By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Posted Oct 16 2012 2:09PM
SACRAMENTO -- This is Season 2 of the search, except that it is Season 4, even though Season 6 is more like it.
It's not confusing. It's the Kings.
They have tried it all in the never-ending quest to find a permanent point guard. Big (Tyreke Evans at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds), small (Aaron Brooks at 6-foot, 160) and very small (Isaiah Thomas at 5-foot-9 and 185). Foreigners who arrived from within the NBA (Beno Udrih) and Americans who arrived via foreign countries (Brooks). Players who had their own mania (Jimmer Fredette) and relative unknowns. Rookies and veterans.
Of all the roster pratfalls, nothing embodies the problems more than the clumsy line of succession at point guard trying to replace Mike Bibby, the last constant as a distributor, since his 2007-08 trade. Udrih to Evans not to Fredette to Thomas and now to a Thomas vs. Brooks decision for coach Keith Smart.
Having choices is a good thing, but the Kings need stability once and for all. Just look at the last 16 months alone: Evans and Fredette were drafted in the lottery with the plan of being the point guard of the future, and now neither may play there again except in fleeting, situational moments. Meanwhile, the No. 60 pick a year ago, Thomas, went from trying to make the roster to trying to crack the rotation to starting and being voted second-team All-Rookie in a vote of coaches. And Brooks went from Most Improved Player in 2009-10 as a Rocket to being traded to Phoenix the next season to being blocked by the lockout from signing in the NBA to becoming a Guangdong Southern Tiger to returning to the NBA with the Kings.
A grand total of no one could have seen this coming. Four players on the roster who have been used at point guard, and the two who will man the position were nowhere close to the blueprint. Brooks started early in the exhibition schedule, Thomas was certain to get at least backup minutes, and Evans was looking at a season of more uncertainty than ever as a swingman heading toward 2013 free agency with little chance of getting a rookie extension. One year after arriving with immeasurable hype, Fredette was down to third string at the point and more likely looking for an opening at shooting guard.
As unexpected as the developments have been, this could actually work out well for the Kings, a dose of optimism to be welcomed on the verge of what projects to be another season of trying to dodge the worst record in the Western Conference. Smart wants to play fast to create easy baskets for the team that finished 26th in shooting last season, and it doesn't hurt that the autobahn offense will help cover the fact that the Kings have previously considered defense an optional exercise. Having jet-pack point guards obviously fits. Now there are two.
Adding the proven Brooks would have been positive enough, but to get him at the low risk of a reported $6.6 million for two seasons, with a player option for 2013-14, makes the signing an excellent investment. If he produces and Thomas proves to be more than a one-hit wonder, the Kings will have a real future at point guard and some stability at last.
1. DeMarcus Cousins opens his third season as an All-Star candidate at center, though a poor record for the Kings will obviously hurt his chances. Playing alongside Thomas Robinson, the lottery-pick power forward, should improve Cousins' game as opponents have to contend with another aggressive big man who will hit the boards hard and will draw defenses.
2. The Kings will score because they will play fast, but they need shooters. There is little reason to guard them on the perimeter until further notice. That is an obvious opportunity for Fredette, who shot only 38.6 percent overall last season and 36.1 on 3-pointers.
3. While Robinson is the power forward of the future after being chosen with the fifth pick, the Kings also have a major investment in Jason Thompson. Both will play a lot. But Robinson has the edge of being an advanced ballhandler for a rookie big man. Smart envisions being able to run at least some of the offense through the bigs, as in the days of old in Sacramento with Vlade Divac and Chris Webber.
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LAST YEAR: 22-44, 5th in Pacific
FINISH: Missed playoffs
2011-12 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2011-12 Stats|
AARON BROOKS, POINT GUARD
Played in China
Returning to the league after a stint overseas, the speedy, experienced Brooks could not have found a better opportunity than the point-starved Kings.
MARCUS THORNTON, SHOOTING GUARD
18.7 PPG | 3.7 RPG | 1.9 APG
The leading scorer on the Kings last season made the team look good for re-signing him a year ago. Can he put up those kinds of numbers with a new man running the show?
TYREKE EVANS, SMALL FORWARD
16.5 PPG | 4.6 RPG | 4.5 APG
He's no longer the point guard of the future -- exactly where he fits is still up in the air -- but there are skills there to be tapped. It's up to the Kings to tap them.
THOMAS ROBINSON, POWER FORWARD
17.7 PPG | 11.9 RPG at Kansas
A powerful 6-foot-9 at 240-plus pounds, Robinson can run the floor, too. The Kings can envision a powerhouse Robinson-Cousins tandem for years to come.
DEMARCUS COUSINS, CENTER
18.1 PPG | 11.0 RPG |1.6 APG
Entering his third season in the NBA, and still just 22 years old, the sometime petulant but always talented Cousins is showing legitimate All-Star potential.
|Chuck Hayes||6-6||250||F-C||His interior defense and attitude are assets.|
|Isaiah Thomas||5-9||185||G||On the path from No. 60 pick in 2011 to a long career.|
|Jason Thompson||6-11||250||F||Kings made a major free-agent investment to keep him.|
ADDED: G Aaron Brooks, F James Johnson, F Thomas Robinson
LOST: F Donte Greene, F Terrence Williams
DEMARCUS COUSINS, F
The Kings will have additional frontcourt help in rookie Thomas Robinson, but the ball will still go through Cousins down low. Although the third-year big man has been a project for his head coaches, Cousins has shown signs that he can get the job done.
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