The Kings will be looking to open the 2016-2017 season, their first in the Golden1 Center, with a bang. However, they will open the year with a big question mark at point guard and a potentially more troubling one at small forward. Darren Collison will miss the first eight games of the season due to a suspension for a domestic violence incident, and Rudy Gay has been openly pleading for a trade in the lead-up to the start of the season. Here is a look at Sacramento's first week of the NBA season.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 at 10:00 PM ET Away
The Kings will open their season on the road against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. They are facing another team that failed to make the playoffs last season and will have a good chance at beginning their season with a win. Phoenix will have Eric Bledsoe back in the lineup after Bledsoe missed most of the season following a meniscus tear in his left knee. The Kings will be starting Ty Lawson; according to Kings beat reporter Jason Jones, Lawson is expecting to play 30 -40 minutes a night while Collison is out. Lawson will have to approach the level of play he displayed in 2014-2015 in what will be an incredibly important first couple of weeks for the future of his career, but he will have a lot of trouble trying to contain Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a defensive stalwart with great bounce and foot speed that can compete with Lawson's, and he will be able to push Lawson around on both ends of the floor.
The matchup to watch in this game will be at center, with DeMarcus Cousins facing the tandem of Tyson Chandler and Alex Len. Chandler did not play up to his usual defensive standards last season and will open the year with a huge challenge on that end in trying to contain Cousins. Len will be more difficult for DeMarcus to handle on the defensive end, but Cousins should be able to put up big numbers against a Phoenix frontcourt that will probably start 6'7" Jared Dudley as the power forward alongside the Chandler/Len duo.
San Antonio Spurs
Thursday, 27 October 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
The Kings' home opener (barring preseason) will be on Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs. Sacramento will have a big challenge in their home opener against a team that won 67 games last season. Unfortunately, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan will not be on the court for the first time in 19 seasons, but the Spurs still have a formidable frontcourt with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol up front. DeMarcus Cousins may be able to feast on the offensive end if guarded by Gasol, but LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid defender and big enough at 6'11" to contest Cousins on the block.
The matchup to watch in this game will be at small forward, where Rudy Gay will face reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. Until and unless Rudy is traded this season, he will presumably be Sacramento's second option offensively, and he will have a difficult time scoring against Leonard. On the opposite side of the floor, Kawhi has improved quite dramatically on offense every year he has been in the NBA, and he may have an even bigger scoring role this season. The Kings will have difficulty scoring against last year's top defense; while replacing Duncan with Gasol will hurt the Spurs on that end of the floor, they still have the pieces to disrupt Sacramento's offense and give them an uphill battle to a win in their home opener.
Saturday, 29 October 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
The Kings finish off the first week of the 2016-2017 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota is also bringing a new head coach into town in Tom Thibodeau, and a worthy rival for DeMarcus Cousins in fellow standout Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns' Rookie of the Year campaign last year was arguably the best rookie season since Tim Duncan's First Team All-NBA performance in 1997, and Towns is a threat to score from any area on the floor. Andrew Wiggins averaged 20 points per game last season as well, and Zach LaVine made a big leap in his sophomore season and looks poised to have a big year in 2017.
The matchup to watch in this game will be the battle between Cousins and Towns, but the outcome of the game may swing on the shooting guard battle between Arron Afflalo and Zach LaVine. Keeping Wiggins and Towns in check offensively is a nearly insurmountable challenge, but Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins can match their scoring outputs. If Afflalo can prevent Zach LaVine from getting hot, the Kings will have a solid chance to win the game, but if LaVine starts canning open 3-point looks the Wolves may be difficult to overcome.