Guest Post: Ranking the Sacramento Kings’ top three position battles

Photo: James Ham

Editor’s Note: We were originally planning a 3-on-3 roundtable on this topic. But since our friend section214 of Sactown Royalty fame (who we invited to participate) wrote three, extensive and well-thought responses, we figured we’d run his work as an entire guest post .

Hey, thanks for inviting me over to the Kingdom. The offices here are much more plush than that dungeon TZ has us writing out of. And the brandy and cigars are a very nice touch. I guess “Insider” sales must be pretty brisk.

I’ve given this subject a lot of thought, and by that I mean that I really have not given it much thought at all. But a gig’s a gig, and as this helps meet the requirements of my work release program, I appreciate the opportunity.

The third most intriguing position battle this year is the battle for minutes at small forward. Yes, the Kings traded down three spots and jettisoned the Yeti so that we could once again be treated to John Salmons, but I think this may be the position where Paul Westphal most gets his mad scientist on. While Salmons is probably the best defender of the bunch, he is also 6-6, so we may see spells of Donté Greene against bigger 3’s such as Kevin Durant (good luck with that one, Doratio). You have to figure that Francisco Garcia will get a few minutes here as well. The wrinkle is that Westphal could opt to go with a 3-guard rotation of Jimmer(!) Fredette(!!!), Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton (or Nick Young or J.J. Barea or Rodney Stuckey or whoever else we have been rumored or will soon be rumored to have interest in). This setup would give some minutes to Evans at the small forward position, at least on the defensive end. The good news is that this means that we should never, ever, EVER see Jason Thompson at the 3 again. The bad news is that if you are a Tyler Honeycutt fan, you’re going to have to be satisfied critiquing his suits, as the kid probably sits outside of the 12 active player spots unless/until someone gets hurt.

The second most intriguing position battle is Jimmer Fredette vs. the world. There are those that have already anointed Jimmer as the best point guard on the team, while others feel that he is the best shooter on the squad. This only goes to show how good Fredette really is – he has not played a nano second of NBA ball, and he is already better than Tyreke Evans and/or Marcus Thornton according to some circles. I have to figure that Evans and Thornton (yes, I’m banking on the Kings re-signing MT23) will eat up two-thirds of the backcourt minutes (with Evans getting a few more minutes at small forward), so Fredette could be in line to pull down about 20-25 minutes a night, with the balance going to Garcia or Isaiah Thomas depending on the situation. But whatever Jimmer does, it will likely get more national pub than anything that the Kings do, at least until the team becomes a relevant playoff contender. He has that cultish following, and it will only grow if he gets off to a hot start.

But the most intriguing position battle for me is up front, where DeMarcus Cousins will square off against DeMarcus Cousins. Yeah, yeah, we’ll also have Marc Gasol (sources say) or Tyson Chandler (ditto) or Nene (tritto) or Chris Kaman or Samuel Dalembert or Chuck Hayes or Elvin Hayes or Isaac Hayes. But watching Cousins battle himself this year will be the matchup of 2012. The hopes are so high for him, it’s hard to believe that he can possibly meet fan expectations. Given that he is still a pup that was given to bouts of immaturity acting his age as recently as the end of last season, and given that the lockout could not have come at a worse time for him, and given that he will have a very short time to acquaint himself with some new rotation teammates (crucial for a big man that fashions himself a facilitator), I could very easily see Cousins getting off to a slow and frustrating start. Add into that the referees will also be rusty from the layoff and will be carrying with them a month and a half of unused personal and technical fouls, and our young hero could be in for the toughest stretch of his fledgling career. But if he can survive the start, he could begin to display enough consistency to have us licking our chops over his 2012-13 season. The biggest hope is that he has matured at least enough to avoid Westphal’s doghouse, and that his season is filled with a combination of success and learning moments.

And 1 – If the Kings make good on signing another viable big, I think that Jason Thompson’s stay in Sacramento may near its end. At $3-million for this year, JT is an affordable bench big for contending, cap-strapped teams. I could see the Kings landing a latter 1st round pick for him, and this next draft promises to be a deep one. If Cousins, J.J. Hickson and (insert name of new big man here) are all healthy at the trade deadline, JT could be headed for other pastures.

Well, I think that’s it. I’d like to go on, but I’d like to get back to the green room before Santiago polishes off the last of the fun-size Snickers. Thanks for hospitality, guys. Go Kings!