Posted by: Kingsguru21 | April 2, 2009

Recap of the last few days (erf–week!!!)

First, I apologize for the lack of content. When things in my life get busy, well, that means this blog will get ignored. If you want to see my ramblings in shorter, and maybe more succinct, style, just read this game thread on Sactown Royalty. You’ll get the idea of some of my views.

Earlier today, Tom Ziller of the aforementioned StR (Sactown Royalty), made some excellent points in recapping the Golden State game. The most important point I thought he made was this:

In a realist sense, no game means anything for the Kings. Whether the Kings end up as the worst or second-worst team in the league is more a matter of fate than results at this point — teams win close games, and they lose close games. The Kings have been in several close games of late, and you figure Washington has a few left in them, too. It’s not about quality at this point: the Kings and Wizards (and toss the Grizzlies in too) are all awful, almost equally awful. The largest share of ping pong balls will essentially be decided randomly, with an edge to Sacramento.

In case you don’t understand what I’m getting at, re-read Tom’s paragraph again. In fact, I will highlight the text in case you don’t get it.

In a realist sense, no game means anything for the Kings. Whether the Kings end up as the worst or second-worst team in the league is more a matter of fate than results at this point — teams win close games, and they lose close games. The Kings have been in several close games of late, and you figure Washington has a few left in them, too. It’s not about quality at this point: the Kings and Wizards (and toss the Grizzlies in too) are all awful, almost equally awful. The largest share of ping pong balls will essentially be decided randomly, with an edge to Sacramento.

But, even then, that’s only a pre-cursor to the truly important point: On May 22nd, the day of the NBA lottery drawing, the only ping pong ball that matters to the Kings is the one that selects them for their draft position. In other words, you can lose all you want, but all it does is guarantee you the 4th pick. Getting higher than that is just luck, and in the Kings case, higher odds to do so. So at this point what I’m after with this team is not about wins or losses. It’s about improvement in little things that gives me hope at this point.

Kenny Natt is not the coach of this team beyond April 20th. And if he is, that may signify how many problems this franchise will have moving forward. As in, do the owners of this team (the Maloof family), have the proper perspective in rebuilding this team. Do they have the patience to do it correctly?

Kenny Natt’s tactical blunders: Playing Rashad McCants so many minutes. That’s the biggest factor I saw that made a difference. Read this game play by play. Read the 4th qtr in particular. Kevin got alot of shots up, but, 10 possessions (including TO’s) where he was shooting, or in the case of a turnover, in a 25 possession 4th qtr (or thereabouts) is not enough for a guy who put up 50 points on 74% T(rue) S(hooting).

Rashad McCants, for a guy not having a career night, and McCants finished with 14 pts on 5 of 14 shooting is not a guy you want having the ball in his hands for a scoring possession 10 times over the 4th quarter and overtime.

Spencer Hawes did not have a good game. He had 11 pts and 6 boards. And, I very much blame Natt for both of those totals. Yes, Hawes was not brilliant, but he was not criminally awful. And the one advantage the Kings did have was size with Hawes and Thompson. While, JT grabbed 19 boards last night, and that was pretty awesome, he also played 35 minutes including the overtime. That was, until he fouled out. That’s the only reason Spencer broke the 20 minute barrier.

For all the talk that the Organization is happy that Hawes and Thompson are getting playing time, at this point it’s just not enough.

This team won’t improve defensively by the numbers by this season. It won’t even improve much incremently after nights like last night. That being said, the talent to improve is there for a variety of reasons. One of the draft picks is bound to be a quality defensive player, and one of them definitely has to be a PG. Beno Udrih’s defense is criminally awful. But, he wasn’t signed to be a stopper either. The other big reason is that 4 of the potential best defensive players on this team are: Donte Greene (21), Jason Thompson (22), and Spencer Hawes (turns 21 this month), and Kevin Martin (He’s 26). Other than Martin, none of those guys has exactly played 40 mins a night consistently the last few seasons. Martin knows what it takes, and I think he still has ability on that end. At some point though, some of the problems are scheme, some of the problems are with the age of this group (good call TZ), and some of the problems are stemming from the multiple issue’s that have surrounded this team all year long (Martin’s ankle injury, apathy, changing over the roster).

If one ask’s me why I’m not spending a ton of time focusing on the draft here’s the biggest reason: What’s the point? I don’t know where the Kings are drafting, and more importantly, I don’t know what players will be available for the Kings to draft (presumably in the top 4 spots) when it’s their time to select. Beyond that, they will also have a high 2nd round pick (top 3 or 4 spots in the 2nd round–always a good place to be), and Houston’s 1st round pick (anywhere from 22-25 would be my guess at this point given the way they’re playing). Beyond any of that though, there’s another reason. I want an idea of what some of these guys play like, and the more I watch them play, the more I have a feel for them as players at the particular level. It doesn’t really give me an idea of how they will play as pro’s for a lot of reasons including that the players at the NCAA level aren’t as good as players at the Spanish League level or the NBA level ultimately. But, beyond that, the biggest reason is that now is the time to figure out which players are players at a certain level, and who isn’t.

There are always sleepers out there who aren’t drafted (Ben Wallace, Brad Miller) of course, and 2nd round picks (Gilbert Arenas–1st pick of 2nd round in 2001; Rashard Lewis–3rd pick of 1998 2nd round) that dropped a tad too far out of the late 1st round. Even then, there are always late 1st round sleepers (Many guys to be named here but some notables that stick out of my mind: Michael Finley: 21st overall pick in 1995; Zydrunas Ilgauskas: 20th overall in 1996; Bobby Jackson: 24th overall in 1997; Al Harrington: 25th overall in 1998; Andrei Kirilenko 25th overall in 1999; Jamaal Magloire: 19th overall in 2000; Tony Parker 28th overall in 2001–Zach Randolph went 19th, Brendan Haywood 20th, Gerald Wallace 25th, Samuel Dalembert 26th also–this is probably why Arenas fell so far in that 2001 was the ultimate sleeper draft; Nenad Krstic (24th overall in 2002) and John Salmons (26th) were the best of the lot in the 20’s that year; and in 2003 (which is where I’ll stop), David West was drafted 18th, Josh Howard 28th, and Mo Williams–who was drafted by the Jazz for those who remember him playing there– was drafted 47th overall that season.

What is the point? Sleepers are very available. The more quality players that are in the draft means the greater chance the Kings have at getting a quality sleeper at the bottom of the 1st round and with a high 2nd round pick. In fact, from a talent perspective, if the Kings don’t take advantage of these opportunities, this may turn out to be a greater wasted opportunity long term than the top pick. If the Kings don’t come out of this draft with a franchise level player, and 2 potential rotation players, I will be extremely disappointed.

Last but not least, among other things, this team needs a lot of things: Defensive help, a better HEAD coach, smarter offensive sets, a better HEAD coach, a clear idea of what players play what position, a clear idea of where the shots could come from, a better HEAD coach. Maybe you haven’t gotten the clue yet, or maybe you have and wonder what the point is, but this team’s offensive strategy is to seemingly take a lot of 3’s. Like, too many. I believe that a team can build value around the 3 point line. I just don’t believe it can be your primary strategy to winning. 2 reasons cement my belief: 15 footers are easier to take, and the Kings have 2 quality low post players in Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes (and a potential one on the way of Blake Griffin if they decide to take him). If you can’t figure out how to get either guy the ball when they are open (and they often are), then it’s a bit difficult for me to figure out how this team improves with a 3rd player who needs the ball to score (among other things), and then have so many perimeter players jack up 3’s.

Yes, it’s true that Spencer Hawes needs to work harder at times to establish position. However, it’s also equally difficult to expect Hawes to work so hard for position when he won’t get the ball so much of the time. This is even more true when some of what’s expected offensively from Hawes is to shoot 3’s in the first place. Yes, he can do that, but should he? Well, under certain circumstances it makes sense. But under most circumstances? It does not.

Jason Thompson is another issue. He often loses his balance (he hasn’t grown into his Shaq sized feet yet is one problem), and he’s so busy trying to get a spot that he hasn’t figured out what he wants to do with the ball when he does get to the spot. These are multiple issue’s, but one (footwork) can be remedied with work and focus with a coach who does such things (David Thorpe–as many have already speculated). The other (rushing things) is learned with time and experience. Only playing JT can help him at this point. He has alot of ability as a player in this league and just needs time to bring it along. Patience is only something that will help him get better.

Final Thought: The Kings suck defensively. The Kings suck (a lot of the time) offensively. Their out-coached almost every night (not sure it would matter if they weren’t). The franchise hasn’t decided on the direction (can’t really know until you get that top pick) completely yet. There are lots of questions surrounding this team, and no real apparent answers. Yet. On one hand.

On the other hand, if you bring back Kenny Natt because he’s cheap, and because you don’t feel like giving a long term contract to another head coach (I can’t blame the Maloof’s for feeling snake-bitten here but…..), then that’s stupid. It’s stupid because the wounds are self-inflicted. It’s stupid because there wasn’t a commitment to rebuilding this team until, and think about this for a moment, the summer of 2008. The rebuilding hasn’t even gone on for a year. It had nowhere to go but up! But, it’s gone awful so far? The only thing criminally awful (besides having this team play every year like this for the next 10) would be reticent to be active and committed to a head coach because of recent failure. Yes, that means letting Geoff Petrie pick the next head man. It also means that when Geoff does, you pick up and decide to weigh in your input. If the basketball staff is determined by Geoff Petrie, then let him determine it. It sounds a bit like the Maloof’s are trying to get a handle on what to do, and because they’ve never crossed that bridge (sounds like another argument for Petrie doesn’t it?) of having to rebuild a team before, wouldn’t it be wise to hand the keys to a guy you supposedly have faith in?

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