Forgotten Names of the Sacramento Kings: By the Stats
That time may have come, Kings fans. According to sources, the Maloofs have finally placed the final nail in the coffin in their complete ineptitude, selling off the Kings to Chris Hansen (not that one) and his Seattle-based group.
It's OK to shed a few tears. Well, maybe more than a few. The Kings might not have the most storied history - that one Western Conference Finals appearance in 27 Sacramento seasons did nobody any favors - but 27 years is a long time to create memories and fall in love with a team. We salute you for your dedication, Sacramento fans.
numberFire is all about looking forward with our projections, but sometimes, we like to look to the past as well. And the past of the Sacramento Kings is filled with a ton of "What if"s and "Oh, I remember him!"s.
We want to take a look at all of them. Everybody knows about the Pejas and the Webbers and the Richmonds, but it's the lesser-known, highly efficient guys who truly make all the difference. Here are some names that you may not remember unless you're a diehard Kings fan, but actually lead Sacramento in some important career categories from their time in California.
Offensive Rating - Jim Les (118.8)
The 1990-1994 Sacramento Kings squads were not pretty. Not the Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You not-supposed-to-be-pretty-but-actually-is type of not pretty either. These Kings won no more than 29 games in any of the four seasons, finished seventh (dead last) in the Pacific Division in all but one year (in '93-94 they finished sixth) and somehow managed to have three coaches over this time span.
But they did have one piece that contributed: backup point guard Jim Les.
Ignore for one quick second his absolute atrocities on the defensive end, and you'll see a guy who knew how to put the ball in the bucket. His offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) never dipped below 112 in his four seasons in Sacramento, and his effective field goal percentage (eFG%) never dipped below .503 during the same span.
His Kingly-crowning achievement came his first season in Sacramento, when he finished with a 123 offensive rating, incredible .576 eFG%, and .461 three-point shooting percentage (3P%). That three-point percentage, by the way, was first in the NBA, a full .043 ahead of second-place Trent Tucker of the Knicks.
That shooting would be all well and good if, you know, he didn't provide the inspiration for The Walking Dead on defense. Despite his high shooting numbers, he never reached a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of the league-average 15. His best season, an oh-so-close 14.7 PER in '92-93, saw him shoot a .552 eFG% but also give up 111 points per 100 possessions. Sadly, that defensive rating was also his best in four seasons.
Les would be gone from Sacramento by the end of the '93-94 season after playing only 18 games; he would be out of basketball by the end of the next season.
Single-Season Mark: Brad Miller ('04-05): 125
Defensive Rating - Scot Pollard (98.0)
A part of the Glory Days, Scot Pollard played for Sacramento from 1998 through 2003, five full seasons in Sacramento. Over that time, the Kings made the playoffs all five seasons under Rick Adelman, making the conference finals that one lone appearance, and the second round of the playoffs two other times.
Am I going to say that Scot Pollard was the key to that success? Well, not even close: he started only 47 total games in Sac-Town playing behind Vlade Divac and Chris Webber. But did his contributions, especially defensively, play a major role? The stats are undeniable.
Pollard played a significant role in three seasons in Sacramento: '99-00, '00-01, and '01-02. In each of these three seasons, Pollard played in at least 76 games, averaged over 17 minutes per game, and collected 42 combined starts. And he also dominated defensively.
|Season||Pollard DRtg||Kings DRtg||NBA Rank||Season Result|
|1999-2000||99||102.1||10||First Rd. Loss|
|2000-2001||97||99.6||7||Second Rd. Loss|
|2001-2002||98||101.1||6||Conf. Champ. Loss|
In each of those three seasons, Pollard finished either first or second on the team in terms of defensive rating. And helped in big part by his defensive play, as well as the defensive play of Chris Webber (whose overall Sacramento DRtg trails Pollard by 0.2), the Kings were able to finish with their best teams in Sacramento history.
Pollard's defensive prowess never went away after leaving Sac-Town; he would end his career averaging a 99 DRtg. However, his minutes did; he would never against reach the 1000 minutes played plateau as he did those three years in Sacramento.
Single-Season Mark: Chris Webber ('02-03): 95.8
Effective Field Goal Percentage - Michael Smith (.549)
Is there anything more infuriating than the solid post player who doesn't actually get the ball? The one that you can trust to make baskets, but never finishes with an average higher than eight shots per game? Welcome to Michael Smith's stay in Sacramento.
A Kings second-round selection in the 1994 NBA Draft, Smith was the forgotten man behind eighth overall pick Brian Grant. But over time, Smith started to steal Grant's minutes, and by the middle of the '96-97 season, stole his starting job. And Smith's effectiveness down low is the main reason why.
In Smith's three full seasons in Sacramento, he never shot below .539 eFG% from the field. And while the effective field goal statistic takes into account the relative gains from shooting three-pointers, Smith accomplished this feat all down low: he only attempted seven three pointers in his entire seven season NBA career.
Smith's shining moment was the '95-96 season, where he averaged 21.7 minutes over 65 games for the Kings, playing essentially as their sixth man. And he was extraordinarily efficient in that role as well: he ended the season at a .607 eFG%, which if he had put up enough shots to qualify, would have led the league.
But getting enough shots down low was always a problem for Smith. His 8.4 field goals attempted per 48 minutes in his rookie year would turn out to be the most in his NBA career - he would never again top seven shots per 48 minutes in a single season. In that efficient '95-96 season, he only had 238 field goals attempted the entire season. And his free throw percentage didn't help either: his eFG% was at least 50 percentage points higher than his FT% in each of his three full Sacramento seasons.
Those issues spurred the Kings to send him to Vancouver by the middle of his fourth season, where he would play a bit for the Grizzlies and Wizards, never effectively, before retiring at the end of the '00-01 season. But not all was lost from the Smith days - that '95-96 season was Sacramento's first playoff birth.
Single-Season Mark: Peja Stojakovic ('03-04): .566
Total Rebound Percentage - LaSalle Thompson (18.9)
Well, maybe we're cheating a tiny bit here: the Tank played for the Kings franchise for parts of seven NBA seasons; three were in Kansas City and four were in Sacramento. But it's his Sacramento days, in which he started 168 total games, that gets him on this list.
The early Sacramento Kings teams might not have been the most successful in the Win/Loss column - their first Sacramento winning season would come in 1999-2000, but the one thing those early teams could do is rebound. The Kings finished in the top ten of defensive rebounding percentage in each of the their first four seasons in Sacramento; they finished in the top 12 of offensive rebounding percentage in their first three. And LaSalle Thompson was a major reason why.
Thompson led the Kings in total rebounding percentage in each of their first four Sacramento seasons, even including the '88-89 season that saw him traded to Indiana partway through the year. In those four seasons, he never saw his total rebounding percentage slip below 16.8 percent of total opportunities. He also collected no fewer than 23 percent of defensive rebound opportunities in a single season over that same span.
That rebound percentage saw Thompson ranked among the league leaders in each season as well. In the Kings' first season in Sacramento, Thompson's 18.3 TRB% ranked eighth in the NBA. The next three seasons would see him 12th, unqualified due to a lack of playing time, and 13th overall.
The Tank finished his career in 22nd on the all-time total rebounding percentage list, three spots below Shawn Kemp and two spots below Shaq. That's not bad for the center who never made the All-Star Game and was shipped out of town in favor of Wayman Tisdale.
Single-Season Mark: DeMarcus Cousins ('11-12): 19.8