Posted by: Kingsguru21 | April 17, 2010

End of the season review Part 1: The Players

I don’t really want to do a full out discussion of this season, but I fear I must. The season never unfolded the way I expected it (when does it though?) and there is much to discuss about the various aspects of the team. Part 1 is about the players themselves. Part 2 will focus on the coaching staff. Part 3 will focus on upper management and ownership. Here is my season preview.

Tyreke Evans: Is he good?

Obviously, Tyreke Evans took a step forward as a player. Nobody can argue that he didn’t succeed beyond anybody’s expectations. This is especially true of my own. Other than his rebounding (which was lower than what I thought he might end up with), everything else in his numbers more than held it’s own.

You see a lot of criticism from Kings fans (and Warriors fans trying to hype up Steph Curry) that the ball stops moving when Tyreke has the ball. It’s true that some of that is the other players don’t always like playing with a ball dominant guard and are less likely to do anything other than look to grab an o-board or something else where they can grab a pass. Tyreke needs to work on his recognition in running the offense and getting the ball to guys in spots where they can do something with it.

However, this is a 2 way street. Other than Carl Landry, the Kings don’t have a plus finisher inside. Had the Kings had Carl Landry all year, I’m convinced they could have won 30 games and Tyreke Evans numbers would have looked BETTER. I don’t think Tyreke is selfish as much as he’s always been the best scorer on every team he’s been on. (This team is no different.) But as to the fact that he never had to learn how to play with other great scorers, let alone against NBA defenses, this no doubt is true. There is no question that Tyreke has to learn how to keep his other teammates involved. This is an adjustment that many superstars in the NBA have to make. The real stud’s make the adjustment. The pretenders don’t.

Will Tyreke Evans make that adjustment? He’ll be 21 next season. I’ll answer that after his 3rd or 4th season depending on health and circumstances. As far as ROTY, I already talked about that horseshit. I’m tired of that debate already.

Who else made positive strides this season?

If you define positives strides as making a positive impact, but not consistently, you can honestly say Donte Greene, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes all qualify. (I’ll put Beno in a different category.)

First Hawes. I’m disappointed with the season Hawes had because, even though I knew there was plenty of evidence that suggested Hawes might have a season like the one he did, there was also enough evidence for me to believe that he could improve in a few area’s. He just never did. I won’t hold that against him. I just won’t defend him against naysayers anymore. I’m done with that one. He’s shown his talent, and his inconsistency.

As far as JT goes, he had a reasonable 2nd year. He didn’t greatly improve in any area’s, but he didn’t take a step back like Hawes did either. (Hawes didn’t have a major step back or regression. He just simply didn’t take a positive step forward on a consistent basis.) JT’s 1st 2 months made me believe for awhile that perhaps I was wrong on some things, but his last 4 months did nothing of the sort. I love JT’s size, hustle, and ability to play all 82 games. He’s just not a player who will do all the things necessary to win you games on a consistent basis as your starting PF. That’s okay because bigs who play alot of games don’t grow on trees. But he’s no major league stud or dud. That’s what I know after 2. I’m okay with that because I’d rather have JT over Roy Hibbert or Marreese Speights. (Or Anthony Randolph for that matter.) On the other hand, it still leaves the Kings with a major hole to fill up front.

With regards to Donte Greene, he actually took a leap forward. He took a leap in that he showed himself capable of being able to play defense at various times. He also showed he can hit the 3, finish inside, showed a rare post move or two, and had a ton of enthusiasm (especially early in the season). From a numbers perspective, he got more efficient offensively (1 less 3 per 36 will do that for you), his rebounding improved a little (a little is the key word), and showed the talent is there. Look at Rashard Lewis’ early career. There is too many similarities there for me to ignore.

Omri Casspi made me happy. He took advantage of his playing time. One of the area’s that’s translatable for Omri is his rebounding. He rebounded well at Maccabi, and has shown that at the NBA level. Omri shot the 3 ridiculously well through the early part of January (as high as 47% from 3 at one point if I remember correctly), but dropped off a lot from there. Still, 37.6% from 3 land is pretty good for a guy whose stamina and presence worn thin as the season dragged on. It’s debatable whether Omri Casspi is a part of the core. Year 2 will tell a lot about this very thing. The only area that Omri could have done better was at the FT line, and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be a low 80’s shooter for most of his career. He’s a young player, and had a very slow start in that area during November and early December. I can safely say I’m more positive about Omri than I was at the start of training camp.

So what about the lower rotation guys?

Ignoring Beno Udrih for a moment, I’m going to focus on the role players who haven’t been named, and who are not either Landry or Udrih.

Francisco Garcia needs a summer to recover from that forearm/wrist injury he had. I’m glad he had a chance to play games this season because I think that will aid his recovery. It would not shock me if he played summer league basketball to help him integrate easier. (Then again, it’s not a major deal.)

Sean May had moments where he did well, but mostly he didn’t really do much for this team. I like May in that he’s a great interview, and that’s always needed, however mostly a player has to contribute consistently on the court. I’m not sure Sean May did that.

I won’t bother with commenting on Kenny Thomas’ strange season. Let’s just say, I find it strange.

Ime Udoka is a pro whom I respect and wouldn’t mind for the Kings to guarantee the vet’s minimum for the next 2 seasons. His attitude, his defensive presence and his willingness to do what the coaches ask is always a plus. I have nothing to say about him that hasn’t been said, but I will also say that you won’t win many games with him getting consistent rotation minutes. As an end of the bench guy, he is perfect.

Jon Brockman is an interesting player, and I’m sure the Kings are considering bringing him back for next season. I don’t know that they will because Brockman didn’t show enough defensively rebounding wise, or on post defense. I’m also not sure that his offensive skill set will bring much to the table. He’s fine as an end of the rotation 5th big (in whatever situation you want to put him in) but I’m skeptical he can be anything more. Like Udoka, though, there are worse players to have on your bench than Brockman.

I won’t comment on Sergio Rodriguez. I’m glad he’s gone. Double dog ditto with regards to Hilton Armstrong. I don’t have anything against Dominic McGuire (who had some real misfortune) but the only reason the Kings acquired him was the money they got from the Wizards to do so. Ime Udoka got me over my initial reservations. I thought the Kings said what you probably need to understand with regards to Joey Dorsey: Waiving a player on March 31st is usually not a strong sign you want him around.

So, are you going to address Carl Landry now?

I like Landry as a player and I’m glad the Kings traded for him. I’m disappointed that I saw him take 2 3’s at the end of the season, and that he took more J’s towards the end of the season. He was a guy I was hoping to see play inside more. On the other hand, Landry took more J’s towards the end of the season when the Kings were playing less guys up front. So that could be a factor.

Other than his FT% declining in Sacramento, I really have little to complain about Carl Landry given the circumstances.

As to why Landry took more J’s the more time he spent in Sacramento, I only have 1 explanation that sort of works. It is because the Kings needed him to stay in the game and not use all of his energy trying to score inside. So, in some respects because Landry can hit that shot at a reasonably high rate, it made more sense for Landry to take those shots and not wear himself out by playing inside more. I don’t buy (yet) the theory that more of those shots were taken to accommodate Tyreke Evans going to the rim.

Finally you get to Beno!

Beno Udrih really had the best year of any returning Kings player. He nearly had a career year in many area’s. He had a slight improvement over his PPG from 2 seasons ago. His 3 pt%, which was much higher in January, was nearly what it was 2 years ago under his first season with Reggie Theus. He shot a career high 49% from the field overall. His TOV% were a career low. (That’s another reason I like Beno & Tyreke. They turn the ball over less as a tandem.) As a result, Beno’s TS% was the highest it’s ever been. Udrih suited up in 79 games which resulted in 75+ played games for the 2nd time in his career (the 1st being 80 games played his rookie season in San Antonio). And, despite the fact that Tyreke Evans had the ball in his hands a lot, Beno’s assists didn’t go down at all from last season. (A big part of this is cuz Beno had so many assists without Reke around. Still, that says something.)

Any way you slice it, Beno Udrih showed why the Kings traded Kevin Martin (and believed they were right doing so). His mid range game, plus the ability to hit 3’s, compliments Tyreke Evans well. The fact that Udrih and Evans are both combo G’s, neither is really a 1 or 2 by “definition”, works well too. Both guys were not excessive in their TO rates.

For the people who say that a bigger G in the backcourt forces teams to make a decision on Tyreke, I argue hogwash. No team is going to put their lesser defender on Tyreke in hopes of keeping Beno in check. (Which is another reason I think the Kings ultimately gave up on the pairing of Martin and Tyreke.)

Another point that should be remembered is that Beno’s game fits Tyreke’s well, and the issue of his contract becomes less of a problem given Beno’s 2 years plus a player option for the 3rd year. With Beno & Reke playing so well as a tandem, and with Beno only being 28 next season, it’s not like there isn’t time for each to grow in their own right.

Overall, was this season successful from a player standpoint?

I think the 2009-10 season was successful. This team was younger, won 8 more games, Tyreke established himself, Omri & Donte showed flashes, Beno looked like the Beno that convinced the Kings to give him the MLE, and JT/Spence made progress in some area’s.

It’s true that I think the end of the season ended on a sour note, but it’s also useful in terms of the team helping itself (mainly the draft pick). There is also the sour taste it left in some players mouths and it might drive a few (particularly Tyreke, Omri, Donte & JT) to work harder this off-season. Internal player improvement may be the single biggest factor in the Kings winning next season. (It will be one of several factors at the bare minimum.)

From an asset standpoint the Kings have better standing for their players than they did coming from last season. Udrih raised his value, but, again, whatever value that may have to other teams is likely to be significantly less than what it is to the Kings. Francisco Garcia and Andres Nocioni are the 2 Kings most likely to be traded for cap relief, but whom is likely to take either this off-season? (I would not be shocked to see the Hornets and Kings swap Noc for Peja if the Kings do not spend their cap room. Or if they do a JT for Murphy swap.) JT and Shawes may end up being traded in a S&T or in a deal to get a player through a trade. Carl Landry is a valuable contributor, and his value goes up when considering his salary.

I always ask that the team be building towards something better rather than stagnating. This team isn’t stagnant or not moving forward. There is a future with the young talent, future with the draft pick and cap space, and there is a future because the players that are here now have shown that improvement for this team is not too far away. Even though 25 games is nothing to be prideful of on it’s face, a minor reasonable showing IS an improvement. This improvement was achieved with a younger roster, some injuries that turned out to be more beneficial than one might have thought initially, and a new system with an entirely new core of players. (Yes, I consider Beno to be part of the new core. Nobody thought that at the beginning of the season.)

Coming into the season I felt confident about 1 position: Kevin Martin and the SG slot. Now exiting the season I feel confident about the future of 2 positions: The backcourt as a whole. That’s improvement even if it’s small and incremental. And, if you say aren’t you judging this on a curve? My response: You bet your ass I am. Since I never expected this team to jump over the moon and kiss anybody’s grits, 25 wins can be considered progress given the circumstances. If that means I’m being high and overly optimistic, so be it. I’m tired of being pessimistic and downtrodden about this team. Nothing is ever a sure thing. Sometimes the risk is believing something is possible.

I believe in this team again. Sue me.

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  1. […] End of the season review Part 1: The Players « Evil Cowtown, INC: A Sacramento Kings blog […]


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