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Predicting Sacramento Kings' Opening Day Rotation

Branden FitzPatrickCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2012

Predicting Sacramento Kings' Opening Day Rotation

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    The Sacramento Kings have options. With such a wide range of players, the Kings have choices for their opening-day rotation. 

    With the signing of point guard Aaron Brooks, the re-signing of forward Jason Thompson and the drafting of forward Thomas Robinson, the Kings have the pieces in order to make a serious run for a postseason spot. 

    Of course, seasons aren't defined by the way a team's lineup looks in the preseason. The Kings have more talent than in years past, but will they play well together? Do they have too many shoot-hungry guards? It all depends on the way head coach Keith Smart picks his lineups.

    Here is a list of the Kings' lineup that will likely start the NBA season. Obviously the lineup is not set in stone. Smart will try out many combinations to see which ones play the best together. 

    Note: Take a look at They have a list of which five-man rotations were the most successful on the court together.

Starting Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas

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    Isaiah Thomas, the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft, emerged as a locker-room leader for the Kings in his rookie season.

    Thomas is a natural leader. He was a team leader at the University of Washington and has brought his leadership qualities to the pro game as well. Leadership just comes naturally to him.

    One way to build team continuity is to spend time together in the offseason. It's much easier to play well together when the players know each other's ins and outs. Later this month, Thomas has organized a weeklong team practice and hang out with members of the Kings' roster. 

    Thomas will likely start the 2012-23 season as the starting point guard for the Kings because of his leadership qualities and familiarity with the team. Aaron Brooks is probably the better all-around player, but being new to the roster, he won't have the same chemistry as Thomas.

    Thomas may be small, but he makes a big impact. He will be ready to lead this Kings' squad once the season starts. 

    Job Security: Thomas should begin the season as the starting point guard but eventually could be replaced by Brooks. Not a knock on Thomas. He could play a role similar to what Bobby Jackson used to play for the Kings. 

Starting Shooting Guard: Tyreke Evans

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    The biggest question mark on the Kings' roster is Tyreke Evans.

    Evans has the talent to be among the league's best wing players but needs to figure out how to put it all together. His jump shot is poor and has a tendency to become a black hole. According to, Evans shot only 31 percent from jump shots in 2011-12. Jump shots accounted for 4.6 of his 16.5 points per game average. Not good. 

    What Evans does have going for him is his breathtaking ability in the open court. His large frame, 6'6" and 220 pounds, makes it easy for Evans to cut through the lane.

    Evans needs to learn that every time he gets into the lane doesn't mean it's a smart option to shoot. When Evans attacks the basket, defenders close in, leaving teammates open. Evans must use his driving ability to his advantage.

    Evans is a wild card for the Kings. If he does improve, the Kings could have a legitimate show to compete for a spot in the postseason. 

    2012-13 will be Evans' most important season in the NBA. This is the last year of his deal and he has a lot to prove if he wants a long-term contract. Evans may be better suited in a new environment. It has to be tough on him to go from the franchise player to just another guy on the team.   

    Job Security: Evans is tricky. He isn't a point guard, but he's also not a small forward because he can't shoot well enough. It's tough to imagine Evans ever coming off the bench, though, because in terms of pure talent, he's the Kings' second best player.

Starting Small Forward: James Johnson

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    This was a sneaky good acquisition for the Kings. James Johnson is not a household name, but he put up solid numbers as a member for the Toronto Raptors.

    The Kings acquired Johnson in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2014. The Kings desperately needed a small forward last season. Johnson averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 points per game in 2011-12. Starting for the Kings, Johnson will likely be the fifth option, but that's okay because he doesn't need to score to be effective.

    Johnson will give the Kings a huge starting lineup alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, an advantage that they could definitely use.    

    Job Security: Not great. Evans could be moved back to small forward in order to make room for Marcus Thornton in the starting lineup.  

Starting Power Forward: Jason Thompson

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    Re-signing Jason Thompson was another smart move by Geoff Petrie. 

    Thompson is more of a finesse power forward. Forty-three percent of his shots were jump shots compared to 57 percent being inside.

    Thompson can still go in the post and rebound, though. In 2011-12, Thompson averaged 6.9 rebounds per game. Alongside Cousins, the two have become an efficient rebounding combination.

    Thompson will likely start over rookie lottery pick Thomas Robinson right away. Thompson is a NBA veteran and has shown he is capable of starting in the past. Robinson may be a high draft pick, but power forwards usually experience rough learning curves. Expect Thompson to start. 

    Job Security: Depends on Robinson. If Robinson impresses early, he will likely take Thompson's starting job. If Robinson struggles out of the gate, Thompson will continue to start to take the pressure off him. 

Starting Center: DeMarcus Cousins

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    There's no denying DeMarcus Cousins' talent. If he can continue to improve, the Kings will compete for a spot in the postseason.

    Yet there are still questions about Cousins. Is he ready to become the leader of the Kings? He says he is, but words and actions are two different things. 

    The drafting of Robinson was a blessing in disguise for Cousins. As it always must be said, if Robinson develops, it'll free Cousins up in the low post to do his work. There aren't many big guys in the league that have the athleticism, rebounding prowess and offensive touch of Cousins. He will be a  truly special talent as long as he keeps his head on straight.

    The 2012-13 Kings will go as far as Cousins takes them. It's a scary thought, but if you believe he's ready, then expect big things from the kings this season. 

    Job Security: There's no way Cousins won't start at any point this season unless he's injured or suspended.  

Sixth Man: Marcus Thornton

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    It wasn't Cousins or Evans who led the Kings in scoring in 2011-12. Nope, it was Marcus Thornton, who averaged an impressive 18.7 points per game. 

    Thornton struggled with some injury issues this past season but still managed to consistently score at a high rate. 

    The issue with trotting Thornton out in the starting lineup is there's only one ball on the court. Thomas, Thornton and Evans are all scoring guards. Along with Cousins, the Kings would start four guys looking to shoot first. That's not a healthy lineup.

    If Thornton comes off the bench, he could be the No. 1 scoring option on the second unit, similar to James Harden on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not starting doesn't have to mean Thornton won't close games. If Thornton gets hot, there are not many opposing guards in the league that can slow him down. 

    Job Security: May not start the season, but could be thrust into the starting lineup if Evans starts the season slow. 

Backup Point Guard: Aaron Brooks

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    Signing Aaron Brooks is the best move general manger Geoff Petrie has made in a long time. 

    In case people have forgot, Brooks is a really good point guard. In 2009-10, Brooks averaged 19.6 points per game for the Houston Rockets.

    Last year, Brooks played in China. He signed before the NBA lockout had ended and was prevented to join the Phoenix Suns until his team's season had ended. Brooks' Guangdong Southern Tigers lost in the championship game to the Beijing Ducks.

    The Sacramento Kings reported Brooks signed for two years, $6 million. Huge bargain. He's potentially a starting point guard who still has youth.

    It will take Brooks a few weeks to get comfortable with the Kings' players and readjust to the NBA game. Therefore, Thomas will probably start the season at the point. 

    Job Security: May not start right away, but Thomas' leash will be short. Coach Smart will adjust the lineups to see which is most effective, so expect Brooks to start at some point this season.

Backup Power Forward: Thomas Robinson

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    The Kings were ready to trade their fifth pick in the 2012 NBA draft until Thomas Robinson fell to them.

    Pairing Robinson with Cousins is potentially the greatest thing that's ever happened to the Kings' franchise. Potentially, because it's not a guarantee Robinson will become a big-time player.

    Just because a player is a top-five pick doesn't mean he'll go on to have a successful NBA career. Hopefully for the Kings, Robinson will. 

    Robinson likely won't start right away because of the steep learning curve of the power forward position. It's a tough world in the low post, and it will take time for Robinson to adjust. 

    Smartly, the Kings re-signed Thompson to take the pressure off Robinson. The three post players (Thompson, Cousins and Robinson) will give the Kings an athletic, efficient frontcourt on a nightly basis. 

    Job Security: Due to inexperience, Robinson will probably start the season off the bench. If Robinson starts strong, Coach Smart will be quick to replace Thompson in the starting lineup with Robinson. The only way for a young player to improve is more playing time. 

Backup Center-Power Forward: Chuck Hayes

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    Chuck Hayes is another wild card for the Kings. Will he or will he not perform for the Kings this season?

    Hayes is undersized but knows how to use his body to his advantage. He averaged 8.1 rebounds and shot 52 percent from the field for the Rockets in 2010-11. 

    2011-12 was a different story for Hayes. His production plummeted in his first season with the Kings, averaging only 3.2 points and 4.3 per game. Hayes looked out of shape and had to deal with a separated shoulder. In general, Hayes just never got it going.

    If the Kings can get the 2010-11 Hayes, it will be a team luxury. He could give the Kings a reliable fourth option in the low post and could be a great influence on Robinson.

    Job Security: Hayes will decide his own future. If Hayes comes to training camp out of shape, he won't even be a part of the nine-man rotation. This upcoming season, Hayes is not playing for minutes, but for his NBA future as well. 

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