I’ll Pass On the Ménage à Guard
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this potential three-guard lineup for the Kings due to the Francisco Garcia injury and I can’t help but think that it’s more gimmick than solution.
It’s not that I don’t think Beno Udrih can be a decent point guard for the Kings. And it’s not that Tyreke Evans won’t be good enough as a small forward when called upon. And I know that this isn’t a permanent solution for a team that will be lucky to sniff 30+ wins this seasons. I just don’t see how it works out for the long-term building of this team.
Coach Westphal is big on versatility in his lineups. It seems as though position doesn’t really matter and there is something to be said for just throwing your best five guys out on the floor and making the other team adjust to you. It worked for a while with the Mavericks, Suns, and Warriors when they were all more concerned with scoring a ton of points instead of worrying about having prototypical 4s and 5s on the floor. But those teams had immense firepower that wouldn’t relent for 48 minutes per game. They had a good deal of talent bursting at their deep positions – enough so that it seemed detrimental to their chance at success to play a more traditional style.
But the Kings don’t fit those models at all. I guess they’re most like those Warriors teams if anything, thanks to the gluttony of wing players they possess. Sacramento seems they’d be best off putting their best five out there, which would make them go bigger rather than smaller. The idea of Tyreke Evans as your primary point guard is as bold as it is lofty for a basketball theory. But at least it’s a move that creates mismatches in your favor if you’re the Kings.
However, going with the three-guard lineup with this group of guards seems to be counterproductive. When I was in Las Vegas for the summer league, I was able to grab a few moments talking to ESPN’s David Thorpe who was fairly impressed at the time with the Kings three rookies. He talked about Brockman’s rebounding, Casspi’s potential playmaking ability, and Evans’ ability to wreak some havoc. But he also had an interesting question of whether or not ‘Reke’s future was at the point guard or small forward position.
At 6’5”, I find myself shuttering at the idea of him playing the small forward position. I guess it doesn’t make much difference on offense. When he gets the ball, his job will be to create chaos amongst the defense and get to the basket. If he develops a jumper, that will be mixed in as well. But what happens to him on defense, especially as a rookie? If the Kings run a three-guard lineup for 15 to 20 minutes every night, that will be 15 to 20 minutes of Evans being overmatched on the defensive end of the floor. I don’t care how good of a defender he can be, if he has to guard the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Danny Granger, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, or Stephen Jackson. Hell, I don’t even like the idea of him having to guard guys like Rudy Gay and I don’t think he’s all that good.
If this team is going to win, learn how to win, and develop into a successful team then they have to become a decent defensive team at worst. Even when the Suns were losing out to the Spurs every postseason as an offensive-minded team, they were still an average defensive team. That’s what helped them take advantage of their strengths and survive their weaknesses. But when the Kings throw out a lineup of Beno and Martin at the guards (both bad defenders with the Kings), Evans out of position at the three (as a rookie), and two post defenders that don’t exactly remind people of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, you’re consistently giving yourself a disadvantage on the defensive end of the court.
Going back to my idea of the Kings putting their best five out there and that best five making them big rather than small, it seems like the simplest cure to this problem is inserting one of their many small forwards into the lineup and trying to go with that more often than not. I understand the idea of taking Andres Nocioni and putting him as the sixth man of the team but before, you were allowed that luxury because of Francisco Garcia’s presence. Without Cisco, the best possible lineup to throw out on the court is the Evans-Martin-Nocioni-Thompson-Hawes fivesome.
And if keeping Nocioni on the bench is a must for Westphal then why not throw out someone like Casspi or Donté Greene into the starting lineup and seeing if you can catch lightning in a bottle? Omri has really impressed through two preseason games and been ready to perform and play whenever he’s thrown out there. Can you just award Casspi the starting job because of one popped exercise ball and a couple of solid quarters of exhibition play? Probably not. Actually… DEFINITELY not. But if it keeps your matchups and advantages in your favor then isn’t it a better idea than just throwing out three guards? This isn’t college.
Maybe Omri isn’t the best option (unless he can become the Kings version of Nicolas Batum). And Donté definitely hasn’t earned anything as well. Perhaps, Desmond Mason is THE best option because he can defend and provide some veteran presence.
I guess over these next five months (I think four is extremely optimistic for a repaired radius, some ligament damage, and some au jus), there will be a lot of options thrown out there. Some of them will stick and the majority of them will not. I’m just afraid that some of these (three-guard lineup for extended minutes) will waste the fans time and frustrate more than it inspires.