One of the major grievances among Kings players last season was that they felt they never knew what to expect in terms of playing time. Coach Paul Westphal tried a ton of different starting lineups -- some 16 different players got at least two starts, and Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin and Carl Landry were the only full-time starters. Some players, like Sean May, bounced between solid minutes and DNP-CDs. Others, like Spencer Hawes, bounced in and out of the starting five.
Whether it was an actual problem was never settled. Westphal maintained he kept things fluid to give the team its best chance of winning. The aggrieved players said they needed some peace of mind. Many fans complained about the volatile rotation. But nothing was really ever settled.
Are things going to be different this year?
Why was the rotation so volatile in 2009-10? A big part was, honestly, a lack of talent, especially in the frontcourt. May and Hawes weren't productive enough to lock down starting jobs. Both are gone, and the talent level in the frontcourt has greatly improved. In the backcourt, there was starting line-up volatility because Westphal tried everything he could to use Beno Udrih as a sixth man. Eventually, after trading Kevin Martin and seeing how rusty Francisco Garcia was, Westphal had to use Beno as a starter.
But I don't think the volatility is going away.
The small forward position remains unsettled. Before Summer League, assistant coach Mario Elie told me the staff is looking for either Donte Greene or Omri Casspi to lock down that starting small forward spot. That's a great thing to want. But how likely is it that one will outplay the other enough to be the undisputed starter all season? These two players are so evenly matched, so important in their own ways that I find it likely the horse race will be a back-and-forth affair all year. And I think that means each gets at least 10 starts.
What about Beno and Garcia? A consensus is growing that Westphal will at least try an Evans-Garcia backcourt, whether in preseason or through the start of the regular season. What if it doesn't work? What if Evans needs the ball-handling help? We could see volatility there.
The frontcourt is a tray of confections, all delicious in their own way. The combinations are endless. Is it reasonable to think the opening night combo -- say, Landry and Dalembert -- will last all year? Doubtful.
It seems clear the volatility in minutes and the rotation we saw in the 2009-10 season will return. Of course, the difference is that Westphal now has options, which is actually a good thing.