Season preview: Sacramento Kings
Guard Kevin Martin is the centerpiece of the offense -- and a potential All-Star
The Kings are too green to contend now, but the payoff could come in a few years
Ron Artest's departure will have positive and negative effects for the Kings
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Kings at a glance
Last season: 38-44
Notable additions: Bobby Jackson (trade with Rockets), Jason Thompson (R), Donté Greene (R, trade with Rockets), Bobby Brown (rookie free agent)
Notable losses: Ron Artest (trade with Rockets), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (retired), Anthony Johnson (signed with Magic)
Coach: Reggie Theus (38-44 in one season with Kings)
Reasons for hope
1. Kevin Martin. The Kings have a blossoming star in Martin, who finished sixth in the NBA in scoring (23.7) last season. The slender shooting guard can slash to the basket, shoot from downtown (40.2 percent) and get to the foul line (a league-leading 8.2 makes per game). He should get even more opportunities to lead with Artest's departure, and a first All-Star appearance for Martin is not out of the question.
2. More continuity. Despite a slew of injuries/suspensions to key rotation players, and the trade of Mike Bibby, the Kings managed to win 38 games last season under rookie coach Theus. It represented a five-game improvement over the 2006-07 season, and signaled that the rebuilding plan was on course. With nearly his entire roster back, including point guard Beno Udrih, Theus should benefit from another year of implementing his system.
3. No Artest distraction. Though he generally played well during his two-plus seasons in Sacramento, Artest continued his career-long habit of creating needless off-court distractions. From a domestic violence incident that led to his suspension for the first seven games of last season to his grumbling about a new contract this summer, the mercurial small forward just couldn't stay out of the news. With Artest no longer around to dominate the headlines (and the ball), the Kings should be able to better focus on the task of rebuilding.
Reasons for worry
1. No defensive stopper. The downside to losing Artest is that the Kings will miss him on the court -- especially on the defensive end. Sacramento ranked 23rd in points allowed and field-goal-percentage defense and 29th in rebounding last season, numbers that don't figure to improve with so many young players on the roster and Artest not available to help slow opposing perimeter scorers.
2. Beno is a question. Udrih did a solid job running the team in Bibby's absence, averaging 12.8 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range. As a result, the former Spurs backup, who was picked up early last season, was rewarded with a five-year, $32 million contract over the summer. But Theus has made it a primary goal this season to improve Sacramento's league-worst 1.19 assist-to-turnover ratio, and it remains to be seen whether the 26-year-old Udrih can improve his playmaking enough to become a top-flight distributor.
3. Too much youth. The Kings have some promising young talent in Martin, Udrih, Spencer Hawes, Francisco Garcia, Thompson, Greene, Shelden Williams and Quincy Douby. But all of those players have no more than four years of experience, meaning there are going to be some severe growing pains. Sacramento better hope veterans Brad Miller, Mikki Moore, Jackson and John Salmons stay healthy and productive, or it could get ugly.
Keep an eye on ...
Theus. Since taking the Kings' job before last season, he has seen Bibby and Artest dealt away for mostly prospects and draft picks. Theus probably isn't thrilled about the rebuilding, especially since he is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract. It could lead to conflict with management as Theus tries to win games now instead of building for the future.
Moore last season led the NBA in shooting fouls committed, recording four for every blocked shot.
The Artest trade means that the rebuilding plan is now in full swing. General manager Geoff Petrie is collecting young talent, draft picks and cap space that could pay off in 2010, but it looks like another long season for Kings fans.