Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone has a moment of reflection during practice in Santa Barbara. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Michael Malone would have liked to have a lineup and rotation settled on by now. But as the Sacramento Kings head into their final game of the preseason, the first-time head coach is still weighing his options.

DeMarcus Cousins has his place in the lineup locked down. But outside of center, Malone has decisions to make on positions 1-4. The decision-making process has been challenging for Malone, because there are no “clear-cut favorites.”

“On any given night you can make a case for Greivis (Vasquez) or Isaiah (Thomas), Marcus (Thornton) or Jimmer (Fredette), Travis (Outlaw) or John (Salmons) (and) Patrick (Patterson) or Jason (Thompson),” Malone said after practice Wednesday in Sacramento. “So it’s just trying to figure out what gives us the best lineup and just as important, what group off our bench gives us a lift and an energy and a spark to close out quarters and to start the next quarters.”

Rather than focusing on the challenge of sorting out his rotation, Malone is looking at the positives. Like any coach, he would love to have All-Stars at every position, but he knows the Kings are still in the midst of transition.  Malone sees the bigger picture of first getting the franchise headed in the right direction.

But in the short-term, Malone is aware he’ll have to settle on his lineup sooner rather than later. He wants to establish roles for each of his players so that there’s no confusion of what’s expected of them. His conversations with players after taking over the helm led him to make that conclusion.

“I think it’s fair for guys once you have a lineup (to say) these are your starters (and) now you assign roles and these are guys coming off the bench,” said Malone, who hopes to play a nine- or 10-man rotation. “You don’t want to change it every night because it’s tough for players to understand. From what I’ve heard from a lot of guys in the years past here, no one knew when they were playing or how much they were going to play and that made it kind of hard to know what their role was.”