5 Best Situational Lineups for the Sacramento Kings in 2012-13
Last season, Sacramento Kings' coach Keith Smart tinkered with the team's lineup quite a bit.
It was a young, inexperienced team and it was his first season as head coach.
Smart altered the rotations to figure out what he had to work with and often rode the hot hand.
This season, without the lockout to hamper offseason team activities, Smart should have a better idea of the lineups he's going to roll with and the roles each player will fill.
I have my own take of what the opening day starting lineup will be, but that's an argument for another day.
For now, I'd like to focus on the Kings' situational lineups.
From going big to the Kings' best defensive lineup, here are the five best alternate lineups I believe Smart may use when the moment calls for them.
Tyreke Evans (PG): Evans is accustomed to playing point guard, even if it's not his best position. He's quick on his feet and a pretty good defender. With the two regular point guards—Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks—being 6' or shorter, Evans' 6'6" frame and experience at the position makes him the Kings' best guard when going big.
Francisco Garcia (SG): Garcia may no longer be one of the Kings' best options in a normal rotation, but he is still a good defender, has a very respectable jump shot and is 6'7". With Garcia, the Kings could go big at the guard positions while still keeping a deep threat on the floor.
James Johnson (SF): Johnson is a good defender and can get to the rim. He's also 6'9" and has a respectable frame. In a lineup where the Kings want to add size to the court without losing athleticism, I don't see anyone being a better fit here.
Rookie Thomas Robinson may have the athleticism to slide down from power forward to small forward, but until he proves he can run the court without turning the ball over, I'm going to keep him as a power forward option only.
Jason Thompson (PF): Last season, after finally being relieved of the pressure of having to be one of the stars of the team, Thompson gave the Kings plenty of reason to re-sign him. He had 15 double-doubles in limited minutes and had the highest field-goal percentage of his career.
Thompson is 6'11" and is the team's second-best rebounder, behind only DeMarcus Cousins. Thompson has also become adept at using his athleticism to open up a running hook shot.
He and Cousins could alternate between power forward and center in this type of a lineup, depending on their assignment on defense and against whom they would have the best offensive mismatch.
DeMarcus Cousins (C): Cousins is the Kings' starting center and occasional power forward. He's the team's best player and had the highest player efficiency rating on the team last season. He just came off of a productive summer of being on the Olympic Select team. You'll be seeing a lot of his name in these slides.
Isaiah Thomas (PG): In a small and quick lineup, nobody is as small and quick as the 5'9" Isaiah Thomas. He can blow by defenders and also has a great shooting touch. Thomas is also the team's best facilitator, which makes him a no-brainer in this type of lineup.
Aaron Brooks (SG): The newly-added Brooks will compete with Thomas for the starting point guard position, but in a smaller lineup the two could play together. Both are fast, good scorers and three-point threats.
Brooks is taller and not as good of facilitator as Thomas, so he could slide into the shooting guard role. Together, Brooks and Thomas could be quite a speedy handful for opposing defenders.
Marcus Thornton (SF): Thornton would be out of position here, but for the purpose of utilizing a smaller lineup, Thornton's speed and scoring touch mean he almost certainly has to be included. He's 6'4", he can shoot, he can get to the basket and he was the Kings' leading scorer last season. Need I say more?
James Johnson or Tyreke Evans (PF): Obviously, Evans is not a power forward, but for the sake of going small and frustrating opposing defenses with speed, Evans also has to be included. He's one of the Kings' leading scorers, one of the best in the league at finding creative ways to get to the basket and a solid defender.
Don't expect to see this lineup a lot, but against smaller lineups, the Kings could use this combination of players to run a fast, high-octane offense that can dish, slash and shoot.
DeMarcus Cousins (C): In a smaller lineup, this position could be a revolving door for a couple of Kings players. Cousins is the biggest and best option, and has worked on his conditioning over the offseason (video) to get up and down the court better.
If he's in foul trouble, Jason Thompson can substitute. If rookie Thomas Robinson plays well, he could use his rebounding touch and muscular physique to play center in a smaller lineup.
And if for some reason none of those options are viable, the shorter-but-bigger-bodied Chuck Hayes has the mass and defensive prowess to play the role.
Ultimately, the Kings have plenty of center options in a smaller lineup. Cousins is just always the best of them.
Isaiah Thomas (PG): Not only did Thomas come out of nowhere to become a leader on the Kings and the team's starting point guard, but he was also statistically the Kings' best three-point shooter last season.
He averaged just a hair under 38 percent from beyond the arc. Thomas also had the second-highest field goal percentage of the Kings' guards last season, behind only Tyreke Evans. That says a lot for a guy who's 5'9".
Jimmer Fredette (SG): Even though Fredette struggled his rookie year, he still had the second-highest three-point percentage on the Kings last season. Shooting is Fredette's best asset, one that will likely find him an NBA job even if his ball-handling and facilitating skills don't improve.
If Fredette shows any signs of improvement this coming season, he has the tools to become the best shooter on the Kings.
Marcus Thornton (SF): Again, Thornton led the Kings in scoring last season. He was also fourth on the team in three-point percentage, behind only Thomas, Fredette and Terrence Williams, who is not returning.
If for some reason Thornton is injured or not available on a night when this type of lineup is being utilized, Francisco Garcia would be the guy to slot here instead.
In a perfect world, Kings' second-year player Tyler Honeycutt would be the guy to put here above Garcia, but he hasn't proven himself yet.
Jason Thompson (PF): I thought about slotting Travis Outlaw here, but let's be realistic, just because I'm listing a shooting lineup doesn't mean every player has to be a three-point threat.
Thompson had the highest field-goal percentage on the team last season, the highest two-point percentage and the highest points per-shot average. He has also always had a decent midrange jump shot. With Thomas, Fredette and Thornton all being 6'4" or shorter, Thompson could give the Kings some size in the frontcourt while also being able to knock down an open look.
DeMarcus Cousins (C): Cousins has a very good midrange jump shot, was the second-leading scorer last season and collected the most offensive rebounds per game of any player in the league. Basically, he can knock down an open shot and can clean up the misses of his teammates. The Kings want this guy on the floor.
Tyreke Evans (PG): To reiterate, Evans can play the point. In fact, he did so his rookie and sophomore seasons. He's bigger than Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks, making it tougher for opposing guards to shoot over him, and he was third on the team in steals per game last season.
Francisco Garcia (SG): Again, Garcia is a good defender, has a very respectable jump shot and is 6'7". Garcia was sixth on the team in steals per game last season while getting nearly half the playing time. Garcia is not a starter, nor is he one of the Kings' best all-around options, but he keeps a shooter on the floor while having the size and ability to defend well.
James Johnson (SF): The Kings were in desperate need of a true small forward which makes the arrival of James Johnson a welcomed sight. He led the Toronto Raptors in steals and blocks last season, while still posing an average offensive threat. He's 6'9" and has good speed. He could be the team's best overall defender next season.
Chuck Hayes (PF): On top of being a veteran presence on a young team, Hayes was brought to the Kings to provide defensive depth at the forward and center positions.
He's only 6'6". He is not a good shooter. He has a mediocre low post game. He isn't the best at rebounding, shot-blocking or stealing the ball. But what he does have is a knack for beating opposing big men to spots on the floor and using his meaty 250-pound meaty frame to muscle them out of position.
I'd like to see Hayes come into the season in better shape than last year—though he was slowed by a heart condition and a dislocated shoulder at separate times last season. But in a defensive lineup, he's still one of the Kings' best options.
In a more ideal situation, rookie Thomas Robinson will prove himself early on to be a formidable defender, allowing the Kings to utilize a younger, taller and better conditioned player in this slot.
DeMarcus Cousins (C): Cousins led the Kings in rebounds, steals and blocks per game last season. He was fourth in the entire league in rebounds per game and fifth in total rebounds. He doesn't shy away from the moment and never backs down against veteran bigs.
Last Shot of the Game
Isaiah Thomas (PG): Not only did Thomas have the team's highest three-point percentage, but he isn't scared of the big moment, either. He hit the game winning shot against Arizona in the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament championship game and had the game-winning steal and assist in a game against the New Orleans Hornets last season.
Aaron Brooks (SG): Brooks hit a go-ahead basket to beat the Denver Nuggets in 2010, but more importantly, he's a confident scorer. He has a respectable .363 career three-point percentage, and he's a guy who has no hesitation about shooting the ball.
I want a guy who believes in himself to take the final shot. Thomas and Thornton are probably the Kings' best last-second shooting options, but if neither of them is open and Brooks has a good look, he should get the ball.
Marcus Thornton (SF): Thornton was Keith Smart's go-to guy in clutch situations last year, and there's plenty of reasons why. He got it done against Portland, iced the Warriors in a game in 2011 and was the leading scorer on the team last season. The Sacramento Kings' website even posted a video of of Marcus Thornton's most clutch moments for the Kings.
Thornton had the highest free-throw percentage last season and was third on the team in free throw attempts. So beyond having the confidence to take the final shot, he's also someone the team would want on the foul line with the game on the line.
Thornton believes he should get the final shot, and unless another guy has a better look, I expect Thornton will get first dibs on buzzer-beaters.
Tyreke Evans (PF): Tyreke Evans is an enigma. He still hasn't developed a respectable jumper after three seasons in the NBA, but he seems to have a knack for finding the rim in Hail Mary situations.
He heaved a half-court shot to beat the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010, hit a spin-around step-back jumper to beat the Denver Nuggets in 2010, got to the basket to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009, had the game-winning steal to beat the Washington Wizards in 2009 and even had a preseason game-winning layup against the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010.
Evans is a good one-on-one ball-handler and is the best on the team at creating lanes to the basket. If his jump shot improved, he would arguably leap ahead of Thornton on the clutch depth chart.
DeMarcus Cousins (C): Cousins is by far the team's best rebounder, meaning he has to be in the post in case there's an opportunity to put back a missed game-winning attempt. On top of that, he has great footwork down low, meaning the Kings could go to him in a mismatch situation. Plus, he has an above average midrange jump shot for a big man.
I told you you'd see his name a lot on these slides. This one is no different.