With power forward Carl Landry on the shelf for the next three to four months because of a torn hip flexor, the Sacramento Kings are without one of their integral pieces. But, while Landry will certainly be missed, the team can find ways to replace his production until he returns.
For one, as I laid out in my Kings preview article, power forward is one of the Kings' deepest positions. The presence of viable options in Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson will certainly help fill the void.
Beyond having alternatives at the position, the Kings also have players that provide similar skill sets. That will help replace what's lost due to Landry's absence.
There's also the possibility of head coach Mike Malone using different lineup combinations. By going with a small lineup, for example, the Kings can move everyone down a spot and nothing will be missed in that situation.
So, while it's hard to argue the Kings are a better team without Landry, they have ways of minimizing his absence. In the long term, it could actually be a positive development, as it will give the coaching staff more avenues with which to succeed once he returns.
Depth at Power Forward
Power forward is one of the Kings' two deepest positions (point guard being the other). The loss of Landry doesn't change that dynamic much.
Both Thompson and Patterson are starting-caliber players. Regardless of Landry's health status, they figured to play sizable minutes. The loss of Landry just means those numbers will increase a little bit.
Thompson was the primary starter at the 4 last season and played an average of 27.9 minutes per game. As for Patterson, he averaged 23.2 minutes after he was acquired from the Houston Rockets via a midseason trade. Without Landry in the mix, those numbers should stay pretty static.
Malone has yet to announce his starting rotation for the regular season. Even when he does, the playing time likely won't stray too far from last season's totals. If Patterson starts over Thompson, you might see their playing time flip-flop. But it's hard to envision a scenario where either player gets substantially more playing time than the other.
Beyond that, the Kings have the option of playing Travis Outlaw at the 4. Since coming to the Kings, Outlaw has been primarily a small forward. However, he's logged plenty of time at power forward in the past. In fact, his best seasons came as a power forward.
Malone could use him as a stretch 4. Malone's even mentioned Outlaw's success at power forward, so he's keenly aware it's a position Outlaw can handle well.
"He had a lot of success as a stretch four, not as a small forward (for Portland)," Malone said, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. "His advantage on the court was as a stretch four where he could go by guys. And he hit a lot of big shots for those guys. And to his credit, he's playing with a lot of confidence right now."
With so many good options, the Kings will be able to overcome the loss of Landry in terms of quality players. However, the loss of a player of his quality will still be felt in terms of depth.
Landry's Skill Set Is Similar to Jason Thompson
Thompson and Landry are pretty similar players, in both style and production.
In terms of skill set, both are prototypical power forwards. They're both effective rebounders and get most of their offensive production from within 20 feet of the basket.
Look at the two shot charts and you'll see that most of their offensive success comes relatively close to the hoop.
Both have solid mid-range jumpers that extend out to the top of the key. Thompson hit 46.2 percent of his shots in the 10-15 foot range and 41.1 percent of his shots between 16 feet and the three-point line. Landry made 44.6 percent of his attempts from 10 to 15 feet and 43.4 percent from 16 feet to the three-point arc.
On top of that, their rebounding numbers are also remarkably similar. Thompson averaged 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes and had a 13.8 percent total rebound percentage in 2012-13. Landry, on the other hand, hauled in 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes and had a 14.2 percent total rebound percentage.
Without the presence of Thompson, the loss of Landry would be tougher to overcome. Patterson brings a totally different skill set to the table, as he's more of a stretch 4. If he were the only replacement, the Kings would miss the traditional power forward skill set that Landry provides. Thompson mitigates that factor.
Utilize Small-Ball Lineups
While the Kings lack the star power of most NBA teams, the one nice thing is the depth throughout the roster. That means the team has a ton of different lineup combinations it can tinker with. One that might become prominent is a small-ball configuration.
The Kings have already done this a few times during the preseason. In fact, it's one they used in the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The energy has picked up with the small lineup for the Kings: Thomas, Thornton, McLemore, Outlaw and Thompson.— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) October 26, 2013
There have also been other variations of a small lineup. Sacramento used it against Portland, with Chuck Hayes at center, Outlaw at power forward, Ben McLemore at small forward and Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette manning the backcourt.
By using the small lineup, the Kings only need one power forward on the court. Even then, the power forward slides down to center and everyone else follows suit. When using this combination, the lack of an extra 4 on the bench becomes a moot point.
It also masks the team's offensive weakness at small forward by moving someone like Ben McLemore there. So while the small lineup isn't ideal as a long-term option—especially because it takes DeMarcus Cousins off the court—it's one that could work well in small bursts.
Beyond that, it gives the team another way to play. And the more versatility you have, the more things the opposition needs to prepare for, which is another advantageous aspect for Sacramento. Considering the Kings won't have more talent than the opponent on most nights, any edge they can possibly get must be utilized.
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Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.