January 22, 2017, 3:26 pm
It was another rough week for the Kings. All three games unfolded very differently, yet they all had the same conclusion; a loss. It wasn’t just their play on the court that made the week forgetful. Rudy Gay tore his left Achilles in Wednesday’s 106-100 loss at home to the Pacers. The Kings also blew a 22-point lead in that game and while Gay’s injury deflated the team and the crowd, there was no excuse for them to blow that game.
Friday’s game against the Grizzlies looked promising at first but it seemed inevitable that Memphis would go on a second half run as the Kings just couldn’t play with any consistency on offense. The Kings played their most complete game of the week against the Bulls on Saturday but a controversial call late in the game ended up costing them the win. Nonetheless, life goes on in the NBA and the Kings must move on to. As devastating as Saturday’s loss was there is still 39 games left to play and the Kings cannot afford to lose focus.
Three takeaways from the week:
1. Poor offensive execution will get the Kings nowhere
The Kings lack consistent offense and DeMarcus Cousins isn’t the person to blame. The offensive system that Dave Joerger runs lacks any real consistency and that hurts the Kings in pivotal moments of games. The offense flows beautifully when Cousins is operating in the post and the other four guys around him are cutting and giving him options.
His passing has certainly started to blossom of late as his ability to find open guys while in the post is such a crucial part to not only his game, but the Kings offense as a whole. This type of offense is used far to sparingly and it really is baffling to see the Kings go away from something that has proven to be so effective.
Alternatively, we are presented with another type of offense. A type of offense that seems to fail eight times out of ten yet the Kings seem to be using it a whole lot lately. Off-ball movement is so crucial in the NBA, but the Kings seem to think that letting one guy dribble around while the other four players stand there and watch, is good offense. It certainly has something to do with the personnel that are deployed but it’s also on Joerger to get these guys moving and if they don’t, send them to the bench.
The Kings would give other teams fits if they threw it to Cousins in the post every time down while the other four guys would cut and move off the ball. It’s almost unguardable and whenever the Kings run that type of offense they either get a wide open look from three or a layup. It really is as simple as it sounds.
2. The Kings will miss Rudy Gay, but they can still win without him
There is no denying that the loss of Rudy Gay will leave a dent, but if the Kings play their cards right and play coherent basketball, they can still win games. Gay was playing well before his season came to an abrupt end. Over his last five games prior to his injury he was averaging 20.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 55.0 percent from three. His scoring will be missed the most as without him the Kings’ next top scorer would be Darren Collison who averages 12.4 points per game.
It all goes back to the Kings running a consistent and efficient offense as that’s what will get them through. A few personnel changes would certainly help, but that’s a story for another day. Playing Matt Barnes 20-plus minutes a night isn’t going to help move the needle nor will playing Ben McLemore.
They have a capable scorer sitting on the bench in Malachi Richardson who has proven in his short stint that he is ready to get some rotation minutes. Omri Casspi’s injury was also at an inconvenient time so his return would certainly be welcomed too.
3. Despite the setbacks the eighth seed is still in sight
The Kings are on a five-game skid and there is no denying it’s been ugly. However, they still find themselves within reach of the eighth seed in the Western Conference; but is that a realistic goal? Their play over the past week or so would suggest it isn’t but there is still 39 games left to play so there is some hope for a turnaround. One thing is for sure, there is no chance of a turnaround happening with the Kings’ current trend of poor offensive execution and questionable player rotations.
Like the Kings, the Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are all struggling to play with any consistency and it has left the door open for any one of those teams to crawl into that final playoff spot. A choice has to be made as to whether the Kings still see the playoffs as a reachable goal or whether they should blow it up and look towards the future.
You could argue that there is an obvious answer there but the fact that the Sixers’ own the rights to swap picks with the Kings in the upcoming draft complicates things a lot. So what should they do? We should know the answer to that question over the next couple weeks based on their play on the court and any potential player personnel decisions they make.
Player Power Rankings:
#1 – DeMarcus Cousins (Last week: #1)
Cousins put forth yet another productive week as he remains a top of the bunch. He averaged 28.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.7 steals and 2.0 blocks per game on 48.3 percent shooting from the field. Cousins notched a triple-double against the Pacers and had a monster 42-point game against the Bulls on Saturday but neither performance was enough to get the Kings across the line. He certainly isn’t the one to blame for the Kings poor performances and you can’t help but feel bad for the guy when he plays his heart out for no real reward.
#2 – Garrett Temple (Last week: #3)
Temple moves up almost by default due to Rudy Gay’s injury. Temple will likely be asked to do more on offense with Rudy out and as a result we did see a slight increase in his production. 10.3 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting from the field is a solid mark and it’s right around what they need from him moving forward. His defense is a given and was yet again effective whenever he was on the floor. You can expect the same moving forward and look for that production to potentially increase slightly more.
#3 – Ty Lawson (Last week: #4)
Lawson only played two of the three games this past week due to an ankle sprain but he was effective when he played. 10.5 points and 5.5 assists per game is solid for a backup point guard but he only shot 35.3 percent from the field. He has been giving Darren Collison a run for his money lately but Lawson is certainly better suited off the bench.
#4 – Darren Collison (Last week: #6)
Collison jumps up a little this week thanks to Rudy Gay’s injury and also the poor play of Anthony Tolliver. Collison notched averages of 7.7 points, 5.0 assists and 1.3 steals in three games this week. The Kings are going to need Collison’s production with the hole that Rudy Gay has left so they will need him to step up his game. He needs to be that second scorer and he needs to be consistent for the Kings to succeed.
#5 – Kosta Koufos (Last week: #7)
Koufos could very easily be up at #4 after averaging 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game on 64.7 percent shooting from the field. After coming off the bench last week, Koufos started all three games next to Cousins this week and he looked pretty good in doing so. There are still questions surrounding the effectiveness of the lineup as a whole but nonetheless Koufos was productive in the starting role.
#6 – Arron Afflalo (Last week: #8)
Afflalo is other guy the Kings are going to need to step up in the wake of Gay’s injury. His scoring punch will be needed whether it’s off the bench or in the starting lineup. He started all three games and averaged 8.3 points on 40.0 percent shooting from the field but that’s going to need to rise. Afflalo has a really good chance here to work his way back into form and there will be no denying how many touches will be available on offense for him. He needs to play within the offense though and he’s shown he can be effective when spotting up from the wing.
#7 – Anthony Tolliver (Last week: #5)
Tolliver’s production dropped this past week but that was expected. He played so well last week and it would have been a surprise to see him remain at that level. He averaged just 5.7 points per game on 31.6 percent shooting from the field. He was getting his usual open looks but it was just an off-shooting week for Tolliver.
#8 – Willie Cauley-Stein (Last week: Out of the rotation)
Willie found himself playing some rotation minutes this week and he proved that he should stick. His numbers weren’t spectacular but he played with energy and that’s something we haven’t seen much of this season. There is certainly an opportunity for some minutes if he continues to prove himself.
#9 – Malachi Richardson (Last week: Out of the rotation)
While it was somewhat minimal, Malachi found his way onto the floor for some meaningful minutes during two of the three games. It that short stint alone he showed us he can play. His confidence is undeniable and it’s a promising sign to see. Hopefully he continues to get minutes and maybe even a regular rotation spot.
#10 – Matt Barnes (Last week: #10)
Barnes continues to struggle big time. It’s hard to find him make a positive play whenever he is out there on the court. His one highlight would be the ‘touchdown’ pass he threw to Garrett Temple in Wednesday’s game against the Pacers but other than that it’s been all negative for Barnes.
#11 – Ben McLemore (Last week: Out of the rotation)
Ben continues to struggle big time. He looks lost out there and he just can’t make shots with any consistency. It would be a surprise to see him around after the trade deadline. It would also be a surprise if there is no interest in him from other teams as his trade value will be at an all-time low. If no trade comes to fruition, waiving him may be the only solution.
Injured: Rudy Gay (Achilles) and Omri Casspi (calf).
Out of the rotation: Skal Labissiere, George Papagiannis.