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Kings Come Calling

By NICK JUNKER
​Kings discover new found success from unlikely sources. The Sacramento Kings have been an essential part of the NBA, as pioneering members, who have been more infamous for changing franchise names than being actually successful. In the past nine seasons alone, the Kings have had a record of 244-478 (0.510). Simply put, they have been blatantly bad. There are many different reasons as to why this has become a trend; however that is all in hindsight. Now, the team has found their franchise tags from the most unlikely of sources.

Demarcus Cousins was present as the number fifth pick, out of the University of Kentucky, in the 2010 draft class for the Sacramento Kings. Many people were adamant as to how Cousins would fare in the NBA, due to many disciplinary issues with coaches and players alike. Not much had changed in his first five seasons, but the emergence of Rajon Rondo has made a large transformation in the demeanor of Cousins.
After Rondo had a very tumultuous experience with the Dallas Mavericks and coach, Rick Carlisle, no general manager wanted to sign a player that would question or fight everything they would say. That is, every general manager, but one; Vlade Divac. Divac knew that signing Rondo would be the largest risk in the NBA’s offseason and that was proven true. After the Kings started the 2015 season with a 1-7 start, it seemed as if it would be another stereotypical season for the team. Enter the differentiability.

After many fights, arguments, and overall indifference the Kings, over time, had learned to cope with their melting pot of players, which has translated into more success. Since then, Demarcus Cousins has excelled at many different aspects including posting up, driving, passing, and shooting three pointers and fadeaways. A 6’11 and 270 pound man being able to do all of those things and even more has led to a large source of problems for opposing NBA teams.
Rondo and Cousins have formed a strange bond over time that has been the largest mode of success for the team. While both players have been known to be pesky individuals, it seems as if Rondo has become a type of mentor for Cousins. George Karl has chosen to employ a fast paced attack with the variety of options that he has in his offense. As a result, Rondo and Cousins have led the Kings to being first in pace (102.18 possessions per 48 minutes) with many other outstanding individual stats. Rajon Rondo currently is second in the NBA in triple doubles (5) behind only Draymond Green (8) and has 13 games with 15 assists or more. It is very evident that Rondo is one of the more talented guards in the NBA who is willing to dish out assists at will.

Demarcus Cousins is currently undergoing the same translation on the court and is now being recognized as an overall dominant player. This season Cousins is averaging 27.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game, which is certainly an impressive overall line for a man of his stature. In the month of January, Cousins has evidently made his teammates better as Sacramento has scored over 111 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. This derives from Cousins excellent ability to be a bruiser around the basket and have a multitude of options around him. 

The real area that the Kings lack in overall is defense. The team has found problems defensively and is currently 18th in defensive rating (107.1 points per 100 possessions). This is largely due to the endless amounts of offensive weapons that the Kings have without much defense added. Seth Curry has been recognized as one of the team’s best defenders by George Karl and this is where the line in the sand needs to be drawn.

The Kings are currently one game outside of the eight seed in the Western Conference with a 20-26 record. This may be as a result of some issues, injuries, and suspensions, but the bottom line is that the Kings have found their franchise players at this point. There is an evident step in the right direction for the team; however the best long term solution would be to trade Rudy Gay. Gay has become a great offensive player for the Kings and his trade stock could certainly be at the highest point of his career. With a trade involving him, the Kings can certainly fill in the missing pieces to be one of the scariest teams to face in the NBA.

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