The NBA season is upon us... or at least it would be if this lockout were not going on. Nobody is quite certain when the NBA season will start. But if the collective bargaining agreement gets figured out soon, we will see a flurry of moves to make up for our lost offseason. So, with that in mind, it is time to begin opening the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store -- especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks).
The Sacramento Kings need patience. They need lots of it.
From the roster to the future of the franchise, Sacramento is in a complete state of flux. The 2011-12 season is the reprieve for the Sacramento fans. Yet, there is no certainty their team will be competitive... or will be competitive any time soon.
Sacramento is a young team with a lot of young talent and a lot of opportunity. Tyreke Evans had a rough sophomore year, but the former rookie of the year still has a bundle of potential to unwrap. DeMarcus Cousins also looks like a pretty decent post player with a chance to continue development. There is a good young core in those two and the addition of Jimmer Fredette should add some spice to the backcourt.
But the Kings are still a work in progress. They are not close to the playoffs yet and the franchise is still a little bit lost.
That is partly because Sacramento is not sure if it is the Kings' home. The second half of the season became an emotional plea from the die-hard fans and the people of Sacramento, including mayor Kevin Johnson, to keep the team in Sacramento (or at least Northern California). The final game at Power Balance Pavilion (the former ARCO Arena) was an emotional outpouring. It went to overtime and people stayed and cheered their team for what they thought would be the final time long after the Lakers defeated the Kings.
The franchise received a temporary reprieve as legislators scramble to create a workable deal to build a new arena. Without that new arena, the Maloofs will look to move the team, possibly to Anaheim or somewhere else in California or possibly elsewhere. Sacramento fans saw their beloved team preparing to leave and began a ground swell movement to show the people still support the team.
It was a massive community movement and fans everywhere seemed to support Kings fans' movement, #HereWeStay.
The future is still uncertain. So let's turn back tot he court to look for hope.
Evans is still an amazing talent and should look to have a big season after a disappointing sophomore campaign. He averaged 17.8 points per game and 5.6 assists per game while injuries limited him to 57 games. Evans will still be a good player and the dip from last year is not going to last in all likelihood.
What Sacramento does need to do is complete its roster. The core is there with Evans, Fredette and Cousins. There are solid role players too in John Salmons and Jason Thompson. Some of the youth needs to develop consistency and the team has to show the resolve to commit on defense. These are the normal problems with youth.
Unless one of the key players makes the "leap" and becomes a genuine superstar and the team adds a veteran to guide the players, maybe this team can take a step forward. But that seems unlikely. Until they get their new arena, the Maloofs seem unlikely to spend a whole bunch of money. This is a team of youth and inconsistency. On the court, there are a lot of slashers and more one-dimensional players rather than guys who can do multiple things and there are very few shooters. Fredette might fix that.
Ultimately, success for Sacramento whenever the next season starts is going to be measured in where the team will play for 2012-13. If the Kings remain in Sacramento, it will be a good year.
How the Kings Will Beat the Magic: It is going to take some luck for Sacramento to score a win. None of the post players have any chance against Dwight Howard and the Magic's defense and offense can overwhelm the Kings in a lot of ways. But still, Sacramento took a crucial game from Orlando after the All-Star Break because Sacramento caught Orlando napping. The Kings have to be opportunistic and smart to win this kind of a matchup. That means converting off of turnovers, containing runs and, quite simply, making shots. Evans has a big advantage of Jameer Nelson if he takes advantage of it. There is a front line that can grab offensive rebounds, if they take advantage of it. A chance and some confidence is all Sacramento needs.
How the Magic Will Beat the Kings: Conversely, a strong game plan and a healthy diet of Dwight Howard and effort will top the Kings. Orlando is the kind of team that can grind out a win. I am not so sure Sacramento is at that stage yet. What does that mean? That means a strong focus on the defensive end will discourage a young Kings team and allow the Magic to get into offensive sets and just work the offense like they can. Howard has to get established -- he had two big games against the Kings last year -- and the passing has to be crisp to get the 3-point shooters open. Really, focus from Orlando should be enough to make this game an easy one. But we saw what happened when the Magic don't focus on a team like the Kings.