Nuggets at Kings preview: Back-to-back-on-track?

Despite having no chance to make the playoffs the Sacramento Kings are playing for now, which makes them a dangerous opponent on a back-to-back for our Denver Nuggets.

Game 43: 2013-14 NBA Season
@

21-21 (9-12 on road)
Series 0-1
Kings
15-27 (9-14 at home)
January 26th, 2014
Sleep Train Arena - Sacramento, CA
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Ty Lawson PG Isaiah Thomas
Randy Foye
SG Marcus Thornton
Wilson Chandler SF Derrick Williams
Kenneth Faried
PF Jason Thompson
J.J. Hickson
C Aaron Gray
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Sactown Royalty
Danilo Gallinari (knee), JaVale McGee (leg) are out, Darrell Arthur (left hip strain) is day-to-day
Injuries DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) and Rudy Gay (Achilles) are day-to-day
The Nuggets have won 9 of their last 10 meetings against the Kings.
Etc... The Kings are 13-4 this season when scoring 105 points or more.

I suspect new Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is an incredibly impatient man. After all, you don't make your way from Mumbai, India to MIT, Harvard Business School and then amass a $700 million personal fortune by sitting on your hands. But like many "Type A" professional sports owners who have been tremendously successful in the business world by being impatient, Ranadive's apparent impatience may not be what's best for his basketball team right now.

Inheriting a downtrodden Kings franchise thanks to years of inept stewardship by the now vilified Maloof brothers, from the start of the 2013-14 season Ranadive has set out to make the Kings instantly relevant on the NBA scene. But relevance doesn't happen overnight in the NBA, and you don't get there by mortgaging your team's future to grab an expensive one-sided player like Rudy Gay. Just ask the Toronto Raptors, who are 15-8 since sending Gay to Sacramento as part of a seven-player trade that sent the multi-faceted Greivis Vasquez to Toronto. Or ask the Memphis Grizzlies, who appeared in the 2013 Western Conference Finals after trading Gay before the trade deadline.

The Raptors, who were 7-12 with Gay before the trade, might be regretting the Gay trade now as they desperately want to participate in the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery for a shot at Canadian-born forward Andrew Wiggins. The Kings, conversely (and perhaps perversely), want to win. And win now. Hence why they acquired Gay in December and Derrick Williams earlier in the season before him.

But despite their anxiousness - errr, impatience - to win now, the Kings still can't do it and one wonders why they're even trying. The mere presence of Ranadive and his ability to keep the Kings in Sacramento for the foreseeable future bought the franchise enough goodwill among the local fan base to tank the entire 2013-14 campaign, putting the Kings in position to nab a top-five lottery pick next summer. A lottery pick that could be added to a roster already featuring young talent with the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore.

In Ranadive's defense, both he and the Kings faithful have seen this movie before, as the Kings have been lottery participants for seven consecutive years and have only Cousins and zero post-season appearances to show for it. Even McLemore and his 36% shooting is looking like a mistake-of-a-pick compared to Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams, each of whom were drafted just a few picks after him. And lest we forget 2012 when the Kings foolishly drafted Thomas Robinson over Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond, and 2011 when the Kings saw fit to draft Jimmer Fredette over Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, the Morris twins and Kawhi Leonard. It's no wonder this franchise has stunk for so long and was almost moved to Seattle in 2013.

Seeing the bizarre picture being played out in Denver right now with our Nuggets, I'm almost envious of the Kings' position. Because while the Kings have no prayer of making the playoffs in the hyper competitive Western Conference, the Nuggets do and Nuggets Nation - in light of the recent news that Danilo Gallinari isn't walking onto the Pepsi Center floor anytime soon - is collectively asking "what's the point?"

That said, our Nuggets at present should be better than the presently constructed Kings. And if the Nuggets are indeed insistent on making a playoff run, it's games like these that they must win as the remainder of the Nuggets' 2014 schedule presents nothing but brutal competition ahead.

Three things to look for in this game ...

1) Nuggets rotation? That question mark isn't an accident. Just when Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw seemed to be settling on a consistent rotation of nine players, he appeared to be in scramble mode with his lineups again before the Nuggets bested the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

2) No Gay is a positive. As noted extensively above, any team without Gay is probably better than they are with Gay. So if Gay doesn't suit up against the Nuggets, the Kings could be a more dangerous opponent.

3) Bench mob. If Cousins and Gay don't play Sunday night, the already-depleted Kings' bench should be no match for the Nuggets' superior reserve corps.

Scouting the Kings ...

Kings Non-Stiffs

-DeMarcus Cousins: If he wasn't so temperamental and if the Kings could have mustered more than 15 wins by now, Cousins' 22.6 ppg and 11.6 rpg would make him a lock for an All-Star selection.

-Isaiah Thomas: Thomas might be the second coming of Nate Robinson - yet another 5'9" shoot-first point guard from the University of Washington. But Thomas' production as a third-year pro is more impressive than Robinson's, with Thomas putting up 20.0 ppg and 6.3 apg.

Kings Stiffs

-Jimmer Fredette: At this point it's safe to label Fredette a bust, as the third-year guard's production has declined every season since his rookie year and his rookie year wasn't impressive either.

-Marcus Thornton: When Thornton received a five-year, $40 million contract from the Kings a few years ago it arbitrarily raised the market for starting two-guards in the NBA (and led to the Nuggets paying handsomely to keep Arron Afflalo). Since signing that contract, Thornton's production has plummeted and this season he is averaging career lows is ppg and FG%.

Final Thought ...

Coming off an impressive home win against the NBA-best Pacers, look for our Nuggets to fly into Sacramento with renewed confidence and fly out with a victory to put them over .500 on the season.

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