The battle for the starting power forward position heats up in Sacramento

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The fight over the starting point guard position between Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez is getting all of the publicity in Kingsland.  It’s a nice little battle, but both of those players are going to have substantial roles on the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings, regardless of the winner.

The real position battle on this team is for the chance to start alongside Cousins in the post and there are plenty of takers for the job.  Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson are not only vying for the starting position, but for the reserve minutes as well.

“It’s not all about the point guard position,” Thomas said.  “That big position, they going to be fighting for some minutes too.  It’s good because they are all different power forwards.  They’re all different big men.”

The four veterans each possess a specific skill set that make them uniquely qualified for the job.  The winner will likely play second fiddle to the Cousins on the offensive end, but the loser might be trapped on the bench for 82 games.

“There are so many people at the four, that it’s going to be difficult to make sure that everyone is getting an equal amount of minutes,” Patterson told Cowbell Kingdom during media day.

Patterson is the best long distance shooter of the lot.  After coming over from the Rockets last February, the 24-year old Kentucky grad shot a stellar 44.4-percent from 3-point range.  He might not keep up that type of percentage over an entire season, but he has spent the summer fine tuning other aspects of this game, including his ball handling and rebounding.

Jason Thompson is the incumbent with a long history of coming out on top in these situations.  A steady stream of players have come to Sacramento to take Thompson’s job over the last few years.  Players like Landry, J.J. Hickson, Thomas Robinson and Samuel Dalembert, but he always comes out on top in the end.

At 6-foot-11 250-pounds, he not only has the best size of the group, but he is also the most versatile.  He can score in the post with both hands and has a clean 18 to 20 foot jumper.  He isn’t a bad defender, but like the rest of the group, he lacks elite shot blocking skills.

“I can play the four [and] I can play the five,” Thompson said.  “As long as you’re with the right group, that’s how it’s going to work.”

Landry has proven that he can score off the bench, but he has never been able to lock down a long-term job as a starter in the league.  His best opportunity came as a member of the Kings during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons in his first tour of duty with the team. But he was overtaken by Thompson in the starting line-up and then traded for Marcus Thornton when it became clear that he wouldn’t re-sign with Sacramento.

The 30-year old Landry is very familiar with coach Michael Malone from their time together in both New Orleans and Golden State.  Landry was also the first free agent signing of the new Kings regime, which may or may not have an impact once the regular season begins.

Hayes is almost an afterthought coming into this season, but the third former Rocket of the group plays defense, which is a must under coach Malone.  After signing a four-year deal with the Kings two seasons ago, the veteran forward has struggled with injuries and weight issues.  He completely fell out of Keith Smarts rotation last season, averaging just 2.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.

The stage is set for an extremely interesting training camp.  You have four different players fighting for one position, none of which  wants to take a step back.

“Epic,” a smiling Patrick Patterson answered when asked about the battle for the starting power forward position.  “It’s going to be competitive.  It’s going to be good.  It’s going to be challenging.  Each guy offers so much – their skill set, what they bring to the table, they’re unique in their own way.”

With day three of training camp beginning a little later today, Malone and his staff are looking for the right combination of players.  Four different starting positions are up for grabs

“It’s just a new coaching staff,” Thomas added.  “New everything.  You’ve got to be ready from day 1, because they said they’re not going to give anybody anything and you’re going to earn it.”

It should be a fun battle to watch.  There is no telling who comes out on top.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".