NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #24 Sacramento Kings

How far can DeMarcus Cousins take the Kings in the 2014-15 season?

This NBA offseason has been very eventful and we’re only a few short weeks away from the start of team training camps. To help bridge that gap for hoops junkies, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 24th-ranked Sacramento Kings!

Since new ownership took over the Kings in 2013, the roster has seen a tremendous amount of upheaval. Over the past two seasons, the Kings have grown players like Tyreke Evans, Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas, only to see them go to another team to blossom. Then there was the seven-player trade that netted them Rudy Gay last year, but the Kings lost a lot of players they had traded for in the previous offseason. How many moves will they make to continue building around DeMarcus Cousins?

numberFire Metrics

Projected Record: 35-47
Western Conference Rank: 13th
NBA Rank: 24th
nERD: 41.7
Playoff Chances: 18.34%
Championship Chances: 0.10%

If the Kings actually hit our projected 35 wins this season, it would be the first time in eight years that the team will have seen 30 or more wins in a season. Their 18% chance of making the playoffs isn’t great, but it does show the team has some hope on its roster. If ownership can let the team jell instead of constantly moving pieces, the Kings might actually field a talented team that could make some noise in a year or two. Although the Kings do play in a division with two perennial playoff teams and a Suns team that is quietly improving as well and that could make their playoff hopes even tougher over the next few seasons.

Player Movement

Notable Additions
Nik Stauskas (via draft)
Darren Collison (via free agency)
Ryan Hollins (via free agency)
Alonzo Gee (via trade)

Notable Losses
Jason Terry (via trade)
Isaiah Thomas (via trade)

Shipping Isaiah Thomas could deal a significant blow to the Kings. After last year, Thomas had a 4.7 nERD and 7.4 win shares (WS), the second highest on the team in both categories. Replacing Thomas’ production will be done with a committee. The Kings brought in Collison, who has mainly been a backup point guard in the league to date and recently signed Ramon Sessions. This year’s draft pick, Nik Stauskas, should pair well with two second-year guys, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum.

Three Burning Questions

What do the Kings do without Isaiah Thomas?
Not only was Isaiah Thomas the second biggest contributor to the Kings last season, but he was the seventh-best point guard according to numberFire’s nERD metric. Basically, a league average team with Thomas as one of its starters would finish close to five games over .500.

But the Kings may have a method to their madness. Darren Collison was brought in to likely play a lot of minutes at point, and he would give the Kings a better defensive presence at the position. Ramon Sessions should provide veteran leadership to the rest of the backcourt that seems stocked with shooters now, something that the Kings might focus on this year. If the bevy of young shooters can take off this year, letting go of Thomas won’t be as bad as everyone thinks.

What should we expect from Nick Stauskas?
While he was the eighth pick of this year’s draft, Stauskas shouldn’t have to be a star from the first day. Collison will be the main man at the point guard, but Stauskus could see time there if he happens to be on the court at the same time as Ben McLemore, his main competition for the starting shooting guard position. Expect Stauskas to provide a spark wherever he plays, especially from the three point line as his 44.1% from downtown ranks as the fifth best all-time at Michigan.

Can the Kings develop a better perimeter game?
The Kings won most of their games thanks to DeMarcus Cousins. If they plan to get to our projected 35 wins, developing a perimeter game could be key. The Kings were 10th in the league last season for shots attempted five feet or less from the basket and were second in total shots attempted. The Kings have shooters in McLemore, McCallum, and now Stauskas, so the attempts of outside shots should increase. If McLemore and McCallum can increase their three-point percentage (37.3% and 32% respectively), the Kings might not be as one-dimensional as last season.

Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch

PF/C DeMarcus Cousins (Yahoo O-Rank: 11)
If you want to build your fantasy team off of a double-double machine and miss out on Kevin Love, then Cousins might be your guy. Cousins has gotten better each year since he entered the league. Last year he posted a career high 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He will stuff the stat sheet in other categories as well as he put up nearly two blocks and two steals per game and contributed three assists per game. If you get stuck at the end of your fantasy basketball draft, don’t be afraid to draft one of the best power forward-center combos in the game.

SF/PF Rudy Gay (Yahoo O-Rank: 36)
When coming to the end of the third or beginning of the fourth round of your fantasy draft, Rudy Gay could be another supplier of points for your team. Just don't count on him for much else. Gay should grab a decent amount of rebounds on a nightly basis, but contributions elsewhere may be limited. However, his 20 points a night could fit well on your team as the other players he's being drafted near are all generally specialists to certain fantasy basketball categories.