Programming note: Coverage of Warriors-Kings starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Kings Pregame Live (territorial restrictions apply)
Sacramento Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive made one thing very clear at Media Day a few weeks back.
“Last year wasn’t about wins and losses. This year is," he said.
When asked by Comcast SportsNet California how many wins are needed for him to be satisfied, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur replied, “I would rather not commit but it has to be better than last year.”
Coming off back-to-back 28 win seasons, many questions are looming for the Kings.
[FAST FORWARD: Four musts for Kings to upset Warriors]
1) Will DeMarcus Cousins emulate his streak of 22 games last season without a technical foul and reach his goal of five or less for the entire season? Or will on-court indiscretions prevent him from realizing his full potential as the best big man in the NBA?
Just 24 years old, Cousins is coming off of his best statistical season yet, averaging 22.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in his fourth NBA campaign.
2) Opting in at $19.3 million this season, what is Rudy Gay's long-term contract status in California’s capital city?
After being acquired from Toronto in December last season, his field goal percentage increased from 38.8 percent with the Raptors, to 48.2 percent with the Kings.
Real estate agents in Sacramento would be wise to have Gay in the sales funnel but perhaps it’s premature to spend the commission check.
The Kings struggled mightily last season, finishing 24th in points allowed at 103.4 points per game. Improvement here has to occur for a Sacramento turnaround.
For a blueprint, look no further than Charlotte who went from 29th in 2012-13, to 4th in the NBA in points allowed last season, leading to +22 in the win column.
Sharing the ball, “winning time” and downtown shooting
Last season Sacramento was last in the NBA in assists per game and lost 16 games by six points or less. With the departure of Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 20 points and six assists per game, and the signings of veteran point guards, Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions, the Kings are looking for improved offensive efficiency, plus better decision making at critical junctures of games -- "winning time."
The Kings were tied for 27th in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 33 percent last season.
Ben McLemore must improve in year two, and rookie Nik Stauskas, a 44 percent three point shooter at Michigan, will be counted on.
Treacherous terrain exists early in the schedule for Sacramento’s roster of 13 new players that were not in training camp last year.
Seven of the Kings first ten opponents were playoff teams a year ago.
However, if head coach Michael Malone is successful inculcating his “play for each other mentality” both offensively and defensively, a modest improvement to 36-46 representing +8 in the win column is realistic.
That’s probably enough for GM Pete D’Alessandro and Malone to satisfy Ranadive and to continue rebuilding the Kings in the extremely tough Western Conference of the NBA.