The Sacramento Kings are a team in transition, trying to implement a new system with many of the same players who struggled for them in recent seasons.
Today, we have a Q and A with Kings writer Greg Wissinger of SB Nation's SacTownRoyalty.com. Let's see what he has to say about his Kings team.
Dave King: How is Michael Malone's tenure going so far? On the surface, it appears to be a rocky road - a 3-7 start with 8 of those 10 at home already. He came in with a reputation for defense, yet the Kings are 25th in defensive efficiency. Is Malone the right fit?
Greg Wissinger: Malone's tenure is off to a rocky start, but a lot of that has to do with the talent, or lack thereof, on the Kings roster. Malone's biggest challenge has been getting guys to provide a consistent effort for a full 48 minutes. As we saw in Tuesday's game, the Kings are still prone to serious lapses and giving up big runs. A lot of this seems to be residual bad habits from past regimes. I think it's a little too early to determine if Malone is the right fit, but so far I've been impressed with him. He puts his money where his mouth is, and I think he's got the organization's support. Long term, I believe he'll help change the culture.
DK: How has DeMarcus Cousins been so up and down, from game to game? After getting a max extension, has he been saying the right things and being a leader?
GW: DeMarcus Cousins has been up and down, sure, but he's been far more up than down. He's already had as many 30 point games as he did all of last season. And although he's still prone to outbursts and complaining, he's been much better this season about maintaining his composure. He's also been hustling back on defense far more than he did in the past. He's also taken responsibility for his actions more than we've ever seen in the past. Thus far, DeMarcus is looking like he's earning that max extension. Of course, it's still early in the year and anything can happen.
DK: Isaiah Thomas has been killing it from the bench (17 and 5), while Grieves Vasquez has been just okay in the starting role (10 and 5) as far the stats indicate. At both playing 27-28 minutes, it appears the Kings do the 2-PG lineup at least occasionally. What's your take on that? And, was Vasquez a good acquisition.
GW: Isaiah Thomas has been fantastic off the bench, while Vasquez's stats have been less gaudy as a starter. But the minute distribution that you mentioned is the key. For the first time in his NBA career, Isaiah Thomas is being given a clearly defined role with reliable minutes. He's a fantastic spark plug off the bench, and I'm personally fine with it. It's also worth remembering that Vasquez was recovering from an ankle injury this offseason, and barely played in preseason. The first few games of this season were essentially his first opportunity to work with his new teammates. Overall, I'm still happy with Vasquez. And while he wasn't the offseason acquisition that Kings fans wanted this offseason, he was a nice return since the Kings decided not to retain Tyreke Evans.
DK: Suns fans are going to watch McLemore for his entire career after the Suns passed on him to draft Alex Len. Did the Kings get a steal in Ben McLemore? How do you see his future playing out?
GW: I think the Kings absolutely got a steal in McLemore. He's been exciting even when he struggles. He's still adjusting to the pace of the NBA, and needs to let the game come to him rather than forcing shots, but I have very high hopes for him. He's a very hard worker, one of the few Kings who gives consistent effort every night, and his shooting stroke is a thing of beauty. I think he has the potential to be a All-Star player, and I'll be shocked if he ends up being anything less than an above average shooting guard in this league.
DK: Finally, do you see the Kings turning this around and coming a winning team with this core, or does the core have to be rebooted?
GW: It's important to remember that most of the current Kings roster is still the roster than was constructed by Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs. There are some good pieces on the current roster, but outside of Cousins and McLemore, there could be a ton of movement. Even Isaiah Thomas might be moved, as much as it would break the hearts of Kings fans. New GM Pete D'Allessandro has a lot of work ahead of him. This current roster can't contend for a playoff spot. But within a year or two, I absolutely expect the roster to be competitive and to look quite a bit different.
For more on the Kings, check out the great coverage over at Sactown Royalty