Technically, Pooh Jeter is the third point guard on the Kings' roster heading into the season, behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih. As such, it'd be fair to wonder whether Jeter can expect to get enough consistent playing time to establish himself as a contributor to the team and a real live NBA player.
But practically speaking, Jeter could go into the season as the back-up point guard, No. 2 on the depth chart. Why? Because Udrih may very be starting alongside Evans, as was the case for the bulk of 2009-10.
So long as Francisco Garcia is the third guard in the rotation, Paul Westphal could opt to keep the bulk of minutes between that trio, with Garcia spelling Udrih, and then Udrih coming back in for Evans. There's a legit point guard in any combination of those three you can create.
But that was also the case for all of last season, both during Kevin Martin's injury and after the team traded him. How much time did the first point guard behind Evans and Udrih get during those spans?
Martin was injured the first week of November and didn't return until January. November and December, then, should offer a fair picture of minutes availability in a Beno-Evans backcourt, even though Donte Greene started several games at two-guard. There was still a lot of Beno-Evans action going on.
Sergio Rodriguez was the third point guard on the roster until the Martin trade. In November and December, he appeared in 23 games, seeing 348 minutes of action. He didn't appear in five games. So over the team's 28 games in those two almost completely Martin-less months, Sergio played 12.4 minutes a game. (In the 23 games he made it into, he averaged 15.1 minutes.)
What about after the Martin trade, which sent Rodriguez to New York? The Kings kept Garrett Temple on the roster for a short span, but he only took 23 minutes. Garcia played only a couple minutes at point guard without Udrih or Evans on the court. Where'd those March-April back-up point guard minutes go?
Beno soaked them up.
Evans played a ton of minutes all year; March did see his highest minutes-per-game run, but the 39 mpg in that month was only a minute or two higher than in previous months. But Beno is a different story. From October through February, Beno averaged 29 minutes a game. In March and April, he averaged more than 37, effectively erasing the need for a third point guard.
Westphal did just what many expect he'll do this season: play Evans and Udrih together a lot, keeping at least one on the court at almost all times, and rotating a shooting guard in as needed. Last season that guard was Garcia, Dominic McGuire or Ime Udoka. This season, it would be Garcia and Antoine Wright, largely ...
... unless Westphal shrinks Beno's minutes some, or gives Garcia minutes at small forward, or if there is an injury in the backcourt. Minutes for Jeter have to come at the expense of minutes for someone else, and that someone else is going to have to be Beno. If Udrih plays the way he did last season, that's a tough hill to come.
But Jeter will have an early opportunity considering Evans will miss the opener. I look forward to watching Pooh make the most of his chance.