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Kings’ season report card: Tale of two halves for players, coach, GM

Ten moments that defined the Kings' 2016-17 season

From opening a new home to trading a star, the Kings had highlight moments despite struggles on the court. Here’s a look at 10 events that defined their season.
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From opening a new home to trading a star, the Kings had highlight moments despite struggles on the court. Here’s a look at 10 events that defined their season.

Grading the Kings, like their season, isn’t easily done over 82 games. There were the first 57 games, when DeMarcus Cousins was the focal point, and the final 25 after the two-time All-Star was dealt to New Orleans.

The direction of the season changed, as did the roles of the players returning after the All-Star Weekend trade. The deal brought a rookie, Buddy Hield, who the Kings hope can put a stop to the never-ending rotation of shooting guards to come through Sacramento in recent seasons.

The Kings are on the path of developing young talent, but in no way do they have enough of a base to celebrate. This summer will be big for players who just completed their first year in the the league: Hield, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis. The front office, which improved its staff with Friday’s hiring of Scott Perry as vice president of basketball operations, has a lot of work to do, too.

With the NBA draft still nearly two months away, we evaluate the past season’s performance by the 15 players who remain on the the Kings’ roster, and those who may not be back next season.

ARRON AFFLALO

Grade: C

Stats: 8.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 season; team buyout option.

2016-17 season expectations: Provide consistency at shooting guard on offense and help upgrade the perimeter defense.

Comment: His scoring average was the third-lowest of his career as it was tough to find shots behind Cousins, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison to start the season. After Cousins was traded and Gay was lost to injury, Afflalo was miscast as a small forward many nights by necessity. With an excess of shooting guards, the Kings might buy out Afflalo and go with their young guards next season.

WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN

Grade: B-

Stats: 8.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; team option 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Continue to develop his overall skills and become a contributor in the rotation.

Comment: The Cousins trade led to Cauley-Stein becoming a starter. Prior to that, Cauley-Stein had already begun earning playing time with his defensive versatility. Rebounding consistently will remain an emphasis next season. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds after the trade.

DARREN COLLISON

Grade: B

Stats: 13.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists.

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

2016-17 season expectations: Consistently provide offense alongside Cousins and Gay, and provide good on-ball defense.

Comment: Collison played better as he got more comfortable with Dave Joerger’s system. He became more of a mentor after the Cousins trade and would have had better stats if not for being benched in the fourth quarter of some games. For the right price, the Kings could retain Collison if he doesn’t bolt to a playoff contender.

TYREKE EVANS

Grade: C

Stats: 10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists.

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

2016-17 season expectations: After dealing with knee injuries, finish the season healthy and look forward to the offseason for a fresh start.

Comment: Evans, who returned to Sacramento from New Orleans as part of the Cousins trade, wasn’t the player he was in his first stint in Sacramento, but he did show flashes of that player. Health is the main factor for Evans moving forward.

LANGSTON GALLOWAY

Grade: C

Stats: 7.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists.

Contract status: Player option for 2017-18.

2016-17 season expectations: Fill in as the third point guard after the Cousins trade.

Comment: Galloway had his moments with the Kings, showing he could be a scorer and defender. It would be a surprise if the Kings did not draft a point guard, but it would not be a surprise to see Galloway back next season.

RUDY GAY

Grade: INC

Stats: 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; can opt out this summer.

2016-17 season expectations: Be an effective scorer and rebounder with the ability to carry the offense when needed.

Comment: Gay ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon on Jan. 18, ending his season, and there’s no way of knowing how he might have played without Cousins. The Kings say they want Gay back, but with a young team expected to lose more than it wins next season, Gay might opt out and test free agency.

BUDDY HIELD

Grade: B

Stats: 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 season; team option for 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Give the Kings hope they found their shooting guard of the future after being acquired from New Orleans.

Comment: It’s not his team yet, but Hield did show he can be a scorer and dangerous 3-point shooter as he was in his college days. He averaged 15.1 points and shot 42.8 percent on 3-pointers for the Kings. That makes him a key piece to what the Kings want to build.

KOSTA KOUFOS

Grade: C

Stats: 6.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; player option for 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Rebound, defend and set good screens.

Comment: Koufos did his job all season without complaining. That included being held out of games to give minutes to Cauley-Stein and Papagiannis after the Cousins trade. With his veteran presence and relatively low salary next season ($8.4 million), he could be a player the Kings look to trade.

SKAL LABISSIERE

Grade: C+

Stats: 8.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; team option for 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Get bigger, stronger and spend a lot of time in the D-League.

Comment: The rookie showed flashes during summer league that he could be a player, but his lack of strength and experience was evident. Spending most of the first half in the D-League and getting a chance to play after the Cousins trade, Labissiere showed his expanding offensive game. He still needs to get stronger or he’ll continue to be pushed around on the court.

TY LAWSON

Grade: B-

Stats: 9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists.

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

2016-17 season expectations: Solidify the backup point guard spot.

Comment: Lawson exceeded expectations and closed out many victories for the Kings. Popular among his teammates, he proved he can still play in the league after a rough 2015-16 season. He could end up returning next season because the Kings will need to keep at least one experienced point guard on the roster.

BEN McLEMORE

Grade: C

Stats: 8.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists.

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent if Kings do not extend qualifying offer.

2016-17 season expectations: Build on the progress shown last summer and be ready to play in a pinch.

Comment: McLemore’s season was much like his Kings’ tenure: up-and-down. He struggled as a starter and fell out of the rotation more than once. With the guards now on the roster, McLemore’s time in Sacramento is likely over.

GEORGIOS PAPAGIANNIS

Grade: C-

Stats: 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; team option for 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Get in better shape and spend a lot of time in the D-League.

Comment: Only 19, the youngest King still has a lot of work to do before he can be counted on to be a steady contributor. He made strides as a rookie in terms of conditioning and gained some experience in Reno. Teammates add that he’s got a mean streak, too.

MALACHI RICHARDSON

Grade: INC

Stats: 3.6 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; team option for 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Play a lot in D-League and possibly crack the Kings’ rotation at some point.

Comment: Richardson had made strides and was in the rotation when a hamstring injury ended his season Feb. 15. This summer will be big for Richardson, who now has Hield to compete with for playing time next season.

GARRETT TEMPLE

Grade: A

Stats: 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18; player option for 2018-19.

2016-17 season expectations: Serve as a defender, facilitator and calming influence in the locker room and on the court.

Comment: Temple was everything the Kings hoped he’d be in the locker room. On the court, he was one of the better perimeter defenders and someone who could play point guard, too.

ANTHONY TOLLIVER

Grade: B

Stats: 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists.

Contract status: Signed through 2018-19, $2 million guarantee next season.

2016-17 season expectations: Provide 3-point shooting and flexibility at either forward spot off the bench.

Comment: Tolliver had to wait to find his way into the rotation, but shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range, which was a positive. He also became one of the trusted veterans after the Cousins trade. The Kings could pay his guaranteed $2 million next season and release him.

DAVE JOERGER

Grade: B

Stats: 31-51 record

Contract status: Signed through 2018-19; team option for 2019-20.

2016-17 season expectations: Establish stability and a style of play to fit the roster after a turbulent season under George Karl.

Comment: Joerger got the most out of the Kings, especially given the circumstances. He began the season with a veteran team and had it within 1 1/2 games of the playoffs at the All-Star break. The Cousins trade forced Joerger and his staff to change their approach, yet the coaches still got the most out of the rebuilt roster in terms of improvement and player development.

VLADE DIVAC

Grade: C

2016-17 season expectations: Establish a true direction for the franchise and make moves that fall in line with that vision.

Comment: The Kings began the season looking like a team that didn’t know if it was building for the future or trying to win now. There were three rookies on the team, but the team was stocked with veterans who were focused on winning. The team deserves props for the Joerger hire, but the results of the Cousins deal are yet to be determined. Basing hope off of 25 games that on many nights amounted to glorified preseason play is not enough to declare the Kings on the right track. But at least the team is finally on a clear path.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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