Every season, a team will be facing an opponent for the first time. And that usually means it is the first time many of the fans get a chance to watch that team in action. With that in mind, I thought its probably a good idea to learn more about your opponent, and who knows more about an opponent than bloggers.
DBB: The Pistons tried desperately to trade up in order to draft DeMarcus Cousins. They ended up with Greg Monroe as a consolation prize. Now those two players look like the best picks from the draft. Can you give us a Kings fan's perspective on Cousins?
SR: DeMarcus Cousins has emerged as Sacramento's best and most consistent player. Under Keith Smart's tutelage, Cousins has bloomed. For me personally, he's far surpassed my expectations of him this year. His on-court demeanor is much improved, and he's noticeably restrained himself quite a few times where last year he might have blown up. His overall game is also stepping up as well. He's rebounding like a mad man, one of the best in the league on both sides of the glass. His defense is still a work in progress, but he's got a knack for taking charges and currently leads the league in that category. On offense, you'd think he'd be a brute in the low post with his size, but he's a much more finesse player, preferring to lay it up off the glass rather than try to dunk it. His mid-to-long range jumper has become almost automatic as well, as he's shooting a ridiculous 48% from the 16-23 foot range. Sacramento is noticeably better on the court when Cousins is in the game, so staying out of foul trouble is a must for him, and he's gotten a bit better at that too. The best part about DeMarcus is that even with all his improvement this year, there is still so much room to grow. I think most of us would take him again if we could re-do the draft, easily.
DBB: The Pistons are a team full of combo guards but still lack a true point. I know there have been similar questions about Tyreke Evans throughout his career. Do you see him as a point guard long term?
SR: Is he a point guard or not? That's been the question that has dogged him since coming to Sacramento. There's no doubt he's among the best players in the league in transition and attacking the basket, but he hasn't really seemed to add too much to his game since his rookie year. Last year, he was plagued by injury, suffering plantar fasciitis that hobbled him for the year. This year, the lockout has affected everyone and the Kings switched coaches after 7 games. I'm not sure if Evans is a point guard long term for this team, but the fact remains that when he's on the floor he'll likely have the ball in his hands a lot of the time. If he does stay as a point guard, he needs to start showing better court awareness and get the team into its offense much quicker.
DBB: Rodney Stuckey got a three-year, $24 million deal, and I think the Kings helped set that bar with the contract they gave Marcus Thornton. First the deal was $40 million over five years, then $33 million over four, and now, i think, $31 million over four. Any buyers remorse or are you excited to have Thornton at shooting guard for the next four seasons?
SR: Thornton has had a bit of a mixed season. At times he looks like the player we fell in love with last year, and at other times he's been a bit of a chucker despite not having it going. I believe that long term, Marcus is best suited as a scoring punch off the bench. I don't really have much buyer's remorse here, as I think the contract was solid value for a guy who is leading the team in scoring. This season is kind of weird for evaluating players because of it's unique nature.
DBB: Fill in the blanks: When the Kings win it is because __________________. When the Kings get blown out it is because _____________.
SR: When the Kings win it is because they play with energy and intensity. When the Kings get blown out it is because they come out flat and stay flat.
DBB: Who are Kings fans excited for in the upcoming draft? I played the lottery machine on ESPN a bunch and came up with Jared Sullinger each time. Yay or nay?
SR: We haven't talked about the draft too much on Sactown Royalty, so this will just be my personal view. Anthony Davis, the projected #1 pick, would be an amazing fit next to DeMarcus. A guy who is long, athletic and can make a big impact without needing the ball in his hands. However, this is the Kings, and as such we will only drop in the lottery (It must be in the NBA by-laws). The Kings are desperate for a solid wing player, so guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes or Perry Jones (who's kind of a 3/4) probably entice a lot of us as well. As for Sullinger, I'm not sure how much the Kings would be interested. They need athleticism and defense next to Cousins.