The Only Starting Line-Up That Makes Sense (Part 1 of 2)

PG - Jimmer
SG - Jimmer
SF - Jimmer
PF - Jimmer
C - Jimmer

There. Done. That was, like easy, and, uh... obvious. Duh.

Now that the best 2012-13 Kings starting five been firmly established with the certainty of a firm Sleep Train mattress delivering the best night of sleep of your life, or your money back, let’s formulate a back-up plan, as smoothly as a Sleep Train mattress forms to the contours of your back, curing aches and pains, leaving you revived and refreshed, or George Maloof will pay visit to your home, and deep oil massage out any nagging tension, at about the same he signs on the dotted line to a downtown arena deal.

Whew, that sentiment was exhausting. I could use a Sleep Train mattress right about now, yet I fear the roaming hands of George, and besides, I hear that a Sleep Train mattress delivers promises like John Salmons delivers smiles.

I sleep standing up, anyway. Like a thoroughbred stallion. Beds are for wimps.

Anyway, horizontally-inclined lambs, here we go, let’s ascertain the 2012-13 starters of your Sacramento Kings, absent the omnipresence of the White Comet. No, not Jerry Reynolds, but the sputtering Second Coming, and the adopted son of his hardwood dreams.

Jimmer is awesome. That is all.

OK, I lied. There’s more.

It is intriguing to me how fans in general extrapolate the past into the future regarding their favorite team, anticipating a continuation of the old and dead with regards to wins and losses, starting line-ups and prospects for success, when in reality the only thing that can be guaranteed in life is death, taxes and change.

Hold me, I am scared.

Wait, mate. With regards to the Kings, when you have lost 72% of your games over 4 seasons, change should not be feared. It should be embraced and hailed. On second thought, I am not scared, I am liberated! Holy s*ht, where’s my credit card? I need to order a California King!

Time to get sprung, y’all. Just like the high quality springs in a Sleep Train mattress. Guaranteed to put some spring back into your sprung-low, or your neglected wife gets a free adult toy of her choice, available in purple, black, or our most popular color, George Maloof yellow.

So what’s changed since the start of last season? Glad you asked, lamb chop.

<U>The Grim Reaper (of Coaching) Kills (Careers of Players) No More</U>

No more wasted training camps, bogus play calls, tedious podium pontificating, dictatorial discipline, lollygagging leadership, malarkey substitution and snarky treatment of players.

Paul Westphal (2009-2011) R.I.P.

Its not that PW was a terrible coach. That gives him too much credit. And it doesn’t require hindsight to reach that conclusion.

He took a young team and expected it to be a title contender. He didn’t coach. He griped (that his young team did not play like a veterans). He didn’t strategize. He bemoaned (that Cousins was not Barkley). He didn’t encourage. He dissuaded (the development of Omri into legitimate SF). He didn’t rally. He railed (implicitly against the modern day player, the size of their checks, and a league that passed him by).

Our current coach has no such hidden animosity.

He’s transparent, communicative, strategic, enthusiastic, optimistic and a natural leader. The days of DeMarcus as an unreachable problem child are over. This development alone validates the contract to Smart, before a franchise talent was exiled to another city.

Credit is due to the player, of course. But Coach Smart can be credited too, for finding an optimal balance between authority and leniency, between freedom and structure, between friend and boss.

In addition, Smart gleaned additional summer guidance was called for with losing and dubious habits prevalent so long. Yet his ego is not so expansive as to not delegate to players (Isaiah, Cisco) with an affinity to lead, to organize informal scrimmages, affording the team opportunity to bond, and to achieve familiarity, friendship and cohesiveness. The one week in Colorado Springs, away from distractions of home, including a trust-building retreat, further enhanced camaraderie and professional commitment.

All that is fuzzy and warm sounding, admittedly, but there appears to be substance this time around, not just lip service.

Will coaching flaws reveal themselves despite the depth and breadth of goodwill? Probably. No coach is perfect, and this one still has to prove he can instill a capable defense.

But this much we know: Coach Smart gets it. He’s creating a culture of accountability. Before you can win games, you create conditions for success. That wasn’t happening before. Its happening now.

Factor that into your win total, if so inclined, and of prudent mind. Or not. Though ask yourself, should you ignore a man who sleeps like a horse? :P

<U>The Kings Are the Fastest Team in the NBA at the PG Position</U>

Speed kills. At the PG spot, the Kings are lethal.

Speed forces defenders to back off, creating passing lanes and angles. Speed allows a player to turn a corner and create a plus-one advantage. Speed creates points in transition to takes pressure off half-court execution. Speed turns non-shot creators into shot-makers. Speed makes the game easy and fun, or at least, easier and more fun.

You get the idea, I hope. And so does Geoff Petrie, I know.

Geoff watched Isaiah create an advantage all-season with quickness and speed, so he decided to add more of the same. Who can blame him?

(There is a difference in the two players, however. More on this later.)

Last year, Isaiah Thomas started the year as a second round flyer with an unproven jumper hoping to stick in the league, hoping to find minutes in the rotation, to get noticed over a high profile lottery pick. This year, he is the incumbent starter out to prove his rookie season was no fluke. Aaron Brooks waits in the wings, revving up the jets.

What goes well with an ice cold brew on game night? Round two, of course. What goes well with speed? More speed, of course. There's too much of a good thing, but this isn't an example.

Speed and points will not be a problem in 2012-13.

<U>The John Salmons Experiment is Dead</U>

Last year at this time, we were betting on a two guard on a downward career arc to man the small forward position. This year we are banking on a legitimate small forward on an upward career arc to deliver consistency, length, hustle plays and paint finishes.

What is the difference between John Salmons and James Johnson?

Besides age (32 years ancient vs 25 years young), hunger (one wants to establish himself as a serious baller, one wants to establish a serious investment fund), athleticism (one can jump through the gym, one would rather finger roll), size (6’9" vs 6’6") and attitude (One loves kittens, the other... loves kittens. Note to stat geeks: No advantage either side in the Kitty Affection Category.), there’s the eye-popping detail of a player who can actually match up physically and athletically against the Wily Wings of the West.

Rudy Gay, Dirk Nowitski, Kevin Durant, Nick Batum, Andre Iguodala meet Mr. James Johnson.

Its high time that high scoring wings earned their points, instead of drooling so excessively at the sights of a feeble SF in purple and black (Greene, Garcia, Salmons and Omri before that), that the refs were inclined to stop play to mop up the spittle.

The Kings were the worst defense team in the league last year (104.4 points per game allowed, worst in NBA; 51.5% opponent FG%, worst in NBA).

James Johnson can defend with length and pride. Moreover, he has the semblance of an offensive repertoire, including slashing moves to the hoop, follow rebounds, and spot up or one-dribble looks.

Someone recently said James Johnson is Donte Greene who does what the coaches say. I'd put it differently. James Johnson appears to be Donte Greene with the ability to make plays. In other words, he is not Donte Greene.

Starting role granted. This is your time, James Johnson. Seize it.

<U>High Usage Rates Will Be Earned, Not Granted</U>

Engage in all the advanced statistical analysis you like, but the success of a team can be summed up by the efficiency of their highest usage players. In plain language, the guys who get the ball the most need to make the most of it. When they do, they win. When they don’t, they are the Sacramento Kings circa 2008-2012.

Let’s compare a few teams, their top 3 usage players, their respective and weighted PER ratings.

Heat (46-20) - NBA Champions
LeBron 33% Usage 31 PER
Dwyane 30% Usage 26 PER
Bosh 21% Usage 19 PER
Weighted PER of Top Three = 12.2 + 9.3 + 4.75 = 26.25 PER

OKC (47-19) - NBA 1st Runner-Ups
1. KD 33% Usage PER 26.3 PER
2. Westbrook 31% Usage 23.0 PER
3. Harden 22% Usage 21.1 PER
Weighted PER of Top Three = 10.1 + 8.3 + 5.4 = 23.5 PER

Pacers (42-24) 5th playoff seed
1. Granger 26% Usage 18.7 PER
2. Hibbert 21% Usage 19.4 PER
3. West 21% Usage 17.8 PER
Usage Weighted PER of Top 3 = 7.2 + 6.0 + 5.5 = 18.7 PER

76ers (35-31) 8th Playoff Seed
1. Lou Williams 27% Usage 20.2 PER
2. Holliday 22% Usage 14.7 PER
3. Young 22% Usage 18.9 PER
Weighted PER of Top 3 = 7.7 + 4.6 + 5.9 = 18.2 PER

(Note: Iguodala was one of the 76ers top 3 players, but his impact was defense, and did not rank as a top usage player. Holiday had a mediocre PER, but contributed with strong defense too. Will include in analysis. Chose teams randomly. Do not want to cherry pick data.)

(22-44) 5th worst team in NBA
1. Cousins 30% Usage 21.7 PER
2. Tyreke 24% Usage 16.5 PER
3. Thornton 23% Usage 17.4 PER
Weighted PER of Top Three = 7.5 + 5.4 + 5.1 = 18.0 PER

Hornets (21-45) 4th worst team in NBA
1. Kaman 27% Usage 15.42 PER
2. Landry 24% Usage 18.3 PER
3. Jack 23% Usage 18.0 PER
Weighted PER of Top Three = 5.6 + 6.2 + 5.8 = 17.6 PER

If you were expecting the expected, your expectations were met, expectantly. (lol) There is nothing profoundly revealing above. The go-to studs on a given team dictate success. There is a high correlation between the players who get the ball often, their level of efficiency, and the subsequent success of the team. (The one qualifier here is that defense is not accounted for as well as ideal to measure a player’s effectiveness, though steal and shot block rates are included in PER.)

Regardless, there are a couple of interpretations that bode well for the prospects of the Kings.

Gone are the days of 1/4 flat. Gone too are the days of isolation ball, if we are to believe mostly our eyes so far in two preseason games, and our ears with regards to the expressly stated philosophy of Coach Smart, and the way he will exhort his team to play.

If the share-the-ball mentality comes to fruition, we would anticipate a slight drop in the usage rate of the Top 3, with a corresponding increase in their efficiency. (This needs to happen, because as the stats above reveal, a collective PER of at least 18.0 is required to be a playoff contender, higher if the team is below average defensively.)

Thornton, Tyreke and Cousins will still get their touches, but with more capable teammates at their disposal (T-Rob, Johnson, Brooks, a slimmer Hayes and an improved Jimmer), and an unselfish style of playing, PERs of the Top 3 should increase to the level of playoff challenger.

There’s another perspective to take:

It’s time to step up, Tyreke, Marcus and DeMarcus. Even if your lesser talented teammates let you down, its time to achieve legitimate star status. If you want to justify your usage rate, take your game to a new level. The stats above indicate you were not good enough last year. If role players were three day-old wheat loaf bread, you were day-old cinnabons.

Its time to get fresh, Kings.

A 16.5 PER is not bad. A 16.5 PER with a 24% usage rate doesn’t cut it, Tyreke Evans. Its not playoff caliber basketball.

Cousins improved dramatically in his second season. He is on an express track to all-star status. Yet his PER was somewhat exaggerated by his board work (11.0 RPG, 4th in NBA), offsetting a below average FG% (45%), assist to turnover ratio (0.6), and foul rate (league leading 4.0 PG). Thornton produced slightly below playoff level for a player of his usage, with too many early leak outs, occasional matador defense, assist rate (only 1.9 PG) and 3 point percentage (34.5%) not indicative of his talent level.

In summary, our Big Three need to play better, or defer to capable teammates.

Do one. Do the other. Better yet, do both!

This will be the message from Coach Smart to his team. Unity, teamwork, pride, accountability and unselfishness in the context of improved individual play. If the message is received, and there’s no reason it should not be, the Kings will be competing for playoff spot in March.

Excuse me, its getting late. I need to go stand in the corner to catch a few zzz’s.

Good night, and God Bless the Sacramento Kings, except that one guy.

<U>Part Two of the Blob Season Preview - Coming Soon!!!</U>

In Search of Synergy

The Sumo Hayes Grace Period

A Back Court Quandary Solved

The Starting Five Revealed


(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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