Evaluating the Kings Roster: Part Two - Shooting Guard



Previously I mentioned a desire to share my thoughts about the Kings current team as constructed before the upcoming draft and free agency period by prefacing my observations with the following: The Kings can and need improvement at every position and although it is probable we will find immediate relief through the draft, via trades and possibly free agency, it is still worth segregating out by position what the current assets are. I tried to make the case for Isaiah Thomas being worthy of a full time starter in this league by showing his stats against the elite point guards in the league where statistically he holds his own surprisingly well. While he doesn’t project to become an all-star, the point guard position is in good hands literally, for now.

Shifting focus to shooting guard for the Kings it is hard to fully assess what talent we have given the lack of rotational consistency Smart deployed at all of the back court positions especially at small forward. It seemed that whomever platooned at the three dictated the starting lineup for the other two guard spots. Be that as it may, after the break I will listed the top ten shooting guards according to SI and then compare the Kings guards whom have spent time at the shooting guard position.

10. Monta Ellis, Bucks

Stats: 19.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.9 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 3.0 TO, 41.8 FG%, 26.4 3P%, 16.2 PER, 37.9 MPG

9. Kevin Martin, Thunder

Stats: 14.3 PPG, 1.4 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 TO, 44.8 FG%, 42.2 3P%, 16.2 PER, 28.2 MPG

8. J.J. Redick, Bucks

Stats: 14.8 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 SPG, 1.9 TO, 45.3 FG%, 38.3 3P%, 16.1 PER, 30.7 MPG

7. Jamal Crawford, Clippers

Stats: 16.9 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 2.0 TO, 44.0 FG%, 38.0 3P%, 16.9 PER, 29.6 MPG

6. Joe Johnson, Nets

Stats: 16.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.8 TO, 42.5 FG%, 37.9 3P%, 14.1 PER, 37.3 MPG

5. Manu Ginobili, Spurs

Stats: 12.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.2 TO, 43.3 FG%, 35.6 3P%, 20.3 PER, 23.6 MPG

4. Andre Iguodala, Nuggets

Stats: 12.8 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.5 TO, 44.5 FG%, 31.0 3P%, 15.0 PER, 34.3 MPG

3. James Harden, Rockets

Stats: 26.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 3.7 TO, 44.9 FG%, 37.4 3P%, 23.8 PER, 38.5 MPG

2. Dwyane Wade, Heat

Stats: 21.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 2.7 TO, 52.1 FG%, 25.4 3P%, 24.6 PER, 34.7 MPG

1. Kobe Bryant, Lakers

Stats: 27.1 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 3.7 TO, 46.8 FG%, 33.9 3P%, 23.2 PER, 37.9 MPG

Now compare the Kings roster that have spend time at shooting guard:

1. Tyreke Evans

Stats: 15.2 PPG, 3.5 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.0 TO, 47.8 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 18.1 PER, 31.0 MPG

2. Marcus Thornton

Stats: 12.7 PPG, 1.3 APG, 2.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.9 TO, 42.9 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 16.3 PER, 24.0 MPG

3. Jimmer Fredette

Stats: 7.2 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.0 TO, 42.1 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 14.6 PER, 14.0 MPG

4. John Salmons

Stats: 8.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.7 RPG, .7 SPG, 1.1 TO, 40.1 FG%, 37.4 3P%, 10.2 PER, 30.0 MPG

Assessing the value of the Kings guards is difficult for a myriad reasons. Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons all prefer the ball in their hands but have languished in an oxymoronic paradigm where they are expected to find a predominance of minutes playing while not dominating the ball. To say it another way, in this bizarro world of basketball the front office assembled and coaching staff designed plays that expected to utilizing these players in a way they are not natively adept versus orienting plays that leverage their strengths. I will explain this more fully in a bit.

Compounding that conundrum was a dearth of talent due to a string of unlucky draft positions, puzzling draft choices that panned more fools than gold, an inability to fetch formidable free agents and trades that were geared more for short term financial relief versus stockpiling assets for the long term. While potential remains the cliché for some of the current roster, the carrousel at small forward has been a complete fail and is cause for some of the angst as to who is left to play the two. To add insult to injury, the lack of innovative schemes tailored to the players’ abilities, inconsistent and wholesale rotations and a general lack of experience made development of personnel and cohesion nearly impossible to achieve. Only Marcus Thornton has held a clearly defined role at the two. Subsequently or perhaps a result of his skills and/or lack of versatility he behaves the most like a shooting guard, at least offensively.

Salmons, Evans and Fredette have suffered varying degrees of schizophrenia due to the shuffling between roles from game to game, sometimes even within the same game and even worse between offense and defense during the same sequence of plays. Not sure how anyone can excel without being able to focus on a single role. Imagine practicing infield at first base and then switching over to catcher in the second inning and then back to first during the fifth inning. While that is an exaggeration it is harder on game preparation, studying film, scouting the opposition and you can never be as effective when you are not able to focus on one assignment. Some of this is a result of bringing forth a mixed bag of skills as well and deficiencies. While nobody faults LeBron’s ability to attack and defend in different ways on any given play, he does so because he has elite skills to shoot, drive, finish, pass, rebound and press against anyone of the floor. He may not be the most valuable player of all time (verdict is still out) but he is arguably the most versatile player ever to play in the NBA.

Versatility is helpful so long as you can be elite at any one thing. Being a jack of all trades and master of none is great for special teams in football but that is not going to get it done in the NBA. Unfortunately that is the dilemma of these four guards. They each have multiple skills but just not elite at any of the skills. For example:

Shooting & Scoring

Tyreke – A game changing scorer that led the league in getting to the rim as a rookie is an average shooter who declined in points per game from 20.1 to 15.2 over his first four seasons. On a positive note, his TS% and eFG% have improved from 52.9% and 47.3% to 55.8% and 50.8% respectively. With 4.4 fewer shots and 6.2 fewer minutes and the same PER Tyreke is better than he was as a rookie offensively but has been less of a focus on offense since having to share time at SG/SF v. being more focused at PG as a rookie. Still rounding out his game he successfully took half his shots at the rim and converted 63.2% but was a very below average 27% from 3 – 9 ft and 33% from behind the arch. As a comparison, James Harden is 63%, 37.6% and 36.6% respectively. These areas need significant improvement for Tyreke to be considered an elite player in the league.

Marcus – An above average scorer finishing at the rim an astounding 71% of the time but chucks 5.3 attempts or 50% of his shots from downtown where he shot a pedestrian 36.5%. A liability trying to create offense off ball, he requires an offensive play set that rewards him coming around screens and slashing to the basket to exploit his strengths finishing but Marcus needs to be more willing to work on his off ball movement and fight to create separation from his defender for this to become effective.

Jimmer – The best 3 point shooter on the team converted a solid 41.7%. However, like Marcus and Tyreke he is an anemic 28% from 16 – 23 feet away which makes even Demarcus snicker. Jimmer has yet to develop a multifaceted offensive repertoire as evidenced by 3.5 attempts behind the arch which is equal to all the shots from other areas combined. With a steep decline in finishing at the rim from 67.3% down to 56.8% Jimmer must become stronger and develop confidence in the 10 – 15 foot pop that was Beno’s bread and butter in order to create more at the rim scoring opportunities. With his 33 inch vertical being on par with the rest of this group and the best agility testing at 10.42 Jimmer should be able to finish at a much better rate but his average speed will require more reliance on his BBIQ to get to the line more frequently.

John – Salmons will never be fully appreciated for the present efficiency on offense because of the head scratching downturn in his long distance shooting ability from a TS% high of 59.1 down to 51.1 which combined with a historical ball dominant disposition. Last season his 14.5% usage was lowest amongst guards so he was not a black hole and he was the only shooting guard on the Kings that hits the 3 – 9 foot shot at a respectable 37.5% clip. He is also an above average finisher at 62% but only takes it to the rack 14.8% of the time. Salmon’s versatility keeps him in the league but his streakiness on offense gives teams an opportunity to focus their defensive schemes elsewhere.


Tyreke – Tyreke is a willing and capable passer but his assists per 30 min have declined from 5.8 to 4.1 in part because of him moving off ball while only averaging 31.0 min versus 37.2 min his legendary rookie year. The Kings post players namely Cousins, JT and Hayes have limited offensive moves and are not active enough off ball to get positioned for quick catch and shoot/lay in passes or when the defenders collapse on Tyreke as he drives to the rim. As stated above three of the four SGs can finish at the rim which if more of these drives were decoys to set up the big man or if these passes weren’t converted but rebounded and then put back in, Tyreke would still average 6 assists or more despite playing from the two with fewer minutes. Tyreke needs time this off season working with Cousins, JT and Hayes working to get them leading passes off open angles like Parker/Duncan or Paul/Griffin do well at which would translate to more alley oops, or quick shot near the rim.

Marcus – Without additional spot up shooters on the floor to create spacing nor a propensity to distribute the ball to the open man as evidenced by his 2.2 assists per 36 min, defenses can help defend without fear of Marcus releasing to an open man for a higher percentage shot. It also seems that Marcus plays better when he starts but must become a more effective passer and individual defender and rebounder in order to deserve starter minutes. Marcus need to cheat on his jumper and have an affair with driving to the hoop where he finishes at an elite level and work aggressively on developing ways to feed more balls to the post up players if defenders roll off to defend his layups.

Jimmer – With continued consistency from range, defenders sag less and press more, forcing Jimmer to handle the ball under pressure which is not ideal for a guy without an explosive first step, or elite length. He needs to add to his arsenal in order to capitalize on his potential. When the ball is in his hands better anticipation of where to pass. He also needs a strong pump fake to freeze his defender and to draw the defense off ball just long enough to create more space to pass to teammates at better angles or to shoot higher percentage shots. Jason Williams was awesome at this. He would fake the pass where his eyes were looking and then counter with a bullet to the teammate freed up from his defender that sagged because of the misdirection and this translated into a more assists. Jimmer will not only garner more assists this way but freezing his defender will give him more space to hit his shot. This tactic is similar to the way a QB like Tom Brady toys with a safety to create an open angle in which to deliver a pass. Jimmer also needs to be more active on the defensive glass, followed up with leading the break more like IT. If Jimmer develops his passing skills he will command more time on the floor.

John – Second best passer per 36 at 3.6 per game and an impressive 2.77 A:T ratio, best on the Kings. John should be asked to set up his teammates more but that has yet to materialize. It is likely the result of an anemic playbook, his own lack of court vision and chemistry feeding the post like mentioned above with both Tyreke and Marcus. More give n go, pick n roll plays need to be incorporated into the offense. These bread n butter plays would take advantage of Salmons abilities to score close to the basket, take care of the ball, and pass back to the post player for higher percentage shots. Cousins trying to create his own offense a majority of the time could radically become more efficient with a second player helping screen off the post player and creating space for either offensive player.


Tyreke statistically is the best perimeter defender on the team leading the guards with 4.1 defensive rebounds, 1.6 steals and .5 blocks per 36 min. His defensive is a team best at 111 and win shares is .8 which are not elite but are superior to the rest of the group and in a better team defensive setting should translate to more steals and blocks. With a legitimate defensive minded small forward, a team committed to defense will allow Tyreke to prep for just one position defensively and this will translate to improvements in every statistical category next season. Keep in mind he is the youngest of this group, has the best frame for his position so continuing to develop into an elite defender is very possible

Marcus rebounds at a below average rate for a SG with 2.6 per 36 min but if he were to be better incorporated in an offense that exploits his finishing strengths offensive rebounding would increase. His defensive rating is below average at 114 and his steals of 1.3 per 36 min suggests he does not put in the effort on the defensive end despite being solely a SG and having a reach that is .5 in longer than Jimmer with the about the same result despite Jimmer’s inexperience and learning both PG and SG positions. Many suggest keeping Marcus over Tyreke but while offensively a case could be made, defensively there is a significant drop off between the two and there is just not the versatility for Marcus to defend multiple positions which is taken for granted with Tyreke. It should be noted that New Orleans recommitted themselves to defense and did not see Marcus as a part of those plans.

John -- Basically a poor man’s Tyreke physically with similar height and reach but falls short of matching even Marcus in terms of rebounding and steals and save for blocks is a liability on a team already the league’s worst in giving up 105.1 points per contest. John is tied for last on the team with a 115 defensive rating and -.1 defensive win share. While he can cover multiple positions in spurts, without a true SF on the Kings, the platooning at the three creates match up issues at the two every night and opposition usually capitalizes. While his value on offense has been stated above he is not a solution on defense and given his age should not be a part of the future of this organization.

Jimmer – Sought after for his offensive range and not his defense, there is time to develop into an average defender and improve on his 1.2 steals per 36 min. Most likely Jimmer will echo other offensive minded SGs in the league that are on the team to add instant offense not stop the other teams’ best offensive weapon. Given his 2.6 rebounds and.1 blocks per 36 min respectively, Jimmer is best served as an offensive sniper that can play with the first team in spurts but is best served with a green light with the second unit where equal contribution on both sides of the ball is not a primary objective.

While each of these players can be serviceable at the two and with the exception of Marcus can back fill elsewhere, all have significant deficiencies. On offense, perhaps some of the blame was play calling given the lack of plays designed to finish at the rim or unclear roles or consistent minutes. More likely the inability for the guards to bring consistent shooting at multiple distances is the culprit.

When you inspection then expands to each of their defensive flaws only Tyreke is solid enough to be a starter on both sides of the ball. Since Jimmer is the best outside shooter, can on occasion bring up the ball on offense, is the second youngest and cheapest back up at the two, you keep him and spend another year trying to develop his overall game and hope his efficiency and proficiency makes sizable gains. Salmons is a decent locker room guy in the twilight of his career and should only be retained if we cannot package him for his sizable expiring contract. Thornton should be coveted by any team that lacks scorers and could easily be traded as not every team has a glut of backup twos nor will be as porous defensively like the Kings. In return a late first round pick next year or a defensive minded point guard, small forward or post player should be sought after.

(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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