shooting a solid 47.5% FG and 86.1% FT. Bobby Jackson will backup Udrih and see about 15 minutes of action. I'm projecting John Salmons to backup SG and SF while playing 28-30 mpg, while Quincy Douby & Bobby Brown battle for the remaining guard minutes. A lot of people are penciling in John Salmons as the opening night starting small forward, but I've got my money on Francisco Garcia (more below). While Salmons is a better ball-handler and playmaker, Garcia is the superior shooter, more natural small forward, and better team player. As a result, I'm projecting 'Cisco to start and play 32+ minutes per game.
Mikki Moore started 79 games and played a career-high 29.1 minutes in '07-08, but that number will likely fall to 26-28 this season with more frontcourt depth. After being traded to the Kings, Shelden Williams got 12.9 mpg, so I'll project the same for '08-09. Veterans Shareef Abdur-Rahim & Kenny Thomas are still on the roster, but both are more likely to be traded than actually playing a key role. At center, Brad Miller is entering his 11th NBA season. He averaged 36.3 minutes before the All-Star break last year, but just 32.0 minutes after, which is closer to what I think he'll play in '08-09. Backing him up (and starting the first 5 games while he's suspended) is the 20-year old Spencer Hawes. Their center of the future is far from polished, but he should play 16+ mpg this season as he takes on a larger role. Their frontcourt wild cards are the rookies Greene & Thompson. Don't expect much playing time in the first half, but if they fall out of the Playoff race early, both could see decent minutes.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Francisco GarciaIt's time to draw a line in the sand. ESPN.com and Hoopshype currently list John Salmons as Sacramento's starting small forward, and in a recent Hoopsworld article, they named Salmons to their All-Breakout Western Conference team. I understand their line of thinking, as Salmons started whenever Martin or Artest was out last year, and he put up very solid numbers as a starter. However, I have a strong feeling that Garcia will start and I'm 99% sure that he'll finish the season as the higher ranked fantasy player. If you look beneath the surface, here are some reasons why:
1) Of Salmons' 41 starts, 30 occurred before 1/22/08, when Bibby returned to the starting lineup. As I said above, John is the better ball-handler & playmaker, so it made sense to start him when Bibby was out. But as long as Udrih stays healthy, those skills won't be as needed as they were at the start of last season.
2) Standing 6-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Garcia has the length to play small forward. Salmons is more of a shooting guard, and as you can see here, he played almost twice as many minutes at that position. If Kev-Mart gets injured again, THEN Salmons will have serious value.
3) Francisco is the better shooter. Last season, he made 1.4 treys per game at a 39.1% clip. Meanwhile, Salmons shot just 32.5% 3P and has never made more than .6 treys per game in his career. Ron Artest attempted nearly 4 threes per game in '07-08, which means that Garcia should easily set career-highs in threes made and attempted this season.
4) Salmons = Artest, and not in a good way. Upset about being benched after playing well as a starter, Salmons let his coach know about it, resulting in a minor beef between he and Theus. Unfortunately, he didn't do himself any favors by scoring just 7.4 points on 43% FG shooting in 40 games off the bench. Not only does Salmons like to complain a la Artest, but he also tends to be a 1-on-1 ball-stopper, two negative qualities that the Kings would like to reduce in '08-09.
5) At Louisville, the "Latin Assassin" was a 1st Team Conference USA player who led his team to the Final Four in 2005. His head coach that year was Rick Pitino. His assistant coach? Reggie Theus (ohhhh SNAP). Was it a coincidence that Garcia's minutes shot up last season in Theus' first year as head coach? I think not.
Salmons is still worth drafting, but Garcia is going to be the more valuable fantasy player. Mark my words.
BE CAREFUL OF: Brad MillerLet's start with the stats. In '07-08, Miller averaged 9.4 rebounds (his highest mark in 4 years), 1.0 steals (his highest mark in 3 years), 1.0 blocks (his highest mark in 3 years), and .39 threes (the 2nd highest mark of his career) while shooting 84.8% from the line (a career-high). So, if you think he's going to improve in all of those cats, you're quite crazy. Now consider how many games he's going to play in. The league has already suspended Miller for the first 5 games of the season for violating terms of the anti-drug program, which means a max of 77 possible games played. But guess what? Brad has played 77+ games just ONCE in his 10-year career, missing a combined 58 games over the past 4 years.
Lastly, consider his situation. The Kings are in rebuild mode, and they could lose a lot of games this season. If that happens, Miller will likely see his minutes fall in the 2nd half, as youngsters like Hawes, Thompson, and Greene get more PT. Sactown already got rid of Bibby & Artest, and they could be looking to trade Miller, Kenny Thomas, and Abdur-Rahim this season. All three have two years remaining on their contracts (close to expiring), but Miller is the only one who could possibly turn a playoff team into a legit contender. But if that were to happen, his stats would likely go down even further, because he would play more of a supporting role on a more talented team. The former Boilermaker has been a Top 10 fantasy center for a long time, but that may be a thing of the past.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Martin: 2nd - 3rd