It’s a familiar tune for DeMarcus Cousins who has still never appeared in the NBA Playoffs.
Earlier this week the basketball bombshell broke when it was announced that the New Orleans Pelicans had acquire center DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings. In nearly seven seasons with the Kings, Cousins averaged 21.1 points and 10.8 rebounds as he leaves Sacramento as one of the best players in the history of the franchise. But during Cousins’ time with the Kings, he became the poster boy for players who put up big numbers while failing to make the team around them better. With Cousins leading the way for the Kings they were never able to make the playoffs, while he played under six different head coaches. At the All-Star break the Kings were in ninth place in the Western Conference as they were only -1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot. However with Kings trading Cousins, they are waving the white flag for this season as he’ll now join a Pelicans that began the second half of the NBA season in 11th place in the Western Conference and 2.5 behind the Nuggets. And for Cousins the excuses must now be a thing of the past for him.
Throughout Cousins’ entire NBA career, it has always been someone else’s fault which has seen Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac consistently siding with him. Cousins developed a reputation around the NBA as a “coach killer”, and a player whom nobody could get through to. And ever with a weaker Western Conference this season, it wasn’t a guarantee that the Kings were going to be able to end their long playoff drought which dates back to 2006 as Cousins was never to get this franchise over the hump.
Now Cousins is in New Orleans where he’ll play alongside another Kentucky Wildcats alum in power forward Anthony Davis. In five seasons with the Pelicans, Davis has become one of the NBA’s best big men as he is averaging 27.7 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per contest. In acquiring Cousins and small forward Omri Casspi from the Kings, the Pelicans gave up guards Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and Buddy Hield, along with their first and second-round picks here in 2017. And even though the Pelicans sacrificed their play on the perimeter in order to get Cousins, there aren’t too many teams in the Western Conference that can match up with him and Davis. You can all but pencil in Cousins and Davis to combine for at least 50 points each night as it is the classic example of “pick your poison”. It’s been a long time since the NBA has seen a combination on the interior in their prime that can score in the fashion that Davis and Cousins can which makes them an instant headache for opponents. But for Cousins who has never appeared in the NBA Playoffs, if he cannot do it now, will he ever?
At the end of the day the NBA is a business and Cousins’ arrival in New Orleans gives him a fresh start. But for Cousins there cannot be any finger pointing at Davis for taking too many shots, or a failure to listen to Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry as it is simply time to do whatever it takes in order to win.
As talented as Cousins is, he is one the NBA’s biggest headaches as he has already accrued 17 technical fouls this season which led to a one-game suspension. Cousins has worked to remedy his frustration which at times gets the best of him, but now more than ever, he must check his ego at the door. But Cousins’ time with the Pelicans didn’t get started on the right foot as they lost by 30 points at home last night to the Houston Rockets.
If Cousins comes to play on a nightly basis with the Pelicans, this can be one the best teams in the Western Conference. Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday must be salivating as he now has the opportunity to dish the ball to two of the league’s best big men. And regardless of what the Pelicans are able to for the remainder of this NBA season, they won’t have to beg small forwards and shooting guards to come to the Bayou and play as long as Cousins is all in on winning.
Davis has proven that he can get the Pelicans to the playoffs, while he and Cousins have each won a gold medal with the United States Men’s Basketball team during the Summer Olympics. And if everyone in New Orleans is all in, the combination of Cousins and Davis could be as legendary as Tim Duncan and David Robinson were when they teamed to win a pair of NBA Championships with the San Antonio Spurs.
But whatever the final verdict may be in New Orleans, if Cousins cannot make the playoffs now, I am not sure that he ever will.
X-Golden State Warriors 65-17 (1)
Last year was a dream season for the Golden State Warriors as they set a new NBA single-season record for wins 73 that should stand for a very long time. The Warriors appeared poised to repeat as NBA Champions as they built a 3-1 series in the NBA Finals, only to falter and lose the final three games to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which included two of those defeats coming at home. The Warriors only lost nine games during the regular season, but they would lose nine contests during the playoffs which includes their last three as they’ve had all summer to sit back and only ponder what could have been if they were able to repeat as NBA Champions. But after a record breaking season for the Warriors, don’t expect them to drop off that much.
What has propelled the Warriors over the past few NBA seasons has been their perimeter shooting. As a team the Warriors shot nearly 42% from beyond the three-point arc while they were led by “The Splash Brothers” of point guard Steph Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson.
Curry is the reigning two-time NBA MVP who is one of the best perimeter shooters that the game of basketball has seen as he is indeed a pure shooter. Last season Curry averaged 30.1 points per game and at times he can make deep shooting almost look like making layups as it doesn’t take that much for him to get into the zone.
Thompson is no slouch either when it comes to scoring as he is a career 42% shooter from downtown, while also seeing his points per game average increase in each of his five NBA seasons.
But one element that hurt the Warriors in their NBA Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was the fact that Curry nor Thompson have the ability to score close to the basket, while they are not nearly as effective when opposing defenses keep a body on them to prevent them from consistently getting open looks at the basket. And in a very surprising move which could remedy that issue, small forward Kevin Durant decided to join the Warriors on Independence Day.
For nine years Durant was the face of the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. Only Gary Payton scored more points than Durant’s 17,566 in the history of the franchise, and no one who ever played for the organization made more three-point field goals (1,143) than him. Durant also helped the Thunder reach the NBA Finals in 2012, but allure of playing with the Warriors, while being lukewarm at best to remain in Oklahoma City and playing alongside point guard Russell Westbrook was enough to persuade him to take his talents west and join the Warriors.
What Durant gives the Warriors is a bigger scorer, but is he indeed the missing piece that can get Golden State another NBA Championship?
For Durant’s NBA career, he has averaged 27.4 points per game, but he is never going to be confused with being a defensive stalwart, which is an element that the Warriors are going to need if they are going to once again claim the NBA Title. The other big issue is going to be how will Durant fit in with Curry and Thompson as there is only one basketball to go around. Durant doesn’t appear to be the kind of player that will want to rock the boat as he understands that there is a winning formula in place, while Curry and Thompson must love the thought of having another scoring option that can take some of the burden off of them.
The Warriors do have a defensive presence on their team in the form of power forward Draymond Green and small forward Andre Iguodala. Last year Curry was the NBA’s MVP, but in actuality Green is the Warriors best player. Green can do it all as he is a perimeter scorer, interior, rebounder, defender, facilitator, and the heart and soul of this team. I also doubt that Green would have an issue in taking a backseat to Durant, Curry, and Thompson as far as the scoring goes, while he can still strengthen the team in other areas.
But all is not well with the Warriors as they’ve lost some of their depth that was key to their success over the last few years. In making room for Durant, center Andrew Bogut was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, while center Marreese Speights left to join the Los Angeles Clippers, and shooting guard Leandro Barbosa is now a member of the Phoenix Suns. On top of that small forward Harrison Barnes left in free agency to sign with the Mavericks after the Warriors made it clear that they were zeroing in on Durant.
The Warriors new supporting cast includes the likes of veteran power forward David West and center JaVale McGee to partner with stalwarts off of the Golden State bench such as point guard Shaun Livingston, but will it be enough to get the Warriors back to the NBA Championship?.
In spite of not winning the NBA Championship last June, the Warriors will still have a bulls eye on their backs due to what they did in the last regular season. And Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will have to make sure that his team will be up for the challenge.
Y-Los Angeles Clippers 54-28 (3)
The last three years have seen the Los Angeles Clippers be one of the better teams in the Western Conference, but they’ve been unable to get over the hump in the postseason. The Clippers have never won an NBA Championship and dating back to their stints in Buffalo and San Diego, they’ve never gotten to the conference finals.
Doc Rivers has been the Clippers head coach for the last three years and he has given this organization a high level of respectability. Under Rivers, the Clippers have won 50 games in each of the last three seasons, and once you factor in their 56-win campaign under Vinny Del Negro during the 2012-2013 NBA season, Los Angeles is in the midst of their best run in franchise history. But unfortunately for the Clippers, they have taken a backseat to the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division which is something that must change if they are going to achieve their ultimate goal which is to win an NBA Championship.
As point guard Chris Paul is set to begin his sixth season with the Clippers, he is the leader of this team, but who is the their go-to-guy? Aside from Paul, the other recognizable faces of the Clippers are power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan. Paul is one of the better floor generals in the NBA as he has averaged 9.9 assists for his 11-year NBA career, while Jordan is currently one of the top rebounders in the league. Injuries limited Griffin to just 35 games last season, and he needs to find a way to remain healthy for this campaign. But you have to wonder if the title window is closing for this trio?
Griffin has never come off of as being “the guy” for the Clippers as he plays off of Paul. Jordan has never developed his offensive game enough to be a consistent scorer, while he is also a liability late in contests due to the fact that he is a career 42% free throw shooter. And as for Paul, he has never shown the ability during his NBA career to be a player that a team can consistently count on to score 25 points per contest.
But aside from this the Clippers still have a team that can do some damage in the regular season as long as they can remain healthy. Shooting guard J.J. Redick is one of the best deep range shooters in the NBA which was evident last season when he connected on nearly 48% of his shots from downtown. Jamal Crawford is set to begin his fifth season with the Clippers, and after averaging 14.2 points off of the bench last year for Los Angeles, he will once again be vital to their success as he is the only three-time winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. At 39-years of age, small forward Paul Pierce is not the player that he was during the prime of his career, but his knowledge of the game should be able to help the Clippers in this his last go round in the NBA. The last few years have seen center Marreese Speights be a valuable role players coming off of the bench for the Warriors, and he should be an upgrade at the offensive end of the floor for the Clippers when Jordan goes to the bench. And at 6’10”, Speights’ size will also help the Clippers at the defensive end of the floor last season as they were seventh in the NBA in points allowed.
In order for the Clippers to have a shot to contend with the power teams in the Western Conference such as the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, they must take care of their business against the also-rans. And if everyone is one the same page, the Clippers should be a tough team to reckon with in spite of the fact that they more than likely won’t win the NBA Title.
Sacramento Kings 36-46
You have to go back to 2006 to find the last time that the Sacramento Kings finished an NBA campaign with a winning record. Over that stretch the Kings have gone through eight different head coaches with a ninth in Dave Joerger set to begin his tenure with the club. The Kings have not won more than 38 games in a season during their latest journey to futility, while they’ve also been an organization that has lacked leadership which means that Joerger will have his work cut out for him.
Joerger spent the last three years as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies where he compiled a record of 147-99. Joerger also led the Grizzlies to three consecutive playoff appearances which included guiding a Memphis team last season that had a slew of injuries. Joerger is an excellent communicator, while he also focuses on defensive basketball, but he will have his hands full as far as turning things around in Northern California.
Center DeMarcus Cousins has been the Kings best player in each of the last six years, but he has also been the organizations biggest headache. Cousins is coming off of a season where he averaged 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds, while also being a member of the United States Men’s Basketball Team that won the gold medal this past August at the Summer Olympics. However the category that the Kings need Cousins step up in the most is his leadership.
As Cousins is now on his sixth different head coach with the Kings, it is safe to label him as a “coach killer”. But Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac continue to keep Cousins as their centerpiece in spite of the fact that he continuously clashes with head coaches, along with being unable to make the players around him better which will more than likely be on display this season due to the fact that Sacramento has individual talent and not a group of guys that will more than likely be able to function as a cohesive unit.
Along with Cousins, the Kings are set to return four of their top five scorers from last year’s team. Small forward Rudy Gay is set to begin his fourth season with the Kings. During Gay’s time in Sacramento, he has averaged 19.4 points per game, but just like Cousins he has been unable to help the Kings get over the hump and back to the playoffs. Point guard Darren Collison is set to begin his third season in Sacramento, and he could have more of an impact this year due to the fact that he won’t be looking over his shoulder after the Kings allowed point guard Rajon Rondo to leave in free agency. Small forward Omri Casspi gives the Kings a solid perimeter scorer coming off of the bench which will be vital as Sacramento does’t want to get lost in the shuffle once again in the Western Conference.
During the off-season, the Kings also picked up veteran wing players in small forwards Matt Barnes and Arron Afflalo who aside from both playing their college ball at UCLA could provide Sacramento with experience and more importantly a defensive toughness that is going to be necessary for them under Joerger.
Something will have to give for the Kings as no team in the NBA allowed more points per game (109.1) last season than they did, while Joerger typically had one of the better defensive teams in the league during his time in the Memphis. For the Kings to improve at the defensive end of the floor, it is going to take a collective effort, but players such as Cousins, Gay, and Casspi don’t have a solid history of being solid defenders which puts Sacramento in an interesting situation being that Ranadive and Divac have been known to chose Cousins over their head coaches.
Just like last year, the Kings have tremendous individual talent, but they must learn to play together as a team. The Kings are currently one of the most poorly run franchises in the NBA, and the only highlight of their season will be the unveiling of their new home in Northern California which is the Golden 1 Center.
Los Angeles Lakers 33-49
It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of their worst stretch in franchise history. The last three years have seen the Lakers fail to post a winning record, while they’ve also been unable to qualify for the playoffs. This marks the first time in the illustrious history of the Lakers franchise that this has happened as they are now coming to grips with a very unfamiliar word which is “rebuilding”. The upcoming NBA season also marked the end of one era for Lakers basketball, and the beginning of a new one.
The past 20 years have seen shooting guard Kobe Bryant as a fixture on the court for the Lakers. Bryant helped the Lakers win five NBA Championships. But like all good Hollywood productions, Bryant’s time on the court has come to an end. Bryant’s departure means that the focus will be on the youth movement for the Lakers, along with a new voice on the sidelines.
36-year old Luke Walton is set to become the 26th head coach in the illustrious history of the Lakers franchise and there is only one way for him to go which is up. Walton has played for the Lakers as he was a member of their championship teams in 2009 and 2010. Walton has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors and he hopes to bring the same ball movement offense that has been successful in Oakland to Los Angeles. And although that Walton doesn’t have the same level of talent to work with in Los Angeles as opposed to Oakland with the Warriors, all is not lost for Walton as there is some potential on the Lakers roster.
As the Lakers have combined to lose 181 games over the last three NBA seasons, it has also seen them picking very early in the NBA Draft. In 2014, the Lakers used their first-round pick on power forward Julius Randle. In 2015, the Lakers used the second overall pick of the NBA Draft on point guard D’Angelo Russell. And after winning just 17 games last year, the Lakers once again had the second overall choice; this time they selected small forward Brandon Ingram whom they are hopeful will be another piece to their young core of players.
In the first game of the 2014-2015 NBA season, Randle suffered a broken leg which ended his rookie campaign before it even started. Randle would return last season in what was his de facto rookie campaign as he averaged 11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds as he is showing that he has the potential to be a low-post presence in Los Angeles. Russell had an up and down rookie campaign as he averaged 13.2 points and 3.3. assists while having the locker room turn on him after an incident with shooting guard Nick Young. Russell is only 20-years of age, and there is still a level of immaturity that must be curbed if he is going to grow as a professional basketball player. Aside from Russell, the Lakers are high on another guard in Jordan Clarkson. Last year was Clarkson’s second NBA season and after averaging 15.5 points per game, he received a four-year extension that is worth $50 million. Ingram showed flashes of what he could be during his one year of collegiate basketball for the Duke Blue Devils as he averaged 17.3 and 6.8 rebounds en route to being the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year. And Ingram’s development as a wing player and all-around player are going to be vital for the Lakers who are looking to pick themselves up off of the canvas in the Western Conference.
Aside from the Lakers youth movement, they do have veterans on this club such as small forward Luol Deng and shooting guard Lou Williams who’s experience will be important as Walton looks to get his message across to his young team.
It might not seem like it, but the Lakers are in the process of building something special, and although that the 2016-2017 NBA season will more than likely see Los Angeles miss the postseason once again, they are on the verge of building something very special.
Phoenix Suns 30-52
Throughout the 48-year history of the Phoenix Suns franchise, they’ve never won an NBA Championship, but they have had a reputation of being a perennial playoff team. However things have really gone awry for the Suns as they have failed to make the postseason since 2010. Over that stretch the Suns have had four different head coaches which has taken away from their ability to build some cohesion. Earl Watson was the Suns interim head coach for the final 33 games of the 2015-2016 NBA season after Jeff Hornacek was fired. The Suns would go 9-24 under Watson, but team general manager Ryan McDonough decided to stick with him heading into the upcoming NBA season. However it doesn’t matter who will be coaching the Suns as this organization has lost its luster.
When you think of the history of Suns basketball, an uptempo pace that produces plenty of points generally comes to mind. But last season the Suns were 22nd in the NBA in points per game at 100.9 per contest. One issue that the Suns have had is that they’ve concentrated too much on being a guard oriented team. In the past five years the majority of the Suns draft picks have been guards and this has robbed the Suns from gaining cohesion on the basketball court along with an overall identity. The Suns two best players are a pair of point guards that played collegiately for the Kentucky Wildcats in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but it is counter productive to have each of them on the court at the same time when they have the same skill set.
However regardless of whether it is Bledsoe or Knight that is running the show for the Suns at point guard, they have a promising player to run with in the Phoenix backcourt in shooting guard Devin Booker. Last year as a rookie, Booker was the Suns third leading scorer at 13.8 points per game behind Bledsoe and Knight and the ceiling is very high for him as his second year in the NBA is set to begin.
The Suns do have a veteran presence in their front court with center Tyson Chandler who is still a solid rebounder, and power forward Mirza Teletovic who is a quality scorer as he averaged 12.2 points per game last year for Phoenix, but it is highly unlikely that it will be good enough to make them a playoff team.
Five of the Suns first eight games this year will be on the road, and a slow start could be the prelude for another long season in Phoenix.
Y-Clinched Playoff Berth
With a little more than a month left in the NBA’s regular season, the Sacramento Kings are in the midst of wrapping up their 10th consecutive losing season. And it has also been a decade since the Kings qualified for the postseason which is second longest active streak in the NBA. In 2010, the Kings used the fifth overall pick of the NBA Draft on center DeMarcus Cousins who was looked at as a potential building block for the organization. Cousins is a legitimate post player and his numbers have increased in each NBA season. This season Cousins is averaging 27.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest while he was named to his second consecutive All-Star Game. Cousins is also a prime candidate to represent the United States this July in the Summer Olympics in Rio where his presence in the front court could be coveted. But once you put all of the personal accolades aside, Cousins has been unable to help the Kings in the most important category which is the win column.
This season could be the first one for the Kings with Cousins on the roster that they could win 30 games which is something that isn’t going to get them any closer to making the playoffs. Cousins hasn’t become the leader that the Kings envisioned him developing into while there’s also been a revolving door at head coach in the state capitol of California. Since Cousins came to Sacramento, the Kings have had five different head coaches with the majority of them having issues with him. And the most recent head coach to cross paths with Cousins is the Kings current head coach George Karl.
Karl became the Kings head coach last February and from the first day on the job, his old-school approach has clashed with Cousins.
Prior to the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl wanted to trade Cousins, but he was rebuffed by Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and team general manager Vlade Divac. Things would reach a boiling point when as Ranadive was on the verge of firing Karl before cooler heads prevailed. In actuality, the Kings have threatened to fire Karl on several occasions while they also refuse to trade Cousins. And the end result is a team that continues to bring up the rear in the Western Conference.
Make no mistake about it that Cousins is an immensely talented player, but his inability to become a leader while he has also failed to make his teammates better is beginning to show much more now that he is six-year NBA veteran. This year Cousins has had 23 games in which he has scored at least 30 points which was highlighted by him scoring 48 points against the Indiana Pacers on January 23 and 56 in the Kings next contest versus the Charlotte Hornets. But in those games where Cousins has gone off, the Kings record is just 11-12. And at the end of the day, if a guy like Cousins is going off for 35 points and his team loses, nobody really cares.
Cousins issues go far beyond Karl as he clashed in college with his head coach John Calipari during his time at the University of Kentucky, while he also chased his first head coach with the Kings in Paul Westphal out of town. Westphal had success as an NBA head coach which included taking the Phoenix Suns to their last appearance in the NBA Finals in 1993 while Calipari is a Basketball Hall of Famer and only four men have won more games as a head coach in the NBA than Karl. These men obviously know a thing or two about basketball and if Cousins has had issues with all of them, then maybe he is the problem.
The Kings may not want to trade Cousins, but it is a move that makes the most sense for the organization in the long term. The Kings are not going to win anytime soon with Cousins on the roster and the best thing to do would be to trade him in order to get as much value possibly back.
I understand that Karl still had the itch to coach in the NBA, but he should have held out for another gig that would have given him a better opportunity to succeed. With the Kings threatening to fire Karl on several occasions due to his inability to get through to Cousins, it sends the wrong message to the rest of the players in the locker room in Sacramento as their head coach seems powerless. The Kings front office finally allowed Karl to suspend Cousins earlier this month for conduct detrimental to the team, but it could be too little, too late in regards to this situation.
The best move for the Kings could be to part with both Cousins and Karl once the season is over in order to start over. If the Kings were to decide on keeping Karl while trading Cousins, they could succeed with him, but would they want to admit that they were wrong about Cousins? But if the Kings were to keep Cousins while parting with Karl, it would be very tough for the organization to convince another quality head coach to come to Northern California and work with Cousins. However the longer that the Kings allow this issue to be the most important headline for their franchise, it will symbolize how much longer that it will take them to once again become relevant in the NBA.
The Sacramento Kings have been a professional basketball franchise for nearly 70 years and the majority of their existence has been spent in futility. In 1951, the Kings won their first and only NBA Championship as they were known as the Rochester Royals. But in those days, the NBA only consisted of 11 franchises as it was easier for the Royals to navigate their way through the league. Since their time in Rochester, New York, the Kings have also called Cincinnati, Ohio and Kansas City, Missouri home before settling in Sacramento in 1985. The Kings have seen their fair share of misses in the NBA Draft along with long stretches without a trip to the postseason. But in 1999, the Kings would make the playoffs which would begin a string of eight consecutive trips to the postseason which was highlighted by a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2002. Rick Adelman was the head coach of the Kings during that era and when his contract was not renewed by the franchise in 2006, the brakes began to fall off in Sacramento.
Since 2006, the Kings have failed to make the NBA Playoffs while not posting a winning record. And over this stretch, the Kings have employed eight different head coaches along with two different owners which has paved the way for total dysfunction in Northern California.
In 2010, the Kings used the fifth overall pick of the NBA Draft on center DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins came to the Kings with a ton of potential and he is living up to that as he is coming off of a season in which he earned his first All-Star Game appearance by averaging 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. And even though Cousins is an immense talent, he has developed a reputation as a coach killer.
Since Cousins joined the Kings, he has gotten four head coaches fired with another one that is currently teetering on the brink.
George Karl agreed to be the Kings head coach this past February and he brought with him a stellar resume that included taking five different NBA franchises to the postseason. Karl currently ranks sixth all-time on the NBA’s all-time wins list for head coaches and typically when a man walks into an organization, he commands a certain level of respect which Karl hasn’t received in Sacramento.
From Karl’s first day on the job, he and Cousins have not been on the same page. During the off-season Karl attempted to contact Cousins on several occasions, but he never received a response. Karl wanted to trade Cousins prior to the 2015 NBA Draft, but he was rebuffed by Kings owner Vivek Ranadive who deems Cousins as his franchise player. The issues between Karl and Cousins over the summer almost led to the Kings firing Karl. And things have not gotten any better in Sacramento as Cousins cursed out Karl a few days ago. Once again Karl wanted to trade Cousins, but this time it was Kings general manager Vlade Divac that shot down the notion of shipping the man known as “Boogie” out of town. Cousins isn’t the only headache that Karl has to deal with on the Kings roster as point guard Rajon Rondo is known to consistently clash with his head coaches as he did it during his time with Boston Celtics where he repeatedly clashed with Doc Rivers and in his brief tenure with the Dallas Mavericks where he made life difficult for head coach Rick Carlisle. And the volatile combination of Cousins and Rondo is difficult enough to deal with that it could put any head coach (and in the case of Karl) on suicide watch.
But what makes matters worse for Karl is that from his first day on the job in Sacramento, he has not received the full support of the Kings front office as they have decided to side with Cousins which is a little disturbing given Karl’s track record as a head coach in the NBA.
I totally understand that Cousins is an immense basketball talent along with the fact that coaches get fired long before players, but there comes a point when talent and potential are not enough; especially when it doesn’t lead to that many wins. In Cousins’ time with the Kings, they’ve only won 131 games and this current NBA season hasn’t gotten off to the best start as Sacramento is 2-7. Karl is an old-school head coach that relies on his system, but he knows how to adapt to his players as he has adjusted at every step along the way which has included dealing with the egos of Gary Payton, Allen Iverson, and Carmelo Anthony. Cousins on the other hand has clashed with every head coach that he has played for which was illustrated by his one season at the University of Kentucky under head basketball coach John Calipari. And at some point, it solely can’t be everyone else as Cousins has to look in the mirror at himself.
But the Kings front office doesn’t see it that way as they continue to coddle Cousins instead of showing him the tough love that he probably needs. Cousins came to the aid of the embattled Karl last week as he doesn’t want the Kings to fire him, but he needs to show some respect for the man in charge while also looking to shed his reputation as a coach killer. And for the Kings, if they were to fire Karl who has a Hall of Fame resume as a head coach, there might not be a quality head coach left in the NBA that would be willing to touch Sacramento with a 10-foot pole. One is an accident and two is trend. But in the case of Cousins and the Kings, misery loves company as the losses continue to mount as Ranadive needs to hand out diapers to his head coaches as opposed to clipboards.
Y-Golden State Warriors 57-25 (3)
It took a couple of generations, but the Golden State Warriors are once again sitting on top of the basketball world. This past June, the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to claim their fourth NBA Championship in franchise history, but their first since 1975 and they have a team in place that doesn’t want the organization to wait another 40 years to once again be champions.
In Steve Kerr’s first season as the head coach of the Warriors, he was able to push all of the right buttons which resulted in an NBA Championship. Kerr has the benefit of having one of the best back court duos in the NBA play for him. Warriors point guard Steph Curry comes into this NBA season as the reigning MVP as he is the modern version of the “Microwave” due to the fact that it doesn’t take that long for him to heat up and once he gets going, just simply pull up a chair and enjoy the magic. Curry has the ability to average 30 points per game, but he doesn’t have to due to the depth that the Warriors possess around him. However Curry is still a phenomenal passer and like most good jump shooters, he is lights out from the free-throw line. Along with Curry in the Warriors backcourt, there is shooting guard Klay Thompson. Together Curry and Thompson form the “Splash Brothers” and aside from them both being the sons of former NBA players, they each possess tremendous jump shots as they each have the ability to put the Warriors on their respective backs for extended periods of time.
The Warriors also receive tremendous production from their front court. Last season saw small forward Draymond Green emerge as an impact player which saw him rewarded by the Warriors with a five-year contract extension over the summer that is worth $82 million. The Warriors have a ton of depth on their club that includes the likes of small forward Andre Iguodala who is the reigning NBA Finals MVP and he is also a defensive specialist which comes in handy when Golden State faces some of the premier teams in the Western Conference.
Last spring the Warriors swept the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the NBA Playoffs as these two teams will meet in two of their first three games this season. But being that the Warriors will comes into this season as the defending NBA Champions, they must expect to get every team’s best game on a nightly basis. It also won’t help the Warriors that Kerr will be sidelined to begin the NBA season as he is recovering from back surgery to repair a herniated disc. And in the interim the Warriors will be led by former NBA player Luke Walton as their head coach as it will be interesting to see if he’ll be able to get his message across to this team.
X-Los Angeles Clippers 57-25 (4)
Doc Rivers has been the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers for two years, but he hasn’t been able to get his club past the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Last season the Clippers held a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, but they were unable to close them out which left them scratching heads. The Clippers would undergo a few changes this off-season with the biggest one coming in the form of new uniforms.
Center DeAndre Jordan became a free agent over the summer and he flirted with joining the Dallas Mavericks. Jordan”verbally” agreed to join the Mavericks, but he had a change of heart and worked things out in order to re-join the Clippers. What the Clippers get with Jordan is a player that led the NBA in rebounds last year at 15.0 per game along with being one of the better shots blockers in the league. From 2004-2013, Rivers was the head coach of the Boston Celtics and he helped the organization win their 17th NBA Title in 2008. At the center of that was small forward Paul Pierce who was the cornerstone of the Celtics franchise during the 2000’s. After being traded by the Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, and spending last season with the Washington Wizards, Pierce has decided to join Rivers in Los Angeles. For his 17-year NBA career, Pierce has averaged 20.7 points per game and he’s also been one of the best clutch players during this era of basketball which is the kind of player that the Clippers have lacked. Pierce is also a native of Inglewood, California and he’ll now have the opportunity to play for one of his hometown NBA teams.
The signings of Jordan and Pierce are good for the Clippers, but the success of this team will come down to the ability of point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin. Paul continues to give the Clippers quality seasons as he is one of the better floor generals in the NBA along with being in line with what Rivers expects from his point guards while Griffin must continue to develop into a valuable go-to-guy for the Clippers.
The Clippers are also hopeful that they were able to solidify their role players this off-season when they signed forward Josh Smith and guard Lance Stephenson along with re-signing guard Austin Rivers. Rivers is the son of the Clippers head coach while Smith and Stephenson have a history of being “loose cannons” which could hurt or help the Clippers this season.
The Clippers will have a chance to get off to a fast start in the first four games which includes a pair of meetings with the Sacramento Kings. And you can go ahead and circle November 4 on your calendar when the Clippers travel to face the Golden State Warriors who are the defending NBA Champions as there is no love lost between these two clubs.
Phoenix Suns 38-44
The past five years have seen the Phoenix Suns fail to qualify for the NBA Playoffs which ties their longest stretch without reaching the postseason in franchise history. Jeff Hornacek is set to begin his third season as the head coach of the Suns and in two years in Phoenix, he has made the most of his situation with the Suns, but unfortunately this is a team that lacks a star player that can put this team on his back.
The closest thing that the Suns have to a star player is point guard Eric Bledsoe. This will mark Bledsoe’s second full season in Phoenix and for him to lead the Suns to the postseason, he is going to put up an MVP caliber season and unfortunately he won’t be able to do it all by himself. The Suns are hopeful that power forward Markieff Morris will be able to take his game to the next level, but he currently isn’t a happy camper in the valley of the sun. Morris’ twin brother Marcus was traded by the Suns this off-season to the Detroit Pistons which has left Markieff disgruntled. Because of this Morris doesn’t want to play in Phoenix anymore, but the Suns are not budging due to the fact that he is under contract with them which has produced a stalemate.
Heart and hustle have made the Suns competitive in Hornacek’s first two years in Phoenix, but the 2015-2016 NBA season will be a completely different beast as they should struggle in the Western Conference.
Sacramento Kings 39-43
The Sacramento Kings have not posted a winning record since 2006 and six of the last seven NBA seasons have seen them lose at least 50 games. The Kings have also become one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NBA which is evident by the past few months. Last season the Kings went through three different head coaches with George Karl set to led this team for the 2015-2016 NBA season. Karl hasn’t been on the same page with Kings power forward DeMarcus Cousins which led to Karl wanting to trade Cousins prior to the 2015 NBA Draft. But Kings owner Vivek Ranadive decided to step in as he wants Cousins and that almost led to Karl being fired.
Cousins is one of the premier power forwards in the NBA and he would be more of a household name if he played in a bigger market and/or on a better team. But if Karl and Cousins are able to get on the same page, he is a player that has the potential to average 25 points and 15 rebounds.
Along with Cousins, the Kings have a proven scorer in small forward Rudy Gay. In nine seasons in the NBA, Gay has averaged 18.5 points per game as the Kings are the third different franchise that he has played for. But Gay’s versatility on both ends of the floor make him the perfect compliment to Cousins. The Kings used the sixth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft on center Willie Cauley-Stein who is a shot blocker that will need some time to get adjusted to the NBA game. The Kings also have size behind Cauley-Stein in center Kosta Koufos while they have a young in shooting guard Ben McLemore who is emerging as a scoring threat while they have also proven veteran scorers in small forwards Caron Butler and Marco Belinelli. But the Kings have a huge question mark at the point guard position.
In 45 games with the Kings last season, point guard Darren Collison averaged 16.1 points and 5.6 assists. But the Kings still went out and signed point guard Rajon Rondo who has been known to clash with head coaches; regardless of their credentials in the NBA. And this is something that Karl will have to find out the hard way for himself.
It won’t be an overnight turnaround for the Kings, but as the season progresses, Karl will begin to mold this team in his own image or get fired trying.
Los Angeles Lakers 34-48
The start of a new NBA season means that hope will spring eternal for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers coming off of their worst two-year span in franchise history as they’ve combined to win just 48 games over the last two seasons which typically represents just one down campaign for them. The Lakers must find a way to be more competitive under head coach Byron Scott this season as en route to losing a franchise worst 61 games last season, they lost 9 games be 20 or more points.
Unfortunately for the Lakers they are pinning their hopes on the return of shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Bryant only appeared in 35 games last season due to injury. Bryant is the Lakers all-time leading scorer, but it is hard to expect him to return this season at 37-years of age and be the player that he was several years ago when he was one of the top scorers in the NBA. Scott also intends to limit the amount of minutes that Bryant plays this season, but is there another viable scoring option for the Lakers behind him?
Like Bryant, Lakers small forward Nick Young missed significant time last season due to injuries and he also clashed with Scott. Young is a proven scorer in the NBA as he has averaged 12.3 points per game over his eight-year NBA career, but will he be able to remain within in the realm of what Scott wants from him?
In 2014, the Lakers made power forward Julius Randle the seventh overall pick of the NBA Draft, but he suffered a fractured right tibia in the first game of the season as the book is still out on him. This summer, the Lakers had the second overall pick of the draft and they used it on point guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell is only 19-years of age and it will be a steep learning curve as far as him getting adjusted to the professional game. The Lakers entered the 2015 NBA Draft with a pair of first-round picks as their second choice was used on forward Larry Nance Jr. If the name sounds familiar it is because his father Larry Nance Sr., played in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers and he was the winner of the league’s first slam dunk contest. Like father, like son as Nance Jr. has tremendous athleticism which led him to being named as the Mountain West Conference’s Player of the Year in 2015 during his senior season at the University of Wyoming.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak signed guard Lou Williams in the off-season as he’ll be looked at as far as providing scoring off of the bench while Los Angeles also acquired center Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers. In seven season with the Pacers, Hibbert always had instances where he would flash potential, but he’s never been consistent and the Lakers are hopeful that a change of scenery will do the trick for him. And in a surprise move just before the beginning of training camp, the Lakers signed veteran small forward Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest, but you just have to wonder if the NBA game has passed him by at the age of 35?
Early on in the season, the Lakers will have a five-game road trip which is a good time for this team to bond with so many new parts. Bryant will be eager to reclaim his post as one best players in the NBA, but whereas in the past he has dished out tough love to his teammates, this is a young team that will need that big brother to put his arm around them. And if Bryant doesn’t adjust, his time in Los Angeles this season will be very frustrating for him.