It wasn’t very long ago (five games to be exact) that Donte Greene was anointed the starting small forward and Kings head coach Paul Westphal praised Omri Casspi’s ability off the bench.
Well, Donte Greene got the start in the season opener and played 26 minutes. The following game in New Jersey he played 3 minutes. Game three? Greene managed to pick up three seconds of floor time. Game 4 and 5? Never even got off the bench. Casspi on the other hand has had a complete reversal of fortune, playing at least 20 minutes in every game while starting the last four.
Westphal seemed to be in a bit of a lose/lose situation with the potential starting small forward spot before the season began. I like both Greene and Casspi, but neither player seized their opportunity this preseason. Greene has an incredibly unique and beneficial size/skill set for his position, but unfortunately, hasn’t shown extended ability in being able to use it to his advantage. Casspi on the other hand is more of a prototypical small forward by NBA standards but still has sophomore struggles and seems to, at times, lose his focus (and confidence) on the court.
I looked back at the stats when it was announced that Greene would be the starter and compared both he and Casspi, both starting and as a bench player. The conclusion? Well, both play pretty similar when given the same situation and floor time. That was helpful. But just from the generic eyeball test, I was a bigger fan of Casspi starting, though I was in the minority on that looking at the fan vote. Greene certainly appears to have the advantage over Casspi from a pure physical standpoint, and maybe even tools…but until he learns how to properly use them on an NBA court, he’s going to struggle.
In addition to the Casspi/Greene struggle, Jason Thompson is also feeling the crunch of the new big man heavy roster. The hopeful one time future power forward of the Kings might not even be a power forward any longer (in stretches, at least), until some type of roster shakeup happens. Paul Westphal has never been afraid to try some odd rotations and his desire to throw Thompson into the small forward slot is, well, questionable to say the least. I’ve always thought Thompson was a bit misplaced at power forward to be honest and was clearly a better center who could play power forward when the time called for it. When I overlooked Jason’s stats as a center and as a power forward earlier this year, I think they pretty much spoke for themselves. The most shocking of the stats was the considerably lower amount of fouls Thompson committed as a center, mostly due to the fact he doesn’t struggle so much with their quickness and versatility in the block when compared to more lug-nut heavy centers. So, throwing Thompson at small forward at times just to get him floor time doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – I can’t see it working. He’s too big and not nearly quick enough on either end of the court nor does he have the needed tools to play that position. I understand his need for floor time, but he’s being outplayed by Darnell Jackson right now. That’s not to say Jackson sucks by any stretch, but if you can’t outplay him…I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
The overflow of big men is becoming a bit of a problem though as there simply isn’t enough time available to get them all impact minutes, especially with Jackson starting the season out so well. If it continues down this path, you’d think somebody will be a casualty of it sooner than later.