Publish date:

14 Kings

Author:

DeMarcus Cousins is tightening his grasp on two titles: the NBA's most talented center and its most tortured. Since the two-time All-Star arrived in 2010--11, the Kings have missed the playoffs every season. The franchise's .345 winning percentage during Cousins's career ranks 28th, topping only the Timberwolves' and Sixers'. During the last six seasons Cousins has appeared in 266 losses, the most by a player with a single team. (Four others have appeared in more defeats, but they've enjoyed at least one change in scenery.)

Cousins, meanwhile, has been stuck in Sacramento through an ugly ownership change and multiple front-office regimes. This season he will play for Dave Joerger, the sixth coach of his career, and with a cast of teammates that isn't much better than last season's 33-win outfit. Despite having Cousins to build around, the Kings have a hole at point guard, limited three-point shooting and an excess of homogeneous combo forwards. Given that GM Vlade Divac has used three first-round picks on centers in the last two drafts, perhaps the plan isn't to build around their 26-year-old franchise big man, but to start preparing for what comes next. Is Cousins finally inching closer to an escape?

—B.G.

PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats

COACH DAVE JOERGER (1st season with Kings)

2015--16 RECORD 33--49 (3rd in Pacific)

PG DARREN COLLISON

14.0 PPG; 4.3 APG; 48.6 FG%; 40.1 3FG%

SG ARRON AFFLALO*

12.8 PPG; 3.7 RPG; 44.3 FG%; 38.2 3FG%

SF RUDY GAY

17.2 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 46.3 FG%; 34.4 3FG%

PF WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN

7.0 PPG; 5.3 RPG; 1.0 BPG; 56.3 FG%

C DEMARCUS COUSINS

26.9 PPG; 11.5 RPG; 1.6 SPG; 45.1 FG%

BENCH

SG BEN MCLEMORE

7.8 PPG; 2.2 RPG; 42.9 FG%; 36.2 3FG%

PG TY LAWSON*

5.7 PPG; 3.6 APG; 39.3 FG%; 33.3 3FG%

C KOSTA KOUFOS

6.8 PPG; 5.4 APG; 0.9 BPG; 53.2 FG%

*NEW ACQUISITION

TELLING NUMBER 266

ENEMY LINES

A rival scout sizes up Sacramento

Dave Joerger might be their biggest free-agent addition. That's good and bad. He's a nice coach with a solid track record, but they really needed a big talent infusion.... I expect Joerger to play with two bigs like he did in Memphis, just because they have DeMarcus Cousins and so many other power forwards and centers. It will be hard for Joerger to play pace-and-space because their wings and guards are so poor.... Joerger will use Cousins like he used Marc Gasol in Memphis: Put him on the elbow and let him create. But you want to put him in the post too. He can get you points from everywhere.... Willie Cauley-Stein is not a perfect all-around player, but he brings length and tons of activity. Still, playing Cousins and Cauley-Stein together isn't great because that puts two guys without true three-point range on the court.... If they want to win, they would be better off giving Rudy Gay minutes as a stretch four, but then they're just burying the young guys. [Rookie] Skal Labissiere is probably the best four for them; you could see him developing into a good shooter down the road.... They won't miss Rajon Rondo at all. Darren Collison might not be able to put up Rondo's numbers, but he'll have a much better impact on their team as a whole. Rondo had the ball in his hands way too much.... They have enough average or below-average defenders in their rotation that it's hard to take them seriously. It's hard to even pick out their best lineup of five defensive players. They'll have to play a little bit slower or they could give up 118 points on any night.

BOTTOM LINE

The roster will be big. The win total will not.