Sacramento Kings: Can Kings Make Playoffs?

Jan 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Kings won 120-113. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Kings won 120-113. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sacramento Kings are in the playoff hunt, but things have got to change if they’re going to earn a spot.

In over two months of NBA basketball, the Western Conference standings are starting to take shape. Everything has been pretty much predictable as far as who sits atop the standings, but surprisingly the eighth seed is fair game this season and the Sacramento Kings are in the mix.

A big key to this, ofcourse, is DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins, who has been rumored in  extension/trade talks, is third in the league in scoring. In 37 games played, Cousins has been the leading scorer from both teams 23 times.

Also, the Kings are getting quality games on both sides of the ball from guys like Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo and Garrett Temple.

Although Cousins is getting support, Cousins should be putting up 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds every game and should be ahead of Russell Westbrook in the scoring race. Cousins can lead this team to the playoffs if he and his coach can make some changes.

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With the help of Coach Dave Joerger’s play calling, Cousins should keep getting the ball as much as he is, but he needs to be set up differently. Too many times this season, Cousins has been caught in isolation, taking the role of point guard and trying to go one-on-one.

I’ll admit, he’s athletic and can move for a big man, but he shouldn’t handle the ball at top of the key like he has been.

Cousins should be posting up down low. He has the team to move the ball around the perimeter. His task should be to wait for the ball to come to him under the rim and out muscle the defender. The Kings aren’t the best on offensive boards either and this is where Cousins can improve.

In fact, Cousins currently ranks 44th in offensive rebounds and not being under the basket is only going to hurt the team more.

On the other hand, Coach Joerger has done a phenomenal job with an imperfect roster. He knows his X’s and O’s and has turned this team around defensively from a year ago.

Though he’s working this team together piece by piece, it seems his team is either going on a run to get back in the game or they’re head-to-head and give it up in the end.

Joerger has had success in the second  half with going small (mainly due to Cousins in foul trouble). The team plays great defense and this is where the small guys are finding most of their points.

When the team is within reach of the lead, Joerger tends to go back to his starting five, whoever it was on that night.

When this happens, the pace slows down and Joerger starts leaning on Cousins more. In my opinion, Joerger should focus on this small ball tactic later in the game with Cousins and beat the defense to basket.

If he wants to stick with his starting five late in the game, He has to get more out of Rudy Gay. Gay has battled a hip flexor injury but when in the game, he can be the difference. He is averaging 19 points a game but the points aren’t coming at the right times.

Gay has had first-half success but is a ghost late in the second half.

If Gay can make a presence in the fourth quarter, it can take the attention off Cousins and help Joerger set up better offensive schemes. This way, Cousins can avoid a late turnover and Joerger can be in control of who he wants to have the ball in close game situations.

Lastly, The Kings are 7-10 at home, the brand new Golden 1 Center. Typically new arenas bring a new excitement and teams want to win in their new building.

But it seems the team isn’t getting the home fan support, which can be a direct result of so many new amenities within the new building.

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In Sleep Train Arena, it seemed everyone knew when to get loud, when to bust out the cowbells. This season though, there seems to be a lack of noise at key points of the game.

Unless there is a four-point game with two minutes left, fans are a lackluster bunch in their seats and with their noise-making capabilities.

I’ve seen every home game this season in Golden 1 Center and it’s not like there isn’t excitement on the court. Out of 17 home games,13 this season have been decided by 10 points or less.

Along with the late game fixes I mentioned earlier, a more involved, louder Golden 1 Center can help bring more wins to Joerger and the Boys.

I am all aboard the Kings train towards the playoffs. Coach Joerger is a good fit for this team.

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Cousins is the All-Star this town needed and the new arena brings new life to Sacramento, but without fixing the small things, this team could head towards extending their playoff drought.