Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Sacramento Kings have had issues all over the roster for quite some time. Now that once-promising guard Tyreke Evans has bolted for the payday offered by the new-look New Orleans Pelicans, the outlook of the starting lineup has become even murkier.
Aside from DeMarcus Cousins getting slotted into the starting lineup every night, the Kings could go in a variety of directions.
First off is the team's backcourt. Needless to say, Sacramento had a ludicrous logjam at both guard positions last season (an unfortunate truth that had the Kings coaching staff playing Evans out of position at small forward). Now, in addition to Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette, the Kings brought in Greivis Vasquez, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum to fill their infamous quota of backcourt players.
The question is, who will make up the starting backcourt when the season starts?
Thomas, who was “Mr. Irrelevant” as the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft, has been far from irrelevant to start his career. The 5’9” sparkplug has started 99 games for the Kings (37 as a rookie, 62 as a sophomore). Last season, the former Washington Husky averaged 13.9 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game to go with an impressive 17.59 PER.
He doesn’t turn the ball over much (just 1.7 per game in two seasons), and he shoots an efficient percentage from beyond the arc (36.7 percent for his career) and at the free-throw line (86.2 percent for his career). But will that be enough to secure the starting job moving forward?
The player seen as Thomas’s biggest competition for starting point guard duties is Vasquez. The Venezuelan point guard, who was acquired in the deal that sent Evans to New Orleans, had a breakout season in 2012-13. The 26-year-old averaged 13.9 points, 9.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Vasquez turned the ball over 3.2 times per game and was a less efficient shooter across the board compared to Thomas. Part of that is due to playing more minutes and trying to distribute the ball more often, but it’s worth noting regardless.
This decision could go either way, but I predict Vasquez to win the starting job following his huge year in New Orleans. The Kings could then utilize Thomas as a change-of-pace guard off the bench who would abuse opposing backup point guards with his quick feet.
As for the shooting guard spot, McLemore is likely the favorite to start. The 20-year-old out of Kansas had an abysmal summer league performance in which he shot 33.3 percent from the field and 19.4 percent from three-point range. However, the Kings simply have to develop the young rookie after watching him fall into their laps at pick No. 7 in the 2013 NBA draft.
If Sacramento doesn’t feel comfortable throwing McLemore into the fire, Marcus Thornton (who started just eight games last season) will get the nod.