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2015-16 NBA Preview: The Kings Might Finish Near .500 In Spite Of Themselves

We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.


The Sacramento Kings were terrible last year, notching only 29 wins. It was a typical season for a franchise that hasn’t cracked .500 in a decade. Some blame goes to the chaos caused by the owner: Since Vivek Ranadive bought the team in 2013, he has fired three coaches, and he came came close to firing the current one, George Karl, this offseason. Despite his meddling, the Kings might achieve a modicum of mediocrity — if not success — this season. The talent, and the drama, of this squad is concentrated in DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins, a first-time All-Star last year, is one of the best young talents in the league — and has some jaw-dropping CARMELO comps to prove it.

But beyond Cousins, the Kings don’t have anyone to write home about. Rudy Gay may average 20 points per game since he joined the Kings, but his inefficient shooting and poor defense make him merely average. Sacramento’s new offseason additions are an unsolved puzzle: Rajon Rondo is coming off a horrendous two-year stretch, and it’s not clear how Kosta Koufos and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein — two defensive-minded centers — will gel with Cousins. Ben McLemore is still unproven.

But Boogie is still just too damn talented, and likely entering his peak. So despite all the typical chaos in Sacramento, our CARMELO-based forecast has the Kings winning 40 games.1 That’s not a winning season, and far short of making the playoffs, but for the Kings it would be a huge improvement.

carmelo_depth_chart_KINGS

And here’s what to expect from the Kings’ key players in 2015-16 (you can find every Kings player — and the rest of the NBA — here):

demarcus-cousins

Look at those CARMELO comps: Hakeem, Duncan and KG. That’s good company! As the prized jewel of the Kings, Boogie is indeed a superbly talented young big man. But hold on. He does have other comps: like Shawn Kemp, an All-Star who peaked early and then began to decline in his mid 20s — where Boogie is now. There are also bigs Alvan Adams (Cousins’ No. 6 comp) and Al Jefferson (No. 8), who were merely good, not great. Cousins still needs to cut down on turnovers, improve his shot-selection and give consistent effort on defense. Then maybe he can approach the better comps on this list.


ben-mclemore

Ben McLemore, a 22-year-old shooting specialist, consistently improved during his first two seasons, and CARMELO comps like Mike Miller and Gordon Hayward make sense. Given McLemore’s athleticism, the Ray Allen comp at No. 6 represents a (very high) ceiling. But McLemore could also become inconsistent and one-dimensional enough to be the next O.J. Mayo.


rudy-gay

Don’t let the raw scoring stats fool you: Rudy Gay is average. With a high usage rate, average efficiency and poor defense, Gay is less valuable than his 20 points per game indicate. Nearing 30 years old, his biggest comps are the likes of Caron Butler and Danny Granger — big, scoring wings who began to decline at this age.


darren-collison

Darren Collison is a scrappy point guard who compensates for his lack of height with solid shooting and sharp passing. But like Jameer Nelson and Travis Best, at Collison���s age, that’s only enough to be a fringe starter.


rajon-rondo

Rajon Rondo seems to be in decline after a disastrous run in Dallas. While he’s one of the best assist men in the league, Rondo is an exceptionally bad shooter (even by Sacramento Kings standards).


marco-belinelli

Outstanding shooting and putrid defense — that’s what ex-Spur Marco Belinelli provides, just like his No.2 CARMELO comp Rex Chapman.


kosta-koufos

Kosta Koufos — a defensive-minded center — logged some solid years as a backup in Memphis. But like his No. 3 CARMELO comp Nazr Mohammed, Koufos is mostly just a big body good for banging in the post.


willie-cauley-stein

The Kings gambled their top draft pick on Willie Cauley-Stein, an athletic shot-blocker they hope to pair with Cousins. If he’s the second coming of Joakim Noah, that bet will pay off, but it won’t if he’s an overhyped Cole Aldrich.


Read more:
All our NBA player projections
All our 2015-16 NBA Previews

Footnotes

  1. FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO-based team forecasts do not factor in a team’s 2015-16 schedule. So because the Kings play in the tough Western conference, a forecast accounting for that tougher schedule would likely project the team to win fewer than 40 games. These win projections are meant to reflect the underlying talent of the team, not how the season will play out.

Andrew Flowers writes about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.

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