After last Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Kings head coach Dave Joerger said after the game that he’d “seen enough” and that the team would be going small going forward. He followed up on that promise with a new starting lineup of Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. While the Kings won the game, that lineup is hardly to be credited, especially when the Kings did a lot of their best work in the game when Kosta Koufos (a game-high +18) came in and helped shut down the paint and stop the pick and roll.
We are just 14 games into the season and the Kings have yet to find a few lineups that they really like as Coach Joerger continues to fiddle and tweak with the rotation (understandable for a new coach). According to NBA.com’s lineup data, Sacramento’s old starting lineup (which has played 141 minutes together) was doing alright, with a net rating of +3.5 points per 100 possessions. The next most used lineup, featuring Lawson, Afflalo, Barnes, Gay and Cousins has played 53 minutes together and is a -10.3 points per 100 possessions.
Sacramento’s starting lineup from the game against the Raptors has a small sample size of just 14 minutes over a couple games but the early returns aren’t great as the net rating for that lineup was an abysmal -25.5 net rating. To be fair, that really isn’t enough data to judge the lineup fairly, and I’m sure over the next few games we’ll see more of it as Joerger continues to experiment.
One thing that stood out to me when looking at the lineup data is that two of Sacramento’s best lineups (the Kings have only had 10 different lineups that have played at least 10 minutes together so far this season) do not feature Ty Lawson at all. While Rudy Gay is the only Sacramento King with a positive net rating overall on the season (Skal Labissiere’s 15 garbage time minutes notwithstanding), Lawson has the lowest net rating of the previous starters at -5.9. While I think Lawson has been ok, I think at some point it’s time to consider having him come off the bench and hand Darren Collison the full-time starting PG job.
I do like the change to make Arron Afflalo come off the bench. Off the bench, Afflalo can be a bit more of a featured option for the offense. He easily had his best game of the season as a King in that role on Sunday and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can keep up that pace as Sacramento’s 6th man.
Omri Casspi being in the doghouse is also a letdown, as he’s too good of a player to simply ride the pine all year long, and most of his minutes seemingly have gone to Matt Barnes. I don’t think it needs to be an “either-or” situation with Barnes and Casspi, and I think if Coach Joerger truly wants to go small he should give Casspi a chance at small-ball Power Forward, a position he did well with under George Karl.
The season is young and we still don’t really know the identity of this Kings team just yet. Changes are certainly inevitable leading up to the trade deadline as well, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on how this recent lineup change and future changes affect this team on the court. Let us know what you think the Kings starting lineup/rotation should be going forward in the comments below.