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Top Bloggers: Akis Yerocostas On The Kings

Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors in a new feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke with Seth Rosenthal of SB Nation’s Posting & Toasting. Click here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.


Next up is Akis Yerocostas, editor of SB Nation’s Sactown Royalty. You can follow Akis on Twitter at @Aykis16 and click here to check out his stories. You can also follow Sactown Royalty at @sactownroyalty.

Hoops Rumors: Is the relationship between George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins going to work out for the long haul? They seem to have smoothed out their differences, but will that last?
Akis Yerocostas: That’s the big question right now isn’t it?  I’d like to pretend that I knew this answer but I don’t. In my opinion however, everything is going to be just fine IF the Kings can start winning some games. They say winning cures all ills, and DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t experienced a winning season since coming to the NBA. Cousins wants to win games, Karl wants to win games. That seems like a common goal that they can work with.
Hoops Rumors: The Kings have experienced so much tumult over the past few years, from nearly moving out of town to all the coaching changes to the Cousins trade rumors. Do you think the organization, from Vivek Ranadive on down, is committed to finally establishing some stability?
Akis Yerocostas: I think so.  Vlade Divac is now fully in charge of this team and there seems to finally be a clear command structure in place. Before Vivek hired Vlade, there was no real understanding of who was actually running the basketball side of things. Was it Pete D’Alessandro, Chris Mullin, Vivek himself or one of the other numerous voices in the room? Vlade has made it clear this summer that this is his team to run and that he will be the final decision maker. Divac’s demeanor and candor have been refreshing for fans who had grown tired of hearing a lot of talk and not much to back it up. There’s not much B.S. with Vlade around and that’s a good sign for the future.
Hoops Rumors: How much better off would the Kings had been if they had signed Wesley Matthews or Monta Ellis, whom they were reportedly targeting, instead of splitting their cap space between Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli?
Akis Yerocostas: I’m actually a bit happier that the Kings missed out on those two bigger names. While I would have loved to have a player of Matthews’ caliber on the team, the fact that he’s coming off of a major injury makes me a little squeamish about offering him what would have been the second biggest contract on the team. Ellis would have been a smaller financial commitment, but I’ve never been a fan of his fit on a team that already features two heavy usage scorers in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.  The Kings were instead able to use that money to acquire some solid depth at key positions. Rajon Rondo might not be the Rondo of old anymore, but he’s still a top-tier playmaker and is only locked down for one year (meaning the Kings can cut ties pretty easily if things don’t work out).  Koufos was probably one of the best bench bigs in the league last season and will bring a real defensive presence in the middle, and Belinelli brings the kind of shooting the Kings have been lacking for years. I don’t know if the Kings would have been able to add as much depth if they had signed Matthews or Ellis.
Hoops Rumors: Was the trade that opened up that cap space — sending Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and a first-round pick to the Sixers — worthwhile for Sacramento?
Akis Yerocostas: The easy answer is that it’s too soon to tell. It will definitely become clearer down the road. The Kings made a big bet on themselves with this trade and so far I think it’s looking OK for them.  They were able to use that cap space to make some nice value signings and replace players that hadn’t been very productive for the team. It can all go wrong of course, if the Kings continue to play poorly, or if Nik Stauskas becomes a very good player, but the Kings felt they needed to make a big move to shake things up and this was definitely a big move. Perhaps it would have been more prudent to wait and take a longer-term approach, but the Kings are nearing a full decade of missing the playoffs, they have a young, disgruntled star that they want to keep around for a long time, and they need to have some excitement around a team that is heading into a new arena in 2016.  It’s not that hard to see why the Kings made such a bold and aggressive move.
Hoops Rumors: In the age of small ball, does it strike you as odd that the Kings are making moves that suggest they’ll have Cousins playing a lot more power forward?
Akis Yerocostas: Not necessarily. While I do think Cousins will play a lot more power forward this year, I think we’ll still see plenty of smaller lineups from the Kings. The lineup that George Karl used the most down the stretch of last season featured Omri Casspi and Rudy Gay at the three and four, respectively. Kosta Koufos is also the only really traditional big man the Kings brought in this season. Willie Cauley-Stein is athletic enough that I think he can eventually cover some of the NBA’s more perimeter-oriented frontcourt players. I expect that the Kings will play a fast-paced game and also feature guys like Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison on the court at the same time. They’ll also have the option to play a bigger, more traditional lineup depending on the matchup, which is a nice luxury to have.
Hoops Rumors: What are realistic expectations for how the Kings will fare this season?
Akis Yerocostas: I think the only realistic expectation we can have with the Kings this year is that they will be better than they have been in a long time. The real question is to see how much better. Given how tough the Western Conference is, I find it hard to predict them making the playoffs. I would like to see them at least in contention for a playoff spot past the All-Star break. That would be a huge improvement for this team and a good building block going forward.

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