Tyreke Evans has established himself as the Kings lead guard of the future. It doesn't matter whether he is labeled a PG, SG, NaPG, or PG-13: all that matters is that he will be handling the offense, and that defensively he is a big body with good defensive potential. We also have potential at SF with Casspi and Donte, as well as young bigs in JT, Landry, Cousins, and Whiteside (and heck, Dalembert) to fill in the front court. While many questions surround the Kings, we seem to have some potential answers in the form of youthful pieces. However, a question still lingers...
...can we find an upgrade to serve as Tyreke's Backcourt Buddy (aka TBB)? Is there someone out there who can play the TBB?Right now, there are many factors to consider when looking at potential TBBs. Tyreke is entrenched as our lead guard. Given his style of play, he will likely have a high usage rate, controlling the ball most of the time, creating opportunities from his own ability to score and his good passing instincts. What type of player is best to play alongside him? Lets look at this from both an offensive and defensive standpoint, and then examine desired intangibles.
To determine what a TBB needs to bring to the table offensively, consider the pieces we already have in place. As noted, Tyreke will use a good number of possessions -- he has already shown to be a great scorer, getting to the rack at will -- he will likely jump into the 23ppg area this season. I see him more of a create-because-of-his-own-shot distributor, versus a create-instead-of-his-own-shot distributor. Needless to say, he will score, and score in bunches, and use a fair share of team possessions.
Additionally, we just drafted DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins fits the traditional back-to-basket post man mold, and (as shown in college) is highly effective scoring out of the low post. Additionally, Cousins is not a prolific passer by any means, and will likely have to learn how to become an effective passer out of the post with experience -- in other words, not any time soon. So, a highly effective post scorer, who is not a good passer, and who had a propensity for putting the ball up when he received it in college? Sounds like Cousins will be a guy who uses a fair amount of team possessions, and could become one of our primary scoring options -- I would not be surprised to see him average 16+ pts as a starter, as I envision him eventually starting and playing maybe 25 min a game.
Meanwhile, we also have Carl Landry, another capable, efficient scorer (18ppg as a King), and JT, also already chipping in at ~13ppg. And lets not forget about Casspi, who put up 10ppg in limited minutes as a rook as well...
So what does this mean? This seems to indicate one thing: a TBB does not need to score much. Tyreke will likely be our leading scorer. After him, Casspi, Cousins, Landry, and Thompson all seem like they could easily fill the 2nd, 3rd, and heck, even 4th options. Offensively I see a TBB needing to do only a few things:
- Convert open looks. TBB does not need to create his own shot, nor stroke the 3 like the second coming of Reggie Miller...but he will be on the receiving end of a Tyreke set up, or a pass out of a double team, or something...he should be able to hit an open mid-range jumper and occasionally hit a 3-ball...basically fill open space and be reliable when called upon.
- Hit free throws. Taking Udrih out of the starter equation, the only potential starter that converts FTs at an .800+ clip is Landry. It would be great if TBB can also hit 80%.
- Finish in transition. There will be a lot of length and defensive potential on this team...that will hopefully translate into more opportunities to get out on the break. Someone that can run the floor in transition and (preferably) finish above the rim would be advantageous.
Defensively is where it gets interesting. There are a couple things to consider on the defensive end. Tyreke certainly has the size to match up with opposing SGs. However, he may not be "there" yet in terms of being able to bring it defensively against 2s that are good-to-great scorers. Additionally, if Tyreke is bringing it defensively, will that affect him on offense?
Personally, I prefer Tyreke be utilized defensively against opposing PGs. He has sufficient quickness and more than enough size and length to be a potential defensive nightmare for opposing PGs. Soooo that means the TBB needs to handle opposing teams' SGs. But before we go any further, lets again examine some of the rest of the team.
Cousins, Dalembert, and Whiteside will occupy the middle. While Cousins isn't exactly a defensive stalwart, he does have fantastic size, and possesses the tools to develop into a more-than-serviceable paint protector. Dalembert is a proven shotblocker and good post defender. Whiteside's defensive prowess in college will hopefully translate into the pro game. Lets go ahead and throw JT in here as well...if nothing else, he's an eager, energetic defender in the middle.
Basically Hopefully, this all means that the Kings now should have some pieces that can effectively protect the middle, and help make up for perimeter mistakes and opposing guard penetration in general.
There is more good effort and defensive potential on the wings in Casspi and Donte. Donte especially has shown he is a good defender, especially when he locks into his assignment. And again, Casspi provides the energy and eagerness to bother 3s, and even 1s and 2s on switches (as with Donte).
Problem is, much of the defensive potential is just that: potential. We won't know how it shakes out until the games are played. We have guys who range from proven to wait-and-see defenders in the paint. We have guys who are good-when-I-want-to-be / man-I'm-trying -style defenders on the perimeter. And we have Tyreke, who has the physical tools to be a good defender as well. This seems to indicate one thing: a TBB, first and foremost, must be a defender. Ideally the TBB would (at least this season) be the best defender on the team. Here is my laundry list of TBB defensive traits...the TBB must:
- Possess good size. Going back a few paragraphs, it is my wish that Tyreke stick to opposing PGs -- this means the TBB should have the size to guard 2s. Note: height is not everything...if the TBB has good length, that will suffice as well.
- Commit fouls at a low rate. We already have a guy that fouls too much in JT (though hopefully less this year). Cousins will also likely foul at a higher-than-desired rate. We need consistency in the lineup, defensively...our TBB should be able to stay in the game and still defend effectively.
- Want to play good defense. This might seem like a weird one...but if the TBB is not needed on offense, and has a lackluster attitude on defense, then...what good is he? The Kings' current makeup does not require another scorer, it needs perimeter defenders.
What are some of the desired intangibles of a TBB? Again, lets look at the team. Tyreke will be the Kings "superstar". Cousins will be the guy with perceived mental issues. The team as a whole is young. How will the TBB react to having few touches offensively? What happens if he comes off the bench for some games while the admittedly youthful rotation is worked out by the coaching staff? How will he fit in behind the scenes? It's hard to determine "requirements" when it comes to intangible traits, but here are some desirable intangible characteristics...it would be nice if the TBB would:
- Be a good locker room guy. The team is young, with a relatively new coaching staff, new players coming in from trades, and youthful draft picks in their teens. The TBB should set an example in the locker room, for the health of the team and players in general.
- Bring some veterancy. Could be a point of contention in the Kings' "youth movement" plans. But we're not talking about bringing Bruce Bowen and his bowtie out of retirement here. Someone in their mid- to late-twenties works fine for me, especially if they bring veteran leadership in the form of game experience, playoff wisdom, etc.
- Lack a disruptive ego. I already believe the TBB will be used sparingly on offense. Ideally this would not bother him in any way. "Lacking a disruptive ego" can also be translated into being a team-first guy, caring waaay more about team success than individual stats.
- Have an appreciable contract. Hopefully we can snag someone on the cheap, who won't cost us an arm and a leg.
Originally I had planned on laying out some candidates in detail, but lately there has been a slew of fanposts, links, etc., that discuss potential TBBs ad nauseam. So, I will just offer brief thoughts on a small handful of these guys...
Good defender. He fouls at low rate, but has a bad FT%. Not a 3pt shooter, but GREAT FG% for career. Relatively young at 25...would not mind grabbing Brewer...he might be my top TBB choice.
Excellent from distance, though I question his ability to defend opposing SGs. He has sufficient size, but he seems like more of an offensive player.
A natural PG, I wonder if he could play off the ball. He's not a good shooter, but he has good size to defend 2s, and he's a good defender. Also a good rebounder, which is a plus. However, again, I wonder about his ability to play off the ball on offense.
Farmar is a capable defender, but mostly only against opposing PGs. He has good quickness and athleticism, which gives him some potential to be disruptive defensively and help out on the break, but ultimately his lack of size makes me wary.
Good energetic defender...but like Farmar, he lacks size. Likely would have to guard PGs. Again, size ultimately makes we wary of Lowry.
I'd consider him "decent"...slightly undersized to defend 2s, but he does hit 3s with some consistency, and has a good FT%.
He's currently under contract, but he seems like a good fit. He has decent size to guard 2s, he hits the 3-ball at a high percentage, and has a good FT%. He doesn't foul much either. Downside here is that we can't sign outright, or make an offer as with RFAs. He also may be slightly undersized to guard 2s, but the rest of the package may be enticing enough to see if we could get by.
ONE LAST CRAZY THOUGHT
Would it be plausible to shift Donte to the SG position? He definitely has the size and athleticism to guard 2s, and is relatively quick on the perimeter. He wouldn't need to score the ball often, but he can definitely finish and get out on the break. When focused, he is a great defensively as well. This also allows Casspi to fill the 3 unopposed (where I think he will have good success this season). It also gives us a pretty huge lineup sizewise, with Tyreke, Donte, and Casspi, along with some mix of JT/Cousins/Dalembert/Whiteside, none of whom are small for their positions.
...anyhoo, I can't wait to see what offseason moves (if any) the Kings make to improve the roster. I welcome any thoughts from Kings nation!