March 7, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Marcus Thornton (23) and guard Isaiah Thomas (22): Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
The 2012-2013 NBA Season is quickly approaching. Time to put on your thinking caps, if you haven’t done so already. Which players are going to be in the starting lineup? I will examine this question. More importantly, who will comprise the starting backcourt?
If you believe you already know who the starters are going to be, then you must be Coach Keith Smart or someone with some inside information. For the rest of us, I don’t think it is a slam-duck as to whom will be selected as a starter. The frontcourt is probably easier to predict than the backcourt. DeMarcus Cousins is a given, while everyone else could be up for grabs.The BIG Question: Just how is Coach Smart going to figure which combination of guards will start and which will come off the bench?
Last season we saw Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins start.
This emerged as the primary lineup, after Isaiah Thomas proved himself off the bench in his rookie season, and Tyreke usurped John Salmons for the small forward position.
It is very unlikely Keith Smart will return to that lineup in light of the following three new additions to the team:
Apr 6, 2011; Phoenix Suns guard Aaron Brooks (0): Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
1. Aaron Brooks, (right) who was signed to the team over the summer.
2. James Johnson, small forward, who was also acquired by the Sacramento Kings over the summer.
3. Thomas Robinson, who was a first round draft pick, 5th overall pick in the 2012 NBS Draft, by the Sacramento Kings
It is also possible the franchise could add someone from the training camp to the current roster, but it is unlikely that addition would figure into the starting lineup. More likely, he would add more depth and options coming off the bench. So, for the sake of this discussion, only the players listed above (including last season’s starting lineup and the three additions) are being considered for the starting line-up, as they would seem to be the most likely candidates.The Guards:
- Aaron Brooks
- Isaiah Thomas
- Marcus Thornton
- Tyreke Evans
- John Salmons
It should be noted that I included John Salmons in the discussion, because he is currently listed as a Forward-Guard. It is doubtful that he will figure into the starting line-up as a guard, as it would seem with the dearth of talent at the small forward position, and the glut of guards, he is much more likely to be utilized as a small forward, either as a starter or off the bench. I also included Tyreke, because, despite his playing the small forward position, last season, I think it is very likely he will be revert back to a guard.The Forwards:
- Jason Thompson
- James Johnson
- Thomas Robinson
- John Salmons
At the small forward position, it will be between James Johnson and John Salmons. At the power forward position, it will be between Jason Thompson and Thomas Robinson.Center:
- Demarcus Cousins
And…the winner is DeMarcus Cousins. I don’t think there is any doubt he will start.
Looking at the guards: Right off the bat there is a number of possibilities:
• Isaiah Thomas & Marcus Thornton
• Isaiah Thomas & Tyreke Evans
• Aaron Brooks & Marcus Thorton
• Aaron Brooks & Tyreke Evans
I think one of these four combinations is the most likely to start. I’m not worried about the label of point guard or shooting guard. Just who is going to be on the floor together.
If Isaiah Thomas starts, he would most likely be paired with either Marcus Thornton or Tyreke Evans. The same goes for Aaron Brooks. I don’t see Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks paired together, because they are likely to be the ones to set up Thornton and Evans to score. I doubt if Tyreke and Thornton are going to be paired together, because then that would leave Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks paired together off the bench. I don’t see that happening. I could be wrong, but this is how I see it.
Despite, my own personal views, I have included these last two combinations, because you may see the situation quite differently.
- Tyreke Evans & Marcus Thornton
- Isaiah Thomas & Aaron Brooks
Keep in mind, whatever players you put into the starting lineup affects which players you have remaining on the bench. Coach Smart will be looking for a One-Two Punch. He has to balance his starting back court, with his bench. If he front loads it too much, he jeopardizes the impact of the bench.
There has been talk (rumors mainly) that the team may be looking to have Aaron Brooks start with Isaiah Thomas coming off the bench. This explains why I show either one of these players starting and who he would likely be paired.
Let’s examine what possibilities the team may be looking at for the small forward position. As mentioned above, I see two primary possibilities: John Salmons and James Johnson. It is just a matter of who will start and who will come off the bench. No doubt, Keith Smart will be assessing which player fits in best with the guard combo. I see it as a toss-up, at 50 – 50 odds.
Looking at the power forward position, we have Jason Thompson and Thomas Robinson. I believe Jason Thompson will retain the starting position for now, with Thomas Robinson having to adjust to the NBA level of play and earn his way into the starting spot. It just makes good sense for a rookie to work to earn a spot, rather than it being handed to him, or thrown into the fray before he gets his feet wet.
Robinson could eventually, move into that spot later this season, but this is how I think this will go down for now. I don’t see Thomas Robinson being selected before the All-Star break, if at all, this season. We will see.
So, if my reasoning holds up, we are really looking at the guards and small forwards.Preseason games are not regular season games.
Coach Smart may not treat the preseason games the same as the regular season games. He may look at the preseason games as an opportunity to get certain players more minutes for conditioning purposes or fewer minutes to avoid preseason injury. He can also use it as a time to assess player units and tinker around with different combinations, if he is not happy with what he sees.
The starting lineup Smart puts on the floor October 10th, for the first preseason game against Phoenix, may not be the same starting lineup he puts on the floor October 31st, for the first regular season game against the Chicago Bulls.
My guess, and it is just that a guess, Smart will put what he thinks will be his starting lineup for the season at the first preseason game. He will assess how the units look throughout the preseason period, making any adjustments he sees fit.
For the sake of this poll, the focus is on who will comprise the backcourt, as this seems to be the most complex issue confronting Coach Smart.