The Kings have burned through five coaches in the seven seasons since Rick Adelman last led them to the playoffs. Who will emerge as the leader of this dysfunctional organization? Consider the trend of their last three lottery picks: Tyreke Evans has lost his way, DeMarcus Cousins has yet to prove himself reliable, and Jimmer Fredette's NBA career may end when his current contract expires. This is a roster aching for veteran leadership, yet 26-year-old Jason Thompson will most likely be their oldest starter, and coach Keith Smart is surrounded—and potentially overwhelmed—by players who need the ball as well as direction.
There is raw talent—very raw—on the roster. (Cousins, who showed up in camp looking slimmer, led the NBA in offensive boards.) This could turn into a building year if the young Kings learn to tap their unrealized potential. It isn't that Cousins, Evans, Thompson and Marcus Thornton don't want to hold themselves accountable; it's that they don't know how.
COACH: Keith Smart (2nd season with Kings)
2011-12 RECORD: 22--44 (5th in Pacific)
OFFENSE: 98.8 ppg (6th)
DEFENSE: 104.4 ppg (30th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 20.4 ppg (T-23rd)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Thomas Robinson (R)
New acquisition (R) Rookie (college stats) *2010--11
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE KINGS
Their roster is rotten. The one good thing I can say is that for such a young team, Keith Smart is probably the perfect coach—he's so positive, and that's what they need because their two main guys, DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, appear to be clueless.... Cousins has all the tools. It's amazing to see the talent he has—along with the lack of discipline he shows. Rasheed Wallace was a well-behaved genius compared to this guy.... Evans has no clue how to play. He needs to be moved out of that organization. They tried him at the point, then at the two, then the three; he has never known what he was trying to be, and it has been too much for him.... Jason Thompson is one of the most overrated players in the league. Last year he had his best year, but he still doesn't do anything really well. He doesn't play like he's 6' 11".... You have to worry about Thomas Robinson. Who are his role models going to be? How is he going to improve? ... Jimmer Fredette will be in Europe in a year or two. He has no future in the league. None. He can't create his own shot, and he'll never be a point guard. Steve Nash is an all-world defender compared to this guy.
Evans and Cousins mature, and the team takes on the look of a young up-and-comer that no one will want to play in two years.
Another hapless season—combined with the unresolved plans for a new arena—plunges the Kings further into disarray.
Margin by which DeMarcus Cousins led the NBA in fouls last year. Cousins fouled out a league-high seven times and was tied with the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins for the most technicals (12).
LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (COUSINS)
EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES (FREDETTE)