Sacramento Kings preview: A never-ending rebuilding process

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

A talented young Sacramento team comes into Dallas on Monday night. After years of accumulating lottery picks, are they finally ready to take the next step?

Tom Ziller is one of the deans of the NBA blogosphere. A long-time Kings fans who writes at Sactown Royalty, he's also the NBA editor for SB Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @teamziller.

Just from looking at the stats, it doesn't seem like the Kings young lottery picks (most of whom were well-regarded coming out of college) are improving as they get older. What's going on and do you think there is a playoff-caliber core in place?

Tyreke Evans has been better this season, but not as good as in his rookie season. But remember that the team was awful that year, and Evans himself ran out of steam as it wore on. That Tyreke was possibly unsustainable, and not conducive to a winning team. DeMarcus Cousins has started off slowly, but is starting to look like the Cousins of last season, who was much improved. Jimmer Fredette has also improved quite a bit, and Thomas Robinson has lots of time. Maybe a three-game win streak is coloring this unevenly, but we're starting to see the kids come along.

Evans is set to become an RFA at the end of the season; do you think Sacramento should keep him or would he better served with a new start?

Based on the way he's played this season, he's worth keeping or trading for a good piece. He's been the team's best defender (ahead of even Chuck Hayes) and he fits admirably next to Aaron Brooks in the starting backcourt. Since Brooks and Fredette are similar in style, many are hoping to see the Tyreke-Jimmer pairing soon. Tyreke shouldn't be a max player (unless he goes nuts the next few months), but he's a eight-figure player.

Cousins is a 6'11 260 low-post scorer. How is he averaging 43% shooting from the floor? And how much of a concern is that in terms of him reaching his ceiling as a player?

He creates too much on his own from too far away. He may never shoot 50 percent from the floor because he draws some of his game in the face-up position, but Clifford Ray is working closely with him to finish stronger and make better decisions. As the team around him gets better, his efficiency should improve.

Fredette's shooting percentages have improved in his second season, although his playing time is way down. What's the consensus among Sacramento fans? Is he going to last in the NBA?

Sacramento is seeing glimpses of Jimmer's potential now. He's been excellent on offense this season (maybe the best offensive player on the team), and is still troubled on defense. We're about a week from fans openly demanding that he start over Aaron Brooks. His playing time is a function of the Kings having too many small guards that it's difficult to play together. Keith Smart rarely dares to play Jimmer and Isaiah Thomas together or either with Brooks, so there's always one odd man out, and often two.

How has Robinson, last season's Big 12 Player of the Year, looked as a rookie?

Robinson needs a lot more time and seasoning. His energy is outrageous, and that's been great to see. But he's simply not a positive contributor on offense. If the Kings had one more decent big, the rookie might not be playing much at all. But like the others, he come around quite a bit in the past week.

Five years from now, are the Kings still in Sacramento and do the Maloofs still own this franchise?

In five years? That's a crap shoot. I do think there will be a team here for sure if you look out a decade, either these Kings or an expansion team. In either case, the Maloofs will not be the owners.

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