Late on Saturday night, Kings head coach Paul Westphal said he’d be shocked if his starting rotation doesn’t include the following players: Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and DeMarcus Cousins.
First, let’s start with how this helps DeMarcus Cousins…
Assuming Samuel Dalembert doesn’t return, Cousins should slide over to the starting center role which will help him in a variety of ways. First, Cousins is quicker, faster and generally stronger than the majority of NBA centers sans a very small handful – something that isn’t necessarily true at the power forward position. His advantages in speed and quickness will help on both ends of the court allowing him to avoid the problematic foul trouble that plagued him last season, relax a bit more on the defensive end and focus more energy on the offensive side of the ball. No longer will Cousins be stuck guarding the Blake Griffin‘s of the world. Now, that’s not to necessarily say that Cousins will solely guard centers – not at all. Many nights he may guard the opposing power forward, giving Hayes the duty of center defense – and that’s the way it should be. Hayes’ proven defense against NBA stud big men will take the pressure off of Cousins, allowing him to play more freely and open.
The addition of Hayes also alters the Kings bench, making it far better and potent than it would have been. With Hayes starting, J.J. Hickson is moved out of the starting lineup, allowing the Kings starting five to become more defensive minded but at the same time giving the Kings a solid scoring option off the bench. A lineup which includes the likes of Hickson, Salmons, Thornton, Evans and Cousins simply has too many players who need to score and require the ball in their hands – moving Hickson into a sixth man role is both perfect for the player and the team.
As far as it relates to Jason Thompson, the Kings can now bring Thompson off of the bench to replicate Hayes’ role along side Hickson, giving them an offensive minded big and a hustle/defensive minded big in their second unit. Thompson will be able to slide to backup center, a role he should thrive in as Thompson commits nearly a foul less per game as a center, not to mention two more rebounds and two more points a game than he does at power forward.
Without Hayes on the team, the Kings are essentially throwing out a rotation of Cousins/Hickson/Salmons/Thornton/Evans which would create a trickle down effect to their second unit – not awful, but clearly not the defensive team we’d be looking for. Hayes’ addition to the team, not to mention the role of starting power forward dramatically alters the Kings rotations, both first and second unit for the better – and you’ll see results in the improvement of Cousins, Hickson and Thompson’s games.