Sacramento Kings: 5 Players Who Must Step Up In 2013-14

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5 Players Who Must Step Up For Sacramento Kings In 2013-14

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As week two of training camp continues for the Sacramento Kings in Santa Barbara, one thing is certain: this is a new team with a new attitude. Head coach Michael Malone has made sure of that. But if the wins are to pile up in the cap city, Malone will have to squeeze the absolute most out of this roster. Which players will be counted on in order for the Kings to turn things around?

There were definitely some Kings players that deserve honorable mention here. Players like Jimmer Fredette, who fail at every attempt to sustain a role on this team. Jimmer even failed at a 3-point contest against some UCSB students and Hall-of-Famer Chris Mullin. With the trade winds swirling as well, I felt he was a safe omission. Marcus Thornton only needs to come close to matching his numbers from last year (14 PPG) in order to have an impact, but more would definitely be appreciated.

Jimmer and the Bomber are joined by Chuck Hayes as well. Though he will not be counted on offensively, he was profiled in my 15-man roster as having another type of effect on the Kings. But, it was not enough to warrant a spot on this list.

There are also some Kings inheriting messes and therefore should be off the hook here. Carl Landry is a savvy vet that came over in free agency and should be able to give the Kings good minutes off the bench while developing a role as a leader. That same thought process applies to Greivis Vasquez as well, as he just needs to come close to his production in New Orleans to be effective. That's an easy goal with a possible start at point guard. Landry and Vasquez weren't there for the mess, but those two are in it for the rebuild -- an exciting time in Sacramento.

So, who's on the list? Well some familiar faces, that's for sure. You can view the top five after the jump.

Karim Akbar is a Sacramento Kings writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kuhreem , “Like” his RantSports page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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5. John Salmons

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

John Salmons could have easily made it onto the honorable mention portion of this list, but I think he has potential to be a solid contributor for Sacramento this season. And what other Kings player has struggled more in his role on the team since he was brought over by Petrie? It's Salmons. Listen, I love the guy, but his stroke is erratic (39 percent shooting) and he makes some pretty boneheaded plays as well. But really, the Kings still don't have an answer at the small forward position and Salmons must be that stopgap.

To his credit, Salmons has actually improved somewhat. Salmons had 7.8 points per game in 2012. If he can improve on his 8.8 points per game from last season with a stable rotation under him, he will give Sacramento a chance to win every night.

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4. Isaiah Thomas

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas found himself running the offense for most of the year, but was benched in favor of veteran Aaron Brooks. Brooks is gone, but Thomas may still find himself coming off the bench. Greivis Vasquez was brought over in a sign-and-trade, and all signs point to Vasquez coming out of training camp with the starting job.

But Thomas has played it cool and maintains that he and Vasquez get along 'just fine'. That had better be true because I don't foresee Thomas taking the job from Greivis at this point. Vasquez has a great assist-to-turnover ratio, so Thomas must be the floor general when Vasquez heads to the bench, and provide a spark with his quickness and ability to wreak havoc in the lane.

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3. Ben McLemore

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of DeMarcus Cousins, no Kings player under contract is being counted on more than Ben McLemore. The Kings were able to land McLemore in this year's draft, and many considered it risky but a great steal. McLemore comes highly regarded, and we've seen his sweet stroke in action this summer.

But it's different when the games start to matter. McLemore showed his poise and ability to overcome a slow start and get hot. He will have to carry that into this season and give this team a solid scoring option from deep. If McLemore does that (most likely in a backup role) he can be the difference in the Kings' win column this season.

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2. Jason Thompson

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Thompson has survived the rumors and can rest easy as he was offered a qualifying contract last season and will remain under contract this season. However, it's been a roller coaster ride for Thompson. He hasn't necessarily been a bust, but he hasn't been spectacular either. Thompson's numbers (10.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG) seem pretty solid on paper, but we just need to see more -- can Jason Thompson take that next step in his game?

That progression is what the Kings want to see this season for JT, as an increase in offensive production will make the Kings' frontline formidable down low.

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1. DeMarcus Cousins

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With the ink still drying on his multi-year deal, DeMarcus Cousins is without a doubt the face of the Kings 3.0. The $62 million deal has set aside any bad blood with the team, and management seems to support Cousins 100 percent. Cousins had solid numbers last year (17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG) will be counted on to duplicate and break those figures.

With Vasquez already building chemistry with Cousins, it's evident the big man has the chance to have an All-Star worthy season. That would ensure the Kings are at the very least in playoff contention talk.

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