The Sacramento Kings upgraded their depth this offseason, but with added depth comes the challenge of how to manage minutes. At every position the Kings are faced with a scenario where somebody is being squeezed out of minutes.
At point guard the Kings have De’Aaron Fox, Cory Joseph, and Yogi Ferrell. Last season they averaged 31.4, 25.2, and 15.0 minutes per game, respectively. Ferrell probably sees the biggest drop, but Joseph is in line for a smaller role than he’s accustomed to as well. Common logic might suggest lineups with two of the three guards playing alongside each other. But sliding a point guard to shooting guard doesn’t alleviate the minutes concern. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic both will command significant minutes each night. And while both could conceivably slide to a small ball three, that simply pushes the problem down the roster.
At the wing Harrison Barnes will get the lion’s share of minutes. Trevor Ariza should play significantly less than the 34 minutes per game he averages last year, and both Ariza and Barnes are capable of playing small ball power forward, but there’s a logjam among the big men as well.
The Kings will split 96 minutes per game between Marvin Bagley III, Dewayne Dedmon, Harry Giles, Nemanja Bjelica, and Richaun Holmes, and that’s before giving any minutes to Barnes or Ariza at the four. There’s no way around it, the Kings have players capable of playing significantly more minutes than the Kings have available.
Some of this will naturally sort itself out. Last year we wondered how the Kings would balance Willie Cauley-Stein, Bjelica, Bagley, Giles, and Kosta Koufos. Koufos was relegated to the bench, and Giles and Bagley both missed time to injuries.
Dedmon has missed about 20 games to injuries each of the past two years, and Giles is still likely to miss some games to either injuries or healthy rest. But even when the team is at full strength, it seems most likely that the coaching staff will be able to be opportunistic with rotations. If the bench is struggling to score, maybe Yogi plays more that night than Joseph. Some night Holmes might be a better bench matchup than Giles or Bjelica. The coaching staff has the luxury of options.
The concern is that we’ve seen firsthand what can go wrong when players don’t have clear roles and expectations for when they’ll be playing. Frustrations can build when players feel like they never know when they’ll play next, especially when you’re dealing with younger players instead of established veterans who understand how the game works.
The other option is that the staff could establish a very consistent rotation where multiple players end up moth-balled. This brings its own challenges in terms of keeping players engaged and ready.
There’s no way to know which approach the staff will take, but it’s going to be something to watch closely as the season begins.