It has been quite a while since the Kings have had a clear-cut, reliable starter at the small forward position.
The last time I can remember not losing sleep over who would start at the three was back in the days when the Artest formerly known as Ron was suiting up for the Kings. Since Ron-Ron left us in 2008, the small forward spot has been a constant carousel with no real player stepping up as the long term option in Sacramento.
It’s a position that’s been in constant debate amongst Kings fans, especially with how mediocre usual starter John Salmons has performed in the past few seasons. For the Kings latest game against the Phoenix Suns this past Tuesday, head coach Michael Malone decided to tinker with the starting five a bit and insert Luc Mbah a Moute.
Mbah a Moute, recently acquired this past offseason, did fairly well in his first start for Sacramento, contributing four points, seven rebounds and two assists in his 27 minutes. Malone must have felt extra experimental, as he also gave most of the remaining minutes for SF to Travis Outlaw, who also made a case for the starting job.
Though Outlaw’s four points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes don’t exactly get people’s mouths watering, he has also had flashes of solid play this season after being used very sparingly last year.
The way I see it, Salmons doesn’t have much left in the tank. He’s turning 34-years-old in just a few weeks and is posting awful numbers of 5.4 points per game on just 30 percent shooting. On top of that, Salmons’ shot selection has always been questionable, but he’s been able to get away with some bad looks by making them. That’s not been the case this year and it’s shed a lot of light onto what kind of player he is at this stage in his career.
Now, the Kings have also been reported to be interested in acquiring Derrick Williams from the Minnesota Timberwolves. While he is primarily viewed as a power forward, there’s also reason to believe he could become a long-term answer for Sacramento at the three.
Williams has struggled since entering the league in 2011 as the second overall pick, but he’s still a ripe 22-years-young and could easily find his footing in a change of scenery. What possibly may be the case for his troubles is that the Timberwolves have been using him primarily as a power forward, which I don’t think plays towards his strengths.
Where Williams could find new life is at the wing, where he would be better matched up on both sides of the ball. In terms of pure athleticism and size, Williams definitely meets the criteria for a solid small forward. The Kings are in need of some young players to bring new energy to the starting rotation, and Williams could be a very possible solution.
On the other side of things, say a trade never gets worked out with Minnesota and Sacramento. What does that leave the Kings with? It would mean that the starting three would have to either be Salmons, Mbah a Moute, or Outlaw, but there isn’t really too much substantial evidence to support any of them.
What’s even more worrisome is that none of these three have the coveted long-term potential, seeing as how Salmons is much past his prime and Mbah a Moute and Outlaw seem to have topped out, barring a crazy spark at this point in their careers.
Therefore, the Kings best option moving forward may be to pick their poison and figure out which player gives them the best chance to win right now. Sure, there’s always the idea of tanking and trying to land a draft pick high enough for an Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. But tanking isn’t what this new version of the Kings is about. Vivek Ranadivé and his group have made it clear that they want to re-brand Kings basketball, and the way to do that is not through more seasons of losing.
Instead, Sacramento will just have to be patient with their situation. Whether it’s through the draft this offseason or a trade before the deadline in February, the Kings will eventually need to find an answer for the continual question of who will be the small forward of the future. Until then, Malone will just have to make do with the current roster and continue to find which piece best fits in the puzzle.