Golden State Warriors (34-6) vs. Sacramento Kings (16-26)
7:30 p.m. PST
Oracle Arena - Oakland, CA
TV: CSN BA | Radio: KNBR 680
Buddy blog: Sactown Royalty
While the Golden State Warriors are at the very least having one of the best regular seasons ever if not yet worthy of being considered one of the best teams ever -- rings matter -- the Sacramento Kings are an $800 million "massive managerial failure".
So perhaps you'll forgive me for believing that the most interesting thing about tonight's game between the Warriors and Kings is the presence of a pair of 2015 NBA All-Star hopefuls who are core pieces for their respective teams: Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins.
With the All-Star starters being released yesterday, we'll know next week whether Cousins or Thompson made the team as reserves; in the meantime, fans and analysts will both come to terms with the fact of Kobe Bryant being named a starter in this season and debate the merits of the many candidates for spots on the bench.
For Thompson, the argument for his inclusion on the team is so clear that there's not much need to examine, as described by Andre Iguodala in a Nate Stuhlbarg article at CSN Bay Area. That's why you see so many people leaving him off their lists of reserves despite having some rather prominent advocates in the national media.
Charles Barkely, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith all agree that Klay Thompson will be named one of the Western Conference's seven reserves— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) January 23, 2015
The problem is a list of rival candidates that includes Mike Conley, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook, all of whom are deserving individuals in their own right -- that's not even to mention the likes of Monta Ellis or Tony Parker, who some believe are putting together seasons that would be worthy of consideration in any normal season in any normal conference that wasn't so stacked with talent.
Thompson's best bet is probably being picked as an injury replacement for Bryant, which would still leave a deserving player on the outside looking in -- this isn't really about Thompson's talent not being recognized as much as the coaches having to make an extremely difficult decision about leaving someone out.
Easy win-win: coaches vote for LaMarcus Aldridge, then Adam Silver names Klay Thompson & Kevin Durant as replacements for Kobe Bryant & LMA— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 23, 2015
Despite being on a less successful team, Cousins arguably has the easier path to a spot on the roster -- both (Sacramento Kings fan) Tom Ziller and Paul Flannery of SB Nation consider him a no-brainer and, as Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports notes, LaMarcus Aldridge's misfortune might aid in Cousins finding good fortune. Maybe someone somewhere will debate whether a player on a losing team can really be considered among the league's best, but it's sort of silly to blame Cousins for management's failures.
Bringing this back to tonight's game, Cousins represents the biggest threat to the league's most dominant team right now. Cousins is among the league's top rebounders by percentage this season and has the tools to make life difficult for just about any frontcourt in the league. With Cousins as their centerpiece, the Kings' primary advantage in this matchup is their rebounding ability, an area of relative weakness for the Warriors that has gotten considerably less attention than the more glaringly troublesome turnovers.
If the Warriors are as good as we've rightfully come to believe they are, this should be an easy win in which Cousins might indeed display the full array of his All-Star talent while the Thompson is one of many highlights for a victorious Warriors squad.