Who starts for the Sacramento Kings when they begin their 2012-13 campaign on the road against the Chicago Bulls?
James threw this question out last night on Twitter after Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reported that head coach Keith Smart plans to unveil his opening night starting lineup in the Kings’ preseason finale. James garnered plenty of response so I figured I might as well throw my prediction out there, too.
I think Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, James Johnson, Thomas Robinson and DeMarcus Cousins begin the season as starters. Everyone seems to be pegging Johnson as the starting small forward. If he gets the job, I think Robinson tags along with him. Smart has used that duo in various stretches throughout the preseason and I think the Kings head coach likes the defensive energy they bring together.
If Johnson and Robinson start, that means Jason Thompson and Marcus Thornton come off the bench. It might be easier to sell Thornton on a sixth man role if he’s not the only starter from last year transitioning to a reserve job. Meanwhile, having Thompson off the bench gives them additional size that they otherwise wouldn’t have bringing Chuck Hayes and Robinson in as reserves.
Aaron Brooks could start. But if there’s one thing he’s shown this preseason, it’s that he’s ready no matter what the role. He didn’t play in the Kings’ preseason win on Friday against the Lakers, but then had his best game in the ensuing rematch, scoring 16 points on four of five shooting in 18 minutes.
It’s hard to imagine that Smart goes with one starting five for all 82 games. He’s talked a lot about the versatility this team has and we’ll probably see a variety of lineups on the floor depending on match-ups presented throughout the season.
“I gotta make sure I have the right combination on the floor,” Smart said last week. “And that’s what this exercise through training camp and through preseason is all about. Who do I put, who do I have matched up? “
In the long run, who finishes games for the Kings will be more important than who’s starting them.
I completely agree that it’s who finishes and not who starts that matters most. That being said, we are playing a guessing game and I will stick to my original prediction.
If I am signing the roster card for game No. 1, it reads Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, James Johnson, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins.
Like Jon mentioned, we have seen Smart use the combination of Johnson and rookie Thomas Robinson a lot this preseason and it might make some sense to start the duo for game one. I just don’t think that is your best play here if you are Keith Smart.
Thompson is an extremely versatile big with great size and he played very well down the stretch last season with Cousins.
For the last couple years, the Kings have had to adjust to what opposing coaches ran at them because of the hole at the wing. Color me intrigued, but I want to see a huge frontline of Thompson, Johnson and Cousins and I want to see teams figure out a way to match-up against the Kings instead of the other way around.
I also agree that Aaron Brooks could be the starter at the point for this team. In preseason, he’s shown he’s ready to return to the NBA and he brings some high level intangibles to the game.
The question is can you say that Brooks is an upgrade over Thomas? As a pure scorer, sure; Brooks has more tricks in his bag. But as a complete player, I could argue that Thomas is a better passer, rebounder and defender. Let the fifth-year veteran come in and change the game’s pace with his offensive prowess.
If Smart can bring in Thornton and Brooks as reserves, the Kings have one of the highest scoring benches in the league.
Smart has some tough decisions to make and he needs his team to buy in 100 percent, no matter who is part of the first or second unit. This year’s Kings will win or lose based on the level of commitment to the team concept.