October 18, 2018
As might be expected, these mostly aren't about the players.

Over the last few weeks, the BBALLBREAKDOWN team have been taking looks at five important questions each NBA team will be facing going into the upcoming offseason, continuing here with the Sacramento Kings.


1. How Much Of A Hindrance Is Vivek Ranadivé For The Kings Organization?

There is no advanced stat to properly measure this, but it’s a lot. Ranadivé fired the one coach who actually had success with DeMarcus Cousins, hired a team president in Vlade Divac without telling anyone how much power he’d have, hired George Karl – a coach who has always sought after roster control – only to be annoyed at the fact that he wanted roster control, and of course suggested a crazy idea of playing 4-on-5 defense.

Basically, it’s been a mess.

Ranadivé clearly believes he has a basketball mind, yet so far that belief has done little to turn the Kings around. He wants to fix the team, but through his own way, and that’s a problem seeing as his way has proven not only wildly unsuccessful so far, but also tremendously unrealistic.

If one was crazy enough, a parallel could be made between Ranadivé and Knicks owner James Dolan. Both act as dark shadows hovering over their teams, thus limiting the effect of management. To put it into perspective, both Mike Malone and Pete D’Alessandro, Sacramento’s former GM, are now in Denver, together, after D’Alessandro fired Malone. How do they co-exist? By understanding that they worked for an owner who would push through his own agenda, regardless of logic.

Add a disgruntled DeMarcus Cousins to the mix, and Ranadivé’s about as popular as chlamydia these days. Cousins could be gone by mid-summer, leaving the team in an even worse shape than previously, and without the league’s best center beginning his prime years. Regardless of how anyone spins it, Ranadivé remains the sole reason for the destruction of what appeared to be a successful player/coach relationship, which doesn’t come around all that often.

To make matters worse, the word is out on Ranadivé’s complete lack of ownership skills, likely limiting free agent interest significantly for the foreseeable future. Ranadive affects every aspect of the Kings organization, but not in the way he wants.

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2. Is George Karl Even The Right Coach For Them?

Karl is a successful head coach with NBA Finals experience who carries with him a wide knowledge on how to make players come together for the sake of the team. He routinely gets results with his players, advance their developments, and flat-out wins games.

Having said all that, Karl isn’t the right coach for the Kings.

As stated above, Karl prefers to have his word heard in roster decisions. He’s become one more chef in a kitchen so filled with drama and tension that he’s bound to become the sacrificial lamb at some point. Ranadivé put all his faith into Divac, and would lose face by having to let him go. He would lose less face by firing three coaches in one year.

Karl, additionally, is not good with star players. He’s had issues with several of them, which, although it doesn’t take anything away from his X’s and O’s knowledge, does remove him from the conversation in being a part of the solution for Cousins. The very fact that Karl wish to trade Cousins shows that he’s a man who always bets on himself, a somewhat narcissistic view that won’t win many believers in between rosters.

For all his know-how, Karl is best served for teams that are without a true star, and where spreading the wealth is the name of the game. If Cousins is traded, he’ll have his wish. But that hardly seems the best option given Cousins’s talent and production, especially when his trade value has been lowered due to every team knowing about the internal issues. Karl’s vision matches neither what best suits his team nor what his owner wants, and so despite his success and short tenure, he might not last.

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3. Can The Team Acquire Any Internal Trust After The Divac Hire?

Potentially.

It’s difficult blaming Divac for being hired and given power. But you have to at least wonder if Divac will be viewed as an extension of Ranadivé, which will carry over negatively for those involved. Divac has not been around the NBA for a decade, thus increasing the target on his back for the day he makes a mistake.

Due to that, it’s a necessity for Divac to separate himself from Ranadivé and create his own path to walk. He’s the guy who’ll have to tell the owner “No” when it’s needed, and become the voice of the Kings from within. If he does that, trust could be built. If not, he’ll be viewed as a nodding doll until the day comes where Ranadivé feels enough time has passed for him to fire Divac without losing credibility.

For Divac, a huge test is coming up this summer with Cousins. The whole world knows Cousins is dissatisfied with the organization, and the coach. Divac will either have to convince Cousins to give the plan a convincing shot, or he’ll be forced to seek a proper return for the All-Star.

What the Kings will be able to fetch for Cousins will measure Divac in many ways, and forever attach him to that deal. Sam Presti is to this day still talked about for the James Harden trade, as would Divac be with any Cousins trade. So far, the 47-year old has made it known that to get Cousins, it’d take a tremendous offer. This is a good sign, but will he keep that line when trade negotiations become serious with some team?

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4. How Good Can DeMarcus Cousins Become, And Will That Development Take Place Elsewhere?

This is a scary question, all things considered. Cousins has for the most part played on a team poorly managed, and yet he’s broken through as a sure-fire star. On a team with no drama, could Cousins become even better?

Over his past two seasons, Cousins has put up elite numbers with very limited help around him, succeeding in carrying a true shooting percentage of .550% over that span, while having a usage rate of 33.4%. His raw numbers of 23.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in just 33.2 minutes are likewise impressive, and could be bound for further improvement if he ends up on a team with more cohesiveness.

The Kings, as a team, ranked just 21st in the NBA in passes per game with 205,, in part due to their reliance on Cousins, who isolated 15.8% of the time, despite producing just 207 points out of 246 possessions. Sacramento’s shaky spacing didn’t help Cousins on his jumpers, on which he shot 27.7% on the year. In a more open system that will use him as a rolling big man, it’s likely Cousins could see his development take off in terms of efficiency.

For what it’s worth, drafting Willie Cauley-Stein could help Cousins on both ends. Cousins will no longer be the last line of defense while also having to cover for Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, and could allow himself to roam more freely from the high-post and in. Cauley-Stein offers a hedge-and-recover element to Sacramento’s defense that wasn’t there before, which could include in Cousins conserving energy for the offensive end, which in itself is a scary thought. It is a pairing that should be given a chance, and it only can be if Cousins is kept.

5. What Exactly Is Their Point Guard Situation?

The usual narrative is that the Kings have to rebuild their guard rotation. But not necessarily.

When looking at the raw numbers, Darren Collison had a decent year. He put up 16.1 points and 5.6 assists per game, had a career-high PER of 17.5 and a true shooting percentage of .575% for the third year in a row, which has to be some kind of record. His production from last year should come with a small sample size warning, however. Collison played just 45 games due to a core muscle injury sustained in February, and didn’t return to the court for the rest of the year.

On the surface, and given the situation, Collison played admirably. In only four out of his 45 games did Collison not make it to double-figures in scoring, and one of those games was the one in which injury hit. The 27-year-old point guard was third on the team in scoring and continued to build on his improving long ball from last season, hitting 37.3% from deep on 3.6 attempts.

For all intents and purposes, Sacramento will likely move forward with Collison next season, even if he isn’t the optimal playmaker for Cousins. 24.9% of Collison’s made baskets came within 22-18 seconds remaining on the shot clock at 59.9% shooting. The lower the shot clock, the worse the percentage for Collison, limiting him as a threat in the late stages of the clock, which in turns requires lesser defensive attention.

Seeing numbers drop later in the shot clock is normal, but Collison remains a 6-feet, 160 pound guy, making it significantly more difficult for him to penetrate and finish amongst the trees consistently when in a half-court set. That’s said while still taking into account his 68.4% at the rim on 3.02 attempts a night.

A guy like Terry Rozier from Louisville would have been an optimal point guard solution to put out there to maximize Cousins’s talents. Nevertheless, Collison’s numbers and ability to finish from both close range and outside are sufficient compliments themselves. At the very least, he’s earned the chance to run the team healthy, and for a full season.

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Morten Stig Jensen

Danish hillbilly, and proud father, who's been around the web a few times. Owned and operated the largest basketball-site in Denmark, was an NBA on-air color analyst for a brief time, now a frequent podcaster. Academy Profession Degree in Multimedia Design and Communication from the Copenhagen School of Design & Technology, currently studying Media Production & Management at the Danish School of Media & Journalism.

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