Posted by: Kingsguru21 | January 25, 2010

When rooting for a young team gets…..well….you know…hard

There’s a point in every season where a fan has to decide what it is they expect, and whether that expectation is unrealistic or not. I suppose that point might as well be now for Kings fans.

Let’s talk about Spence & JT for a moment. We both know each have their moments, but really what’s the difference between the two? Why is it one player catches so much crap (Spence) while other gets a free pass for poor play?

First, I’m not saying anything about the end-all be-all of these methods. I just happen to take some stock in them is all. (Which means my delusion is your delusion which is my delusion….)

By strict Defensive Rating, both Spence and JT have ratings of 110. (This is not good.) Good, by comparison would be Kevin Garnett. Garnett’s Def-Rating is 99 this season. Now, obvioiusly, this isn’t about KG. So let’s squash this. I was just bringing up one player that I knew had a good Def-Rating to make my point.

Now, let’s look at adjusted +/- for the season. Here are Spence specifics, and JT specifics.

But, really, how can Spence take “more” crap for being a worse defender? They both are doing awful. (I think more people give JT a pass for it.) So, the question is why? JT is performing slightly better on OFFENSE. (Earlier in the season there was a bigger gap, but not much. Both Spence & JT have fallen off lately.) Kind of ironic when you think about it, but there it is.

So the question is: What IS the solution? Getting an athletic player up front who can finish consistently better inside than JT or Spence can, and be far better on the interior than either JT or Spence would be the ideal solution. The problem? I just described All-Star bigs, of which JT or Spence (obviously) are not. As far as I’m concerned, JT is more of an ideal 2nd big because of his offense, and Spence is an ideal 3rd big because while he isn’t great at anything other than passing from the high post (which coincidentally came with his best game of the season–in LA on New Years), he is good at a few many things that if you put him next to this “stud” (we’ll just call him that) it will make the physical limitations of Spence less noticeable because now teams have to react to this stud. I’m probably still leaning towards Derrick Favors, but I can be convinced that Ed Davis or DeMarcus Cousins could be the answer too. (Especially Cousins. He has some wicked stats.)

Yet, does that mean that JT & Spence can’t get better. Surely! I just think that extra athlete is mandatory if the Kings are going to get MUCH better with JT & Spence as part of the consistent frontcourt rotation.

So what to do with Kevin Martin? Well, I suggest there is little the Kings can do other than let Kevin play out of his slump.

Here’s something else that may (or may not) cheer you up: Kevin Martin has historically played well against Golden State in his career.

Sometimes that’s all you need and what not. Kevin Martin is, if nothing else, a quality shooter who simply needs to see the ball going into the basket more often than not. It’s easy to become discouraged when everything you try is not working.

I think the biggest solution for Kevin is not to pass up shots. The team needs that, Kevin needs that, and the the other players on the court NEED Kevin to be that player.

As far as Tyreke Evans is concerned, his numbers over the road trip looked okay. (As they should be with a guy who has the ball in his hands as often as the ball is.)

There is a simple answer for this (listen to the song to find out):

Tyreke simply needs to play faster, and that’s pretty much that. Why? Because the team is built for up-tempo, Paul Westphal is a coach that historically (and realistically) does better with teams that push the pace, and really that is the job of Tyreke Evans. He’s the teams point guard. He needs to understand that pushing the ball at a breakneck pace is what makes this team a dangerous offensive team. (It also diminishes their liability on defense somewhat.)

This Kings team is not built to walk it up the floor. I’m not stating anything new. It’s just the key to Easy Reke playing better as the pages turn to the team not going past the Rocky Mountains for awhile.

As far as rotations, I thought NoceOne of StR had a great point about PW’s rotations:

I have a beef with PW’s substituting today but while I was looking at stats, I realized something…PW IS setting his rotation. Look at this.

In the last 5 games, my man Nocioni has played 7 (Heat), 11(Magic), 4 (Hawks), 21 (Bobcats) and 4mins (Wiz). That means PW has committed to playing him about 4-10mins a night, with the exception of that 21min game where he earned more PT by playing well (5-11 FG, 3-7 3PT’s, part of big comeback against Cats)

With Donte Greene, PW has committed to playing him about 20-25mins a night. His mins in the last 5 games are 29, 16, 16, 32, 20. His stats aren’t that much better than Noce (8, 5, 0, 12, 7pts) but again, we are just talking about PT. And yes, the 32min game was were he was playing better, shooting 4-7, with 12 pts.

Omri Casspi is now PW’s 25-30 min guy, logging in 27, 16, 30 ,22 and 24mins. In the 30min game, he went for 16pts on 8-13 shooting. JT is a 20-25 min guy (usually because of fouls), logging in mins of 23, 26, 36, 16, 23, Evans (31, 36, 32, 40, 40) and Martin (24, 40, 37, 26, 37)are 35-40min guys.

Beno (13, 24, 30, 24, 22) is now a 25min guy while Spencer Hawes (26, 18, 12, 12, 38) has the biggest fluctuations in PT, mostly because Hawes is inconsistent and can come in with a great performance or a sucky one on any given day.

Brockman (23, 18, 22, 30, 12) seems to be slotted for about 20mins a game while Udoka (16, 12, 7, 4, 12), like Noce is a 4-10min guy. Armstrong, Sergio, K9 and May mop up what’s left of the mins or play according to match ups.

That being said, I now see PW’s rotation. I must say, if he’s consistent with this, then I’m okay with it.

Just like to apologize for taking all of NoceOne’s comment in the blockquote, but I thought seeing the whole thing was worth it. (Rules were meant to be broken in happenstance. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Until next time.) The point here, though, in fact is that Paul Westphal is starting to carve out playing time based on roles and player value to the team. Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans are your best players, and you don’t make yourself better by taking either off the court. (Unless you’re playing abysmally as Kevin, unfortunately, was at times during the road trip.)

Everyone else? You have to prove yourself consistently against competition, and only a few players on this roster have EVER done that in the NBA. My biggest beef with the Miami game is that Nocioni never got another look despite the role HE DID play within that game. I don’t know if Noc would have kept the Kings from getting knocked over like an old woman on South Beach during a Hurricane, as opposed to the group that did play, but I do know that he was way too effective to only play 5 minutes.

There was another argument during the Orlando Post-Game thread at StR about whether it’s realistic to expect a head coach to play starters consistently AND utilize the hot hand. I suspect that, like anything else, it depends on the opponent and the other players on the team.

Sergio Rodriguez, and his better ball movement has been tapped as a reason why (by some fans) he should get more minutes. (Yet, every time I watch Sergio get extended minutes he doesn’t do anything spectacular that makes me believe he’s earned more than garbagetime minutes with Martin back in the rotation.)

Nocioni, unlike Rodriguez, does other things that does help the team. One, in the Miami game, he played at a faster pace (hmm–certainly doesn’t help Sergio’s case that’s for sure), and at times when he gets hot from the perimeter can help a struggling young team find it’s way. I’m not saying Nocioni deserves lots of minutes every single night every single time. I’m just saying where as Rodriguez hasn’t done the same thing with his minutes, Nocioni is far more valuable to the Kings in more ways. It’s just that, sort of like the perception that Spence is worse defensively than JT, the view that Omri Casspi & Donte Greene are the future here clouds the real view of how effective and important Nocioni can be to the Kings today. Sometimes, if nothing else, it’s just that simple. (I really like that line! Yay, me!)

The question is how can Paul Westphal reach these guys to make them understand how to push the tempo? And, if nothing else, I don’t have a clue on that one. I’m not a head coach, and how to create answers where the coaches on the coaching staff aren’t seeming to come up with any probably suggests one more important thing: The Kings will play better when their players start playing better.

I want to tie this all together. You have defense woes on the interior (not surprising), you have a PG whose natural inclination is to carry the offense by scoring the ball, a struggling SG who has seemingly tried to be like the young 20 year old PG, a group of role players who have suddenly found their roles very different than just 3 weeks ago, and a head coach expected to have immediate answers for a desperate, angry, misled fanbase that wants their cake and eat it too.

Okay, I exaggerated somewhat, but, really, how much? On the fanbase? Paul Westphal? Andres Nocioni and Sergio Rodriguez? Kevin Martin or Tyreke Evans? Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson?

This team needs things on the interior it doesn’t have, and won’t likely have in Hilton Armstrong.

It has a young PG who has played more games in a 3 month span than he ever has in his life. (That’s true of the 21 year old SF’s too. At least Donte has the advantage of having spent an entire NBA season in the NBA/NBDL.) I don’t know if I’d blame tired legs as the core of the problem. I think it’s the mental part of the game that these players haven’t adjusted to. It’s hard to adjust mentally for 82 games a season (and we’re not even talking about a playoff team). The notion of better teams coasting because they don’t want to waste energy is a real drive to shorten the season. (See: Every other Bill Simmons column.)

Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes have been completely adjusted to by the NBA scouts and players. Every good team has figured them out, and most of the middle of the pack teams have too. Unless JT can use both hands effectively to finish, he will likely have problems finishing at a higher rate than what JT is currently performing near the cup. Spence’s problems are more of a personal nature, rather than a skill, and it’s simply aggressiveness. I wish he could dunk more balls than he does, but that’s not likely to happen. That’s not who Spence is. I also wish, though, that more half court sets (when the Kings aren’t not running the snot out of other teams) would be run through Spence at the high post. Both he and JT (to a much lesser extent) do that well enough. Right now, too many possessions are one-on-one extensions of Tyreke Evans ability. And, with all due respect to the Blueprint, Evans is not good enough to carry this team the way Dwyane Wade does Miami. At least not yet, anyway.

Omri Casspi must starting hitting more 3 balls than he has lately, and it’s really that simple. Whether he does may or may not be a matter of how effective the Kings are running their fast tempo offense or halfcourt offense if they have to set up. Omri might just miss more shots as the looming end of the season comes.

I don’t know what will happen. Nobody does anybody else. I do know that this stretch of top tier teams has kicked these young hombres in the ass effectively. But that isn’t my question anymore. I knew it would happen because the odds over the history of the NBA said this would happen. The question I really have is: What now?

Have fun rooting for your (at the moment) 15-28 Baby Royals who are now 19th in Offensive Efficiency and 27th in Defensive Efficiency. (6th in Pace though.) I hope your chair has a seatbelt attached. Make sure it’s both loose and tight at the same time. This could get very rough and at the moment conditions could change. All Aboard!!!!!


  1. […] State is fast. (You knew that.) Sacramento plays fast. I typed all this shit up yesterday in what I see as solutions (Jon Brockman’s injury not withstanding), and all […]

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