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Identifying the Problem

Scott Howard-Cooper offers this regarding the starting line-up:

[...] Miller and four wings, along the lines of that endless stretch drive against the Warriors, would be the same attempt at creating mismatches, or at creating something. Anything. Udrih, Garcia, Martin, Salmons and Miller.

So Cooper would demote Jason Thompson for Francisco Garcia. While Shock isn't a stopper yet -- he's solid man-to-man, weak in help -- I assume he can defend the world's power forwards better than Salmons can. (Actually, screw assumption. Thompson can absolutely guard fours better than Salmons. That's just common sense and a set of functional eyeballs.)

So the switch is meant to boost the team's offense, then ... it's perimeter scoring.

Is offense the problem here? Well sure, it's a problem. But factors exist which would imply the offense isn't so bad after all. Martin missed almost two months, and he's one of the best scorers on the planet. Garcia missed six weeks and played rusty for another two. This required Bobby Jackson to play two-guard for long stretches, Jason Thompson to play some three and Quincy Douby to soak up vital possessions. With Martin (even still not completely healthy, obviously) and Garcia, the offense should be about league average, depending on Beno, Brad and the youngsters.

But defense -- I guarantee you this defense is problematic. The defense is awful. Beyond awful. It's embarrassing. It's a joke. The team rarely contests jumpers, the defensive rebounding is among the league's worst and (surprisingly) the Kings foul too often. Salmons and Garcia have their moments, Thompson is picking things up quickly, Spencer Hawes has been a weakside monster off and on, and even Martin defended his jock off the other night in key situations ... but Sacramento's defense is absolutely atrocious. And again: shot defense and defensive rebounding, those are the factors.

How does replacing your best rebounder, a 6'11 beast with tremendous hands and buckets of power, with a 6'6 two-guard (Salmons) pulling four rebounds in 37 minutes a game ... how does that help your defense? Of course, it absolutely doesn't. And it seems pretty obvious that the defensive impact of the switch is FAR, FAR GREATER than any boost you'd get by adding Garcia to the starting five. (Unless we're adding a second basketball; Martin and Salmons could each use more shots as it is, before you add an able gunner like Garcia.)

Look, Thompson has started at the four for four games now. In three of those games, the Kings offense has performed well. Meanwhile, Thompson's rebounding has stayed solid in the front five, his defense really has been wonderfully suprising (except for the Orlando game) and ... ahem ... one second ... <cough> ... HE'S YOUR POWER FORWARD OF THE FUTURE! Why on Earth would you take him out after performing so well, hitting the floor twice every game and giving you (almost) everything you could want? Is this season about getting Garcia starter minutes, or is it about the growth of the team's unknown youngsters?

And yeah, this is about Natt's strict rotation Wednesday, too. I understand meeting Nellie's matches -- you don't want a situation where Thompson has to mark Azubuike or something, and Miller had been playing phenomenal. But in one of the overtimes (it's all a blur), Nellie put Rob Kurz (a power forward) in there with Ronny Turiaf. Natt stayed with four guards. If you're going to play match-ups with Don Nelson, you've got to keep up. It all worked out in the end ... though you really have to question whether the team would have needed three overtimes with a couple more rebounds from the power forward position.

I sit here, hoping Wednesday's rotation was an abberation due to the opponent. And then a pundit comes up with a suggestion to go four-guard full-time. Unbelievable.