Lakers vs. Kings Game Preview: Preseason Continues In Sin City

Lakers PreseasonThursday night, the Lakers will face off against their former Northern California rivals in the City of Sin. The Lakers will continue to test out the new players on their roster and focus on implementing Mike D’Antoni’s offense. It’ll also be another conditioning game for Pau and Nash as they gradually get into game shape.

The Kings project as a below average team in the Western Conference this year, but the Lakers might not be much better. New coach for the Kings, Mike Malone, is known for emphasizing defense which is something the Kings have sorely lacked in recent years. It’ll be interesting to see if he can convince these relatively undisciplined Kings to play hard-nosed defense.

Frontcourt: Fresh off of a four-year maximum contract extension worth approximately $62 million, DeMarcus Cousins has the full vote of confidence from new Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive. Cousins has shown that he might be one the NBA’s best young big men, but struggles with behavioral issues which has resulted in multiple suspensions from his team and the league. If he can get it together, Cousins could be a potential force for the Kings.

While the Kings lack depth at the center position, they do have a plethora of power forwards on the roster (five to be exact). The rotation obviously hasn’t been set, but the starting job is Jason Thompson’s to lose. Thompson started 81 games for the Kings last season posting 11 points and 6.7 boards. Defensively, he’s been underwhelming which is something Mike Malone will seek to change.

Backcourt: Rookie Ben McLemore made his NBA debut on Monday night against the Warriors. He totaled 13 points and three treys on 50 percent shooting. Once heralded as a top three pick, McLemore ultimately fell to the Kings at seventh overall. He doesn’t have to be great from the get go since the Kings has Marcus Thornton, but if McLemore proves he deserves the playing time, the Kings will surely give it to him. Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to dump Thornton’s salary at some point this season (he’s currently the King’s highest paid player with $8.05 million on the books).

Future starting point guard Greivis Vasquez is still recovering from ankle surgery and will not play in tonight’s game. Which means Isaiah Thomas retains his starting role for now. Thomas is a diminutive shoot-first point guard, who averaged 14 points and four assists per game last season.

Since wins in the preseason are about as meaningful as winning in a local YMCA pick-up game, we’ll focus on things to look for rather than keys to victory in the following section.

Things to Look For:
Efficiency on Offense – The Lakers shooting woes continue. They dipped below 40 percent from the field in the past two games. And the 41.2 percent shooting in the first game of preseason wasn’t exactly stellar either. Look for the Lakers to have good ball movement to create wide open looks. Here’s an idea for a drinking game: drink a shot every time Nick Young dribbles out the shot clock, then shots a contested jumper.

Who Will Make the Final Cut? With Boateng and Gadzuric cut, the Lakers roster has been trimmed to 17. The team will need to release at least two more players before the season begins. One would surmise that Ryan Kelly will make the roster despite the fact that he hasn’t played a single game yet. The three-point shooting big man was tailor drafted to fit D’Antoni’s system.

Which begs the question: Who will ultimately make the final roster between Shawne Williams, Marcus Landry or Elias Harris? Of the three, veteran Williams has probably impressed the most. He seems primed to provide legitimate depth off of the bench. On the other hand, Landry has struggled immensely with his shot shooting just 27.2 percent over the past three games. Harris hasn’t been given much playing time, so you would think that he’s in danger of being let go.

Is Xavier for Real? After a 29 point explosion in the opening game of preaseason, Xavier has tapered off a bit, scoring just 7 points in game three. His average over the first three games is a very respectable 17 ppg. D’Antoni is giving Xavier the minutes (21+) to prove his worth. If the former 12th overall pick pans out, it would be a huge win for the Lakers because he would provide depth at shooting guard. Until Kobe’s return, the shooting guard slot will be very thin. Even after Kobe returns, the Lakers will need someone who can slot in as a reliable backup for the aging superstar.

Sacramento Kings (0-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (2-1)
7:00 PM PST, October 10, 2013
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV
TV: TWC SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 ESPNLA

Kings Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Marcus Thornton
SF: John Salmons
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins

Key Reserves: PF Patrick Patterson, PF Chuck Hayes, PF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, SG Ben McLemore

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Mike D’Antoni says Kobe will see plenty of time as a small forward this season

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