After Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, it looked like it was about to be a very quiet week in Sacramento. With four days off and a light practice schedule expected around the Thanksgiving holiday, general manager Pete D’Alessandro gave the Kings an unexpected jolt when he traded Luc Mbah a Moute to the Minnesota Timberwolves for forward Derrick Williams.
The general reaction to the trade has been mixed. For a player who had only suited up for 13 games in a Kings uniform, Mbah a Moute had a lot of fans excited. The Kings haven’t had an elite defensive player for a while. On a team filled with selfish players, the veteran from Cameroon really stood out as a solid team guy.
Now Mbah a Moute is gone and once again, the usual suspects are lining up for another shot at the starting small forward position. John Salmons started the first eight games of the season for coach Michael Malone before losing his job to Mbah a Moute. After 12 seasons in the league, Father Time appears to have caught up with the 34-year-old wing. Armed with a PER (player efficiency rating) of just 7.7 and a 31.6-percent shooting percentage, Salmons just hasn’t performed up to NBA standards this season. Malone has given Salmons every opportunity to snap out of his funk, even using him for extended minutes off the bench. Salmons hasn’t earned another shot, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t get one.
Travis Outlaw has come on in the early part of this season after a disastrous first two years in Sacramento. He is showing a newfound confidence in his jumper and giving coach Malone a strong scoring option off the bench at both forward positions. Outlaw comes in with a PER of 18.5 and an impressive 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. He has rediscovered the shooting stroke that made him such a tough cover back in his days as a Portland Trail Blazer. Outlaw deserves a shot to win the job, but he has anchored a suspect second unit and Malone may be better served leaving him in that role.
Newcomer Williams failed in his attempt to win Minnesota’s small forward job, resulting in reduced playing time in Rick Adelman‘s rotation for the 2011 no. 2 overall selection. At 22 years old, Williams has time to improve, and the fresh start was badly needed. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that Williams is shooting just 35 percent from the field and 13 percent from long range in 11 games this season. There are questions as to whether Williams can play the small forward position. The Timberwolves said no, but it sounds like the Kings are willing to give him a long look at the position.
Malone has a decision to make. Option 1: Go back to the status quo with Salmons; Option 2: Give Outlaw a shot, but weaken the second unit; Option 3: Give a promising young forward a shot with two days of practice under his belt.
Pick your poison. Who starts at small forward on Friday night for the Sacramento Kings?