In reference to the Kings’ newfound versatility, George Karl mentioned throughout training camp and preseason that the Kings could use different starting lineups based on matchup and opponent, but if you told me the Sacramento Kings would have used six different staring lineups in the first seven games of the season, I would have told you you’re crazy, or something went horrible wrong. The Kings are 1-6, and I would file that under ‘horribly wrong’.
Karl supporters would argue that the DeMarcus Cousins injury and the recent Darren Collison injury more or less caused the erratic lineup shuffling we’ve seen all year, but I can only allow those injuries to take some percentage of the blame. The Kings look panicked at worst, without a plan at best. James Anderson has started the last three games at two different positions. Quincy Acy started on Saturday night against Golden State and only played 15 minutes. I can’t help but wonder what the strategy is behind any of these moves. I have to imagine they have something in mind, some statistic or matchup they are pointing towards as a reason, but right now, from the outside, it doesn’t look like anyone had a plan for basketball without Boogie, which is a shame because the Kings inability to perform without Cousins is one of the reasons Michael Malone was fired, and one of the reasons why Vlade Divac and his front office focused on depth this summer.
The Kings have lost six of their first seven games. That is concerning, obviously, but I also find the fact that the Kings have learned next to nothing about their roster through seven games nearly as concerning. I can’t tell you which lineups work best, or which players play well with other players, because the lineup and rotation is completely different on a nightly basis.
I have theories. Unfortunately, that is all they are.
Willie Cauley-Stein has looked better next to DeMarcus Cousins than Kosta Koufos has. Cauley-Stein has also developed some good on-court chemistry with Rajon Rondo.
Rondo played really well with two of the best off ball players on the roster, Marco Belinelli and Omri Casspi, in Golden State. It was the most comfortable Rondo has looked as a passer this season, and the space and movement those guys create can take credit for that.
The Rajon Rondo – Darren Collison duo has been hit or miss for some of the same reasons you could probably have predicted. When Collison has the ball, Rondo has a hard time playing off that. When Rondo is creating, it’s looked better.
Here is a fun one! Let’s play ‘guess that shooting guard’!
SG#1 – 18.4 MPG, 5.6 PPG, .359 FG%, .286 3P%, 1.9 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.9 TO
SG#2 – 11.5 MPG, 4.2 PPG, .280 FG%, .313 3p%, 1.0 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.2 STL, 1.0 TO
SG#3 – 27.3 MPG, 11.4 PPG, .338 FG%, .333 3-%, 1.7 REB, 2.9 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.1 TO
You can probably guess who is who based on minutes per game (McLemore is SG#1, Anderson is SG#2, and Belinelli is SG#3), but my oh my is that production poor. Ben McLemore has received more criticism than the others in that bunch, but his field goal percentage is highest among the crew, and I have seen nothing, I repeat, nothing out of James Anderson that suggests he should be starting and getting minutes over McLemore at this point in the season.
To connect the theme here, I’d like to see Karl pick one of them (McLemore, preferably) and let the other one ride the pine. Belinelli is staying in the rotation, because he has the track record McLemore and Anderson don’t, but I need a little decisiveness out of the head coach.
I can almost understand why Karl would start Anderson at shooting guard, but starting him at small ball three over Omri Casspi was a real head scratcher. If Gay is playing four, you almost need Omri’s size and rebounding at small forward to help Gay inside. Anderson’s one rebound per game isn’t going to cut it.
I could continue nit picking at specific player groupings, but that really isn't my point. I’m not lofting heavy criticism onto Karl, either. The schedule has been brutal, injuries have gotten in the way of everything the Kings have been trying to establish this season, but I think we can say his tinkering ways aren’t working right now, and it might be time for a more consistent approach.
DeMarcus Cousins is (hopefully) returning for tonight’s game against the Spurs. Collison’s absence will hurt, but that shouldn’t keep Karl from forming some sort of consistent rotation around Cousins moving forward. The only option is to play Belinelli as the bench point guard, or give Seth Curry Collison’s minutes. The trickle down effect of losing Collison shouldn't ruin the rest of the rotation like losing Cousins did. You can still establish something consistent with the players likely available tonight.
That is my plea. Give some of these guys an opportunity to perform, and if they don’t at least you know they can’t, because right now, seven games in, I can’t tell you what we’ve learned about this roster yet.