Cowbell Kingdom's Jameser Ham has a really strong piece looking at the Kings' power forward battle with good quotes and perspective. As we've discussed since Carl Landry was signed, Sacramento has four minutes-worthy power forwards, three of whom could easily be starters. And as James discusses, they each bring a really different skillset to the table: Landry is a scorer, Jason Thompson has size and versatility, Patrick Patterson can shoot the three and Chuck Hayes is a reputed defender. They all also have real weaknesses: Landry is fairly small and an inconsistent rebounder, Thompson can't do much else but shoot or finish with the ball in his hands, Patterson has a rep as a bad defender and is a bad rebounder, and Hayes's only offensive skill of note is passing.
But there's also the off-the-court issues with this group. To wit ...
* Landry is the only player acquired by the new front office with the input of the current head coach. Landry is a Vivek-Pete-Malone player. This matters. The Kings had one GM for such a long time that we never really got to experience the whole "new regime" thing at that level. But we've been through plenty of coaches, and we know the drill: just because you used to get minutes doesn't mean you're going to get minutes under the new coach. In fact, you may not get minutes precisely because the old coach gave you minutes and look what happened to him.
Thompson, Patterson and Hayes are all Geoff Petrie era Kings. Landry (who was once a Geoff Petrie era King) is a Vivek-Pete-Malone era King. He's going to get minutes, no question. Lots of them. My estimate would be at least 25 per game.
* Forget about which player is the best. That'd probably be Landry, though I'd hear cases for Thompson. Consider what Malone needs. Defense and rebounding. That'd point to Thompson and Hayes. The rebounding might be less important for the starting power forward because of DeMarcus Cousins and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (who is tons better on the boards than Johnny Salmons). So, defense. None of the PFs can block shots. But Thompson, Landry and Hayes are considered better defenders than Patterson.
* Consider what Pete D'Alessandro needs right now more than wins or defensive improvement: assets. Is Thompson an asset at his current contract (roughly $6 million per year for four more years) level? Not quite. If he falls to the bottom of the rotation, he really won't be. Hayes is not an asset at $5 million per year for two more years, and it's hard to imagine making him an asset given that only two teams were chasing him at that price point two years ago before he struggled with injuries, the heart scare and weight issues. Hayes as a trade market asset might very well be a lost cause, which sounds much less charitable than I mean it. It's like Kenny Thomas circa 2007: you're not going to get anything of value for him on the market, so you might as well keep him around as a back-up plan if nothing else. (Gosh, I'm getting less charitable the further I dig.)
Patterson, of course, is a free agent at season's end. If the new Kings regime likes him, playing him will only boost his contract level in July. If the new Kings regime doesn't think he's a part of the future, it doesn't matter whether he plays or not: as a pending free agent, he's not going to bring a ton back via trade at the deadline anyway. He's really not under contract long enough to become more of an asset than he already is.
Of course, it will be Malone, not D'Alessandro, making the calls on minutes. But based on what we've seen and heard, this crew is pretty well integrated, and I wouldn't doubt these conversations are being had.
With all that said, here's my predicted depth chart at PF and frontcourt rotation: Landry starts with Cousins, Thompson is the first big off the bench behind Landry. When Cousins gets a rest, Patterson joins Thompson in the frontcourt. But Patterson's minutes are shorter than those of Thompson; you'll see Malone go to a Landry-Thompson frontcourt before a Patterson-Landry version. Travis Outlaw and Mbah a Moute end up with more minutes at PF than Hayes.
Just a prediction, of course. We'll begin getting some clarity by Monday (the preseason opener!) at the latest.