The Scouting Report: at Sacramento Kings
Projected starting line-up: Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi, DeMarcus Cousins
Injuries: Willie Cauley-Stein (dislocated finger) is out a couple of more weeks, Eric Moreland (foot) possibly out for season
Other than their point guard acting like a grade-a a-hole towards referee Bill Kennedy, the Sacramento Kings’ regular season has gone pretty well, all things considered. The Western Conference isn’t what it was in year’s past at the bottom of the conference and by virtue of a deeper roster built in the offseason, the Kings currently find themselves a half game out of the playoffs.
Their point guard Rajon Rondo was having something of a renaissance season until this garbage. Averaging over 12 points and 11 assists per game, Rondo has the control of the offense in Sacramento that he’d had in Boston and fought until benching to have in Dallas. Rondo is currently tied this season with Golden State’s Draymond Green for the most triple-doubles in the NBA with four.
But the reason that the Kings are in the place that they are, even though Rondo has added a lot as well as veteran additions of Marco Bellinelli and Kosta Koufos, begins and ends with DeMarcus Cousins. He’s averaging 24.5 points per game and 10.8 rebounds and is always a mismatch. Now he’s added a 3-point shot to his arsenal, which he is hitting at just a little under 31 percent. Whether it’s good or not depends on the night, but there are some concerns with the new weapon that he’s added to his game. Cousins is getting to the line a little bit less and we’ve seen a drop in his PER over from the last two seasons. Obviously those numbers only tell part of the story and the dread that defenses face when they have to guard Cousins out to the 3-point line, while also trying to guard against his drive to the rim for a dunk or make a pass to an open shooter isn’t in the box score.
Even though their best line-ups involve Willie Cauley-Stein, the Kings starters have been able to tread water with Omri Casspi starting at power forward. Darren Collison may be the best back-up point guard in the league and he’s almost always a plus when he’s in the game.
Tim Frazier is going to have his hands full with Collison if Lillard doesn’t go, which according to The Oregonian’s Mike Richman is a likely scenario. Ditto for Blazers dirty work guy Ed Davis after he sprained his ankle landing on Anderson Varejao’s foot.
Sacramento’s biggest strength–other than Cousins–is their depth. After an offseason of lots of changes on the court and in the front office, the Kings have a product that has a chance to play in the playoffs. Their depth is probably their biggest asset and something that can exploit a current Blazers weakness. Rudy Gay has presented match-up problems in the past but Al-Farouq Aminu and Noah Vonleh both have the size and speed to hang with him defensively.
The Blazers played some good basketball against the Cavaliers, but a win against the Kings, who’ve won five of seven, on the road, would be almost as impressive.