As the oldest franchise in the league, the Kings took a long, circuitous and usually disappointing route to their current home in Sacramento.
Established as the Rochester Seagrams in 1923, the then Rochester Royals became a charter NBA franchise in 1949. After stops in Cincinnati, Kansas City and (sometimes) Omaha, the team landed in Sacramento in 1985.
While the depth of historical talent doesn’t match the team’s longevity, the Kings’ all-time starting five is formidable. After some excruciating cuts were made, the Kings can still run out a super fun, if slightly unorthodox, all-time squad. Here we go.
POINT GUARD – NATE “TINY” ARCHIBALD (1970-1976)
The diminutive Archibald played seven seasons between Cincinnati and Kansas City, and he remains the only player in NBA history to lead the league in both assists per game and points per game in the same season. During his scintillating 1973 run, Tiny went off for 34.0 points per game and 11.4 assists per game with an astounding assist percentage of 38.9 percent.
A dynamic presence in the open court, Archibald didn’t possess – or necessarily need – deep range – yet was deadly from everywhere else and found myriad ways to score at the basket. A three-time All-NBA First Teamer with the Kings, Tiny compiled Win Share totals
of 12.9, 14.2, 2.3 (injured) and 11.2 from 1972-1975.
He was the rare breed of true point guard who could also score at will. Archibald will never be confused with a defensive stopper, but that leads me to the next member of the Kings’ all-time starting five…
SHOOTING GUARD – OSCAR ROBERTSON (1960-1970)
We’ll slot the Big O at shooting guard, but let’s be honest – I’m running a two point-guard offense. Maybe we’ll employ a lot of Jack McKinney fast break concepts.
Anyway, while he was predominantly a Cincinnati Royal, Robertson is the greatest “King” of all time. In his 10 years with the franchise, he was First Team All-NBA nine times. He led the league in assists six of those years. During his Rookie of the Year campaign, he averaged 30/10.1/9.7. The next year he averaged a triple-double. His numbers are so good it seems almost unnecessary to list them (Cumulative 189 Win Shares.
WS/48 of .207 – even with no season over .200 from 1968-74).
Instead let’s focus on Robertson the player. At 6’5, 220, he’s a throwback who I have no doubt could transition to today’s game. In fact, the “throwback” designation is inappropriate. He was a unicorn – a do-it-all big guard who was the first of his kind. Like Russell, Magic or LeBron, the league hadn’t seen anyone like him. He might not be able to put up the same rebounding numbers in today’s NBA, but I wouldn’t put it past him.
As a bonus, he’s our de facto locker-room leader. His teammates will love him. As president of the NBPA, he fought in court to ensure certain free agency rights. He’s not only an all-time Royal/King. He’s an all-timer. Period.
Richmond is essentially a prototypical modern shooting guard, so let me take a minute to explain my roster decisions. One spot was left to be filled and I was either going small with Archibald or big with Jerry Lucas. Due to dynamic uptempo possibilities and scoring oomph, I went with Tiny. Lucas, a relentless rebounder, had a great career with the Royals, but he’d limit the team’s offensive potential. Furthermore, Lucas entered the league with rickety knees. Archibald didn’t have his career altering Achilles injury until after he left Kansas City. Plus, small ball is all the rage and I’m really into #trends.
As for Richmond, I’ll always have a warm spot for him. Not limited to his exciting time as a member of the Warriors’ “Run TMC” crew, I loved him as far back as his Kansas State days for some reason (I have zero KSU allegiance). While our dynamo backcourt will be the engine of the offense, we need a floor stretcher. That’s Richmond – a smooth shooter with deep range (topping out at 43.7 percent from beyond the arc in 1996). But Mitch was also much more. With 20,000+ career points, I get chills thinking about Richmond filling the lane on the break, floating to the wing or finishing near the rim.
In seven seasons with Sacramento, he was a six-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA Second Team player. A guy who will know his role, he’s perfect on the wing for this all-time Kings team. In 2014, Richmond was finally tapped for deserved entry into the Hall of Fame.
POWER FORWARD – CHRIS WEBBER (1998-2005)
If Mitch Richmond
was the first star to call Sacramento home, Chris Webber
was the first to make the Sacto Kings relevant. After being traded from the Wizards (coincidentally for Richmond and Otis Thorpe), the uber-talented Webber found his best years in central California.
Like Robertson, Webber was an elite multi-faceted player (career averages of 20.7/9.8/4.2) who could fill various roles on the court. While he stopped shooting a lot of three-pointers by the time he got to Sacramento, Webber certainly had excellent range for a big fella and in today’s NBA could do a lot of things asked of stretch 4s while also being a demon to defend in the post and on the break.
I can also imagine Webber running some traditional hi-lo stuff with the final member of our all-time five.
What? You were expecting someone else? With all due respect to franchise big guys like Thorpe, Wayman Tisdale and Vlade Divac
, none can hold a candle to the talent possessed by the sometimes petulant Kings center.
Coming off a 24 and 13 season, Cousins is cementing his status as one of the best young big men in the game. While his game certainly needs some work when it comes to shot selection and occasional defensive lapses, it should be noted that Cousins is only 24. The criticisms of his makeup often seem valid, but front office ineptitude should be taken into account before coming down too hard on any of the current Kings. It’s been a long time since the Kings mattered, and hopefully this transcendent talent can spend his prime in Sacramento and help this team find some semblance of success. But in the meantime, he has a spot on the Kings’ all-time starting five.
So there you have it. The Kings deserves a lot of the ridicule they receive. All things considered, it’s definitely a bottom five NBA franchise. However, I have to think this is a borderline top 10 all-time squad.
Previous all-time starting fives: Bulls, Pistons, Thunder-Sonics, Magic, Mavericks, Heat, Lakers, Wizards, Pacers, Raptors, Knicks, Bucks, Nuggets, Celtics, Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans-Hornets-Jazz, Clippers, Jazz, Spurs, Suns