The Washington Wizards kick off their five-game West Coast swing with a stop in Sacramento to play the Kings. Coming off of three wins -- not the moral kind for once -- in a row, the Wizards have the winds at their backs and what should be one of their easiest games of the year ahead of them. Can they notch their fourth W in a row? Assuming you don't have a bedtime, you'll find out tonight.
Where and When? Tip off is at 10 p.m. in Sacramento. Yep, if you're in D.C., you're going to need to stay up until 12:30 or so if you want to see the whole game.
Who's Out? Aaron Brooks is questionable for the Kings. Washington will be missing Trevor Booker and Cartier Martin, while Jordan Crawford is questionable.
Are They Good? No, although at 14-24 they're better than Washington. The Kings are almost the anti-Wizards in that they have a decent offense and a league-worst defense.
Why Should I Care? Washington is poised to win its fourth game in a row, a feat that they haven't been able to pull off since ... OK, April of 2012. Still, Sacramento is as beatable as they come and everyone who had to sit through the first two months of the season deserves to see some decent play out of the Wizards.
What Are They Good At? The Kings have a lot of players who can put up shots and create plays. Sacramento is ranked 13th in the NBA in points per possession, largely due to the ability of players like DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans to make things happen with the ball in their hands. Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton have also been great sources of points and shooting in the backcourt, while John Salmons has been an excellent facilitator and all-purpose glue guy.
What Are They Bad At? Not playing self-indulgent basketball. The Kings don't defend and don't move the ball, two qualities that will make any team, no matter how talented it is, underperform. The defensive problems start with Cousins. DC gets steals and is big enough that he could be a shotblocker if he wanted to be one, yet he has a lot of lapses in concentration that prevent him from moving his feet to cut off perimeter players. In a related story, Sacramento is ranked dead last in the NBA in defense against pick and roll ball handlers as per MySynergySports.
What makes this even worse is that their perimeter rotation makes heavy use of three undersized guys (Thomas, Fredette and Thornton) and Evans, a player who's too big to check point guards and too focused on offense to guard anyone who moves well without the ball.
Should Washington Want DeMarcus Cousins? It'd be the ultimate go-for-broke move: bringing John Wall's controversial former teammate to Washington as a key part of the team's rebuilding effort. In terms of talent, Cousins is great, and any team would be happy to have a big man who could lead the league in rebounding, pass out of the post, shoot and score with his back to the basket. However, the team's culture is unlikely to be strong enough to make him play good pick and roll defense while keeping him from continuing to take the long jumpers that have killed his efficiency.
That said, if you're going to throw away next year's lottery pick and a few of the team's young assets, Cousins would be a much better gamble than Rudy Gay.
What's the Deal With John Salmons? Traded from the Bucks a few years ago in what was basically a salary dump, Salmons have been as good as ever this year. While the veteran wing's scoring is down, he's playing his usual solid positional defense, making shots from the outside and, most importantly, moving the ball. The Kings have a lot of guys who can create plays, but none of them do it thinking pass-first (or even -second). Salmons, while hardly a point forward, is a willing passer who has done wonders for the Kings' offense when they run plays through him. Sacramento has scored 9.5 more points per 100 possessions with Salmons on the floor this year. The only other player on the roster who sees a similar spike in offensive efficiency is Fredette.
Are the Kings Really Moving? This story has been going on for years now and I have no idea. Just read Sactown Royalty to learn more. They've been killing it.