In the first four games of the season, Keith Smart has primarily used a 10-man rotation. He uses the starters Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, James Johnson, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins for most if not all of the first and third quarters. In the second and fourth quarters, he has the second unit Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton, Francisco Garcia, Thomas Robinson and Chuck Hayes on the court for the first half of the quarters. In the second half of the quarters, Brooks, Evans, Thornton, Hayes and Cousins get most of the playing time and are the unit that closes out the games for the Kings.
Looking at the lineup that shares the court at the same time, I see two major concerns that can be solved by rearranging the rotation. Firstly, the Kings have only secured 67% of the available defensive rebounds, ranking in the bottom five in the entire league. Hayes and Robinson, both undersized frontcourt players, share the court for about 10 minutes a game in the second and fourth quarter. Hayes has not been a capable rebounder since he joined the Kings last season. He had a DREB% of 17.9% last season, while Thompson had a DREB% of 19.9% and Cousins had a DREB% of 26.1%. Moreover, the team only collected 67.8% of the available defensive rebounds with Hayes on the floor last season, compared to 71.8% when Hayes is on the bench. Robinson, though a great rebounder in college, may not have the necessary strength and skills to rebound against bigger opponents yet. As a result, the Kings has a hard time on the defensive glass when Hayes and Robinson are on the court together. This is especially evident in the second quarter of the game against the Pacers.
To resolve this issue, I propose the role of Thompson and that of Hayes to be switched. Hayes rebounding problem can be masked by Cousins's rebounding prowess. On the other hand, Thompson's length will allow the second unit to rebound the ball better. Another benefit of this change is that it gives the second unit a player who can score inside. Thompson has a solid post game that neither Robinson nor Hayes has. This will allow the Kings to be more diverse offensively when the bench is on the court.
Another issue of the current Kings' rotation is the lack of perimeter shooting from the starters. Both Evans and Johnson are below-average shooters with career 3P% of less than 30%. Defenders often give the two plenty of space to clog the lane. This affects the spacing for Evans and Thomas to drive and for Cousins to score inside. My suggestion is to put Johnson on the bench, so that he will share the court with two other shooters in Brooks and Thornton. I am not suggesting moving Garcia to the starting five. The move of Johnson to the bench should only happen after John Salmons returns to the lineup. Hence, Salmons will become the starting small forward and Garcia will be out of the rotation. I know that Salmons was horrible in every aspect of the game last season, but he is still a career 36% three-point shooter. He should not be asked to create for others but should be merely used as a spot-up shooter unless the shot clock is running out. This also gives the second unit a defensive stopper in Johnson who should be asked to defend the best perimeter player of the opponent. The starting unit still has Evans to defend the opponent's best scorer on the perimeter. In this scenario, both the starters and the bench will have two shooters on the perimeter.
These two minor adjustments to the Kings' rotation will solve two of the Kings' biggest problems in the season so far. Do you agree?