Opening Night Starting Lineup Taking Shape?

This from Jason Jones after the victory over the Warriors Tuesday night:

*The small forward race might begin taking shape. For the second time lately, Westphal had nice things to say about Donte’ Greene’s play and the role of Omri Casspi.

Casspi had 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Greene started and had 10 points, four rebounds and three steals.

“I like Casspi off the bench,” Westphal said. “I think he gives us a really nice niche…And I like Donte. I thought he really showed the kind of impact he can have on a game. Donte’ really played well I thought.”

I’ve been pretty back-and-forth on whether or not I thought Omri should start at small forward over Donté or Donté should start over Omri. I really like the fire and attitude Omri brings to this team. He seems to be one of the most competitive players in the league (not just the team) and young teams like the Kings can use more guys like that playing significant/starter’s minutes. At the same time, Donté Greene may be the best overall defensive player the team has and this team certainly proved last year they need as much defensive work as they can get.

Looking at their numbers from last year, they couldn’t have been more similar:

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Their Per 36-Minute numbers are nearly identical. Donté gives you almost the same everything across the board except he’s a shot-blocking threat. Omri gives the same production as Donté except he’s a much better rebounder. When you look at how efficiently they are on offense in different situations, they’re also really similar (according to Synergy Sports):

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Donté Greene’s Synergy numbers have the white background and Omri’s have the gray background.

Surprisingly, Donté seems to be the better offensive weapon, which I didn’t expect at all. Omri is regarded as the better shooter and the more efficient play-maker in many ways but Donté’s proficiency in the pick-and-roll seems to put him over the top.

When we turn to the defensive numbers that Synergy provides us, we sort of get flipped on our heads again:

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The numbers here (remember Donté in white, Omri in gray) show Casspi to be the better defender by far. In fact he was the 10th best defender in isolation last season in the entire league. 10th! Part of this could be due to the fact that Donté’s numbers are a little out of whack considering he was often guarding the best offensive opponent on the floor. But overall, Omri’s defensive numbers are simply stunning.

However, that doesn’t change my feeling on what each player brings to the table. Omri has shown a much better flair for creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates. Some scouts I talked to during Summer League often glowed about his ability to make the “Gretzky assist” (the pass that lead to the pass that got the assist). And with Omri’s ability to shoot the ball from all over the court, I think it’s safe to say he IS in fact the better offensive option. With Donté you’re going to get a guy who is capable of guarding the best scorer on the opposing team. It doesn’t mean he’s always going to stop that guy but even with his added muscle and bulk (I don’t care if the Kings want him to get rid of the extra weight. I think it should stay to help his versatility), he can still stay and bother most perimeter scorers while being able to guard bigger guys in the post.

Ultimately, I’d like the play-maker to come off the bench to provide a spark and the defensive-minded guy to roll out with the starters. If Coach Westphal is indeed content with starting Donté and bringing Omri in as a 6th or 7th man force, it’s a decision I think all Kings fans can feel confident in.

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