[An analysis of predicted backcourt minutes here.]
The area of grave concern ... the frontcourt! [thunder claps, damsels shriek, microwave buzzer goes off]
I won't break this down between the two positions, because it really doesn't matter.
Brad Miller: 32 minutes. Under Musselman in 2006-07, Miller only played 28 minutes a night. He was injured, ineffective and Coach Muss clearly didn't know how to use him properly. Reggie Theus does. Miller played 35 minutes a game last season. He was effective, healthy (mostly) and without question had the best season of any of the Sacramento bigs. I imagine he'll regress a bit; combined with the team's likely regression early and the obvious need to play these young bigs, Miller's minutes should decrease some. He'll still be the best big, of course. I don't think Petrie will trade him until next summer.
Mikki Moore: 27 minutes. Mikki saw 29 minutes per game last season. I imagine he'll start every game he's healthy for, either at the 4 or 5. (Kenny Thomas started the first two games last season, and Moore also came off the bench due to a medical emergency later in the season.) I think Theus, with more options, will have a quicker hook in the first half. Theus seems to like Jason Thompson and wants to prove he's done a good job with Spencer Hawes, so those outweight his fondness for vets. Still, Moore's a veteran presence, an energy guy and the best big defender on the team (a horrible, horrible truth).
Spencer Hawes: 22 minutes. Last season's minutes don't do much good -- he was a garbage time/end of the half guy part of the season, a legit first-off-the-bench rotation player for a few months, and the starter in April. Unless Thompson wows in preseason, Hawes has the job (third big) cinched. (And of course, for the first five games, he has "starting center" cinched, it would seem.) Even though Thompson is older and arguably more developed as a player, Hawes is the king of the youths here. Theus likes him a lot, it seems, and he's the de facto frontcourt savior, for better or worse.
Jason Thompson: 12 minutes. It's impossible to guess how Theus will play JT this year. Remember: the assistants set the lineups and playing time in Vegas, where Thompson played behind Shelden Williams. I think Theus (based on his lack of love for Williams and stated approval of JT) will go the other way. Once the staff realizes Thompson has more developed skills than Hawes, we might see JT get bigger minutes. (That should be, oh, St. Patrick's Day.) I fear November will see a lot of 2-3 minute box scores, though.
Shelden Williams: 3 minutes. Williams should get some early season minutes so the Kings can form a full opinion on the kid, and it looks like he'll have a chance to with Miller down for five. I suspect Williams will be the third big during that spell, but I imagine it won't take long for Thompson to overtake him in Theus' book. This cat's only shot at sticking in Sactown is to: blow people away in the preseason, or hope Moore or Miller get lost at the deadline and Thompson struggles to adapt. Otherwise, Williams is on his way to the trade bait barrel. (I'm a bit anxious to see what the team does on his 2009-10 option, which must be signed by the end of October. Unlike Quincy Douby, who has a really cheap one -- $2.1 million -- Shelden's is pricey: $4.3 million.)
I don't think we'll see Donté Greene move up a weight class but for spare moments. The small forwards (Artest, Salmons, Garcia) got quite a few power forward minutes last season, but I really hope we've seen the end of it: we don't have a fast point guard pushing the ball, and none of our bigs (save Williams and Kenny Thomas) rebound well enough to remove a ballast on the boards. (That's a whole 'nother subject, how this team isn't built for smallball.) If Salmons and Garcia do play PF at times, it will hurt Thompson and Hawes. Again, I think we're past that. There's some frontcourt depth here -- it's green, but it's here.