This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent the Sacramento Kings (14-16) who are the Sixers foes on game three of the current six game road trip.
We expect a high scoring affair tonight as Sacto is giving up 105 ppg. on the season which ranks them 26th in the League, while the 76ers are allowing over 101 ppg., which ranks Philadunkia’s home team 19th in the NBA. The biggest question for us regarding tonight’s game is who on the Sixers will attempt to guard Philly native Tyreke Evans. If Eddie Jordan asks Louis Williams or Allen Iverson to guard Sacto’s outstanding rookie (20, 5 & 4 per night), Evans will hang a 50-spot on the Sixers. Louis and Iverson are simply too small to guard the 6-6, 220 pound Evans. Additionally, both are terrible on-ball defenders. We’d like to see the major task of guarding Evans fall to either Andre Iguodala or fellow rookie Jrue Holiday. Obviously AI9 and Holiday have the size to better match-up with Evans, but more importantly, both are outstanding perimeter defenders and we believe their defensive skills may be able to slow Evans down some.
In addition to slowing up Evans, if the 76ers can remember to get the ball down low and into the hands of Elton Brand and Mo Speights as they did against the Blazers, tonight’s game should go in the W column. The Kings bigs — Hawes, Thompson, Greene, Brockman, etc. – simply are not a very formidable interior defensive unit and the Sixers need to exploit that fact.
For a little more insight into the Kings team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Zach Harper from cowbellkingdom.com to answer two questions on the Kings from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on the Sacto squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : From the outside it seems to have been a roller coaster season so far in Sacramento (14-16 overall; 5-5 in last ten). What are some of the positive items you like about this team and what are some of the weaknesses that bother you about the Kings?
Zach Harper @ cowbellkingdom.com : If anybody watched last year’s Kings, you saw a malaise saturating a confused organization that wasn’t willing to accept its place in the League. While nobody expected them to be 17 wins bad, those in touch with reality knew that the roster wasn’t going to challenge for a playoff spot. There wasn’t any fight in this team. Most nights they just rolled over and took whatever beating was coming to them if they didn’t have it going early.
But this year there is a lot of fight. In fact, there is more fight with this team than this city has ever seen. That doesn’t mean this is the best team the Kings have seen. Clearly at the beginning of this decade the Kings employed a very talented and disciplined team. But they didn’t have the same fight of this current squad. The Kings are the third youngest team in the NBA and that’s where a lot of the fight comes from. They don’t know when they’re supposed to lose games. They didn’t know teams give up when they’re down 35 points in the third quarter so they kept chipping away and eventually beat the Bulls. So I’d have to say the fight this team shows is their best attribute and their biggest strength.
However, that youth still hurts them from time to time. They struggle at the end of quarters and the end of games to get quality possessions. They’ve fumbled two straight end of regulation possessions by waiting too long, being too congested and not knowing what to do with the game on the line. Even though they play at one of the faster paces in the league (currently 7th), there are too many times during the game that the offense becomes stagnant. It really hinders them from putting teams away when they need to make a run.
But their biggest weakness is still interior defense. Jon Brockman is probably their best shot blocker. He’s 6’7” and plays less than 20 minutes per game. Spencer Hawes is too soft inside anddoesn’t use his length unless he’s acting as a weak-side defender. Jason Thompson picks up too many stupid fouls when there is no need to commit the infraction and it forces him to play passively inside on defense. Kenny Thomas has been the Kings best post defender and he’s still Kenny Thomas. They could desperately use a Joakim Noah / Emeka Okafor type of defender inside.
Philadunkia : Obviously Kings rookie Tyreke Evans is a Philly kid and he grew up literally in front of our eyes, so we’re somewhat biased when evaluating him. We know he has been scoring and scoring well, Tyreke could always do that, but outside of scoring, how do you think he has played so far this season? What have been his other strengths and what does he need to work on?
Zach Harper @ cowbellkingdom.com : I feel like someone lied to me when they tried to sell me on Tyreke Evans. He was offered up as a solid combo guard who could play some point guard and score the ball. But nobody told me he was a dynamic scorer, leader, anddefender. I don’t think his scoring is all that impressive. It’s the calmness that encompasses his scoring. He’s never really rattled and that permeates through the rest of the team. He brings confidence to the team. He leads by example. These are qualities they were praying Kevin Martin would develop and now that they have Evans, they can allow Martin to just be himself andfill into the second gunman role for the Kings.
His defense has been a welcome sight. This was the worst defensive team in the NBA last year. This year, they’re not challenging the ’04 Pistons by any means but they also are putting up some resistance against their opponents. Evans stopping the ball at the top of the key is a big part of that. Tony Parker is really the only guy who completely dominated him. He’s taken away Chris Paul’s playmaking. He’s taken away Brandon Jennings’ everything. He’s taken the ball from Gilbert Arenas withthe game on the line. He knows how to use his wingspan, his strength and his quickness to his advantage on the defensive side of the ball. That’s something that will get better with age and experience. Perhaps, we’ll be throwing his name aroundfor an All-Defensive 2nd team some day?
As for what he needs to work on, he has good point guard instincts. People who say he can’t play the point are being short-sided and assuming without seeing him actually execute an offense. However, he has to become more comfortable making passes and trusting his teammates. He’s weak passing back out to the top of the key area on drives to the basket. He’s not very good at running the pick and roll. And he let’s his cross-court passes sail on him at times. You’d also like to see him completely refine that outside shot. His long-range two-pointers have been solid at 44%. But he’s a terrible three-point shooter. When he brings the ball behind his head on his shot, it usually misses and misses badly. When he keeps it directly above his head, it’s often ripping through the net. He just needs better muscle memory with his jump shot form.
Two Points of Analysis from Zach Harper @ cowbellkingdom.com:
1) Kings Need to Rebound
Last season, the Kings were the worst rebounding team in the NBA. They couldn’t grab the majority of the missed shots. This season, they’ve become a really good offensive rebounding team and are currently the 14thbest rebounding team in the league. What’s the difference? Everybody on the floor hits the boards andJason Thompson is an offensive rebounding machine. This newfound willingness to fight for things on the court has helped them most on the glass.
2) Kings Need the Wings to Score
When the gluttony of small forwards (Donté Greene, Andres Nocioni, Omri Casspi and Ime Udoka) on this roster are knocking down shots and taking the ball to the basket, the offense is at its best. When the offense is clicking this team is tough to beat. They’re 13-9 when they score 100 points and they’re 7-13 when they don’t. It’s really basic but for the Kings it’s as simple as scoring more points than the other team. And when their wings are scoring, it opens up everything for the flow of this offense.