Mar 30, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) high fives forward Rudy Gay (8) after a basket against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Article continues below ...
This article discusses the Kings best rotation when they are looking to go small. This is the next installment in our best rotations series.
Our best rotations series continues with a look today at the Kings best small ball rotation. The Warriors have made this lineup famous with their vaunted “Death Lineup” leading them to back-to-back NBA finals appearances. In this lineup, we looked at both offensive and defensive contributions to attempt to demonstrate the Kings best lineup to both go small and earn victories. Without further ado, here is my opinion on the Sacramento Kings best small ball lineup for the upcoming season.
Oct 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Ty Lawson (3) during player introductions before the game against the Miami Heat at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Point Guard- Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson gets the call at point guard in the best small ball lineup. Lawson is coming off a bad season and signed on a very cheap contract with the Kings in hopes to rebuild his value. The Kings were in the same position last season and that worked out well with Rajon Rondo. No guarantees, this time, around with Lawson, but I am hopeful that he can return to form. Below is a highlight video to give you a glimpse at what I hope Lawson returns to.
Lawson’s stat line just two seasons ago read like this 0.9 threes, 3.1 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 2.5 turnovers, and 15.2 points per game in 35.5 minutes a night. He shot 43.6% from the field, 73.0% from the free throw line, and 34.1% from three point range. That is a pretty big stat line and proves that Lawson has the talent to be a fantastic contributor.
The advanced metrics rated Lawson’s play very highly before last season. His career average offensive box score plus/minus is positive 2.5. Even with a career average of negative 1.5 defensive box score plus/minus, his career cumulative value over replacement player (VORP) is 10.6 over his seven-year career. If you view win shares, his career cumulative offensive is positive 30.4 and defensive is positive 8.5 creating a career win shares per 48 average of 0.130. That is well above the league average of 0.100. Lawson rates as both an above replacement player and above league average player making him a great candidate to run the point in our small ball lineup. He needs to play better than he did last season. If he returns to his previous form, he should be a fantastic value and contributor to the Kings this season.
Feb 10, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) looks for an opening past Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell (12) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Shooting Guard- Darren Collison
Darren Collison gets the call at the shooting guard position in the small ball lineup. Collison brings efficiency and two-way play. For his two years in Sacramento, he averages 1.2 threes, 2.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, and 14.8 points per game in 31.8 minutes a night. He shoots 48.0% from the field, 82.7% from the line, and 38.9% from three-point range in those two seasons.
Let us now view the advanced metrics to see how Collison rates in those categories. Darren Collison produced an offensive box score plus/minus of positive 2.8 and positive 1.8 the last two seasons. Collison’s defensive box score plus/minus rated poorly at negative 1.3 and negative 2.2 the last two years. His VORP was 1.4 in 2014-2015 and 0.9 in 2015-2016. If you view win shares, he rated at positive 3.0 and positive 4.5 offensive win shares and positive 0.8 and positive 0.9 defensive win shares the last two seasons. His win shares per 48 were 0.116 and 0.113 rating him above league average in both years of his Kings career. Clearly, Collison rates as both an above replacement player and above league average per the advanced metrics. That makes Collison a great fit to be the shooting guard in the Kings’ best small ball lineup.
But Collison is a Point Guard
I know what you are thinking; Darren Collison is a point guard. Yes, he is, but he played next to Rajon Rondo last season and played well. If the Kings decide to go small, I believe Collison can man the two guard position without any hitches and be effective against bigger competition.
Nov 11, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) high fives forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) as a timeout is called after a play against the Detroit Pistons during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Detroit Pistons 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Small Forward- Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay is a man with an underrated two-way game that fits nicely into the Kings optimal small ball lineup. For the statistics, let us view just Gay’s Sacramento career of 193 games because I feel it gives us the best view of what we can expect from Mister Gay moving forward. He averages 1.0 threes, 6.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 2.5 turnovers, and 19.4 points per game in 34.6 minutes a night. Gay’s shooting percentages rate at 46.5% from the field, 83.0% from the line, and 34.2% from three point land. Rudy Gay produces an effective across the board stat line.
Now let us view Rudy Gay’s advanced metrics to get a different look at his Sacramento Kings career. His averages for box score plus/minus are positive 1.4 on offense and negative 0.2 on defense. He has a cumulative VORP of 5.3 in those two-plus seasons. His cumulative win shares are 9.6 offensive and 4.9 defensive. He rates at 0.104 in the win shares per 48 metric. The advanced metrics rate Rudy Gay as both an above replacement and above league average player. It is no surprise that he makes his way into the Kings best small ball lineup.
Dec 28, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi (18) high fives guard Darren Collison (7) against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Power Forward- Omri Casspi
In a small ball lineup, you need a stretch four. The man responsible for spacing the floor and being able to make the defense pay for leaving you open beyond the arc. Enter Mister Casspi, a career 36.8% shooter from downtown and 42.2% on corner threes. Casspi has been an efficient shooter in the last two seasons and continues to expand his game and earn more playing time.
The advanced metrics for Omri Casspi are increasing just as his minutes and his game evolve. Casspi produced a VORP of positive 0.8 last season, a career high. He also produced positive 2.1 offensive win shares, positive 1.5 defensive win shares, and win shares per 48 minutes of 0.092. All three of which are career highs. Casspi is already a sharpshooter from distance, but he continues to prove to be on one of the league’s most team friendly contracts. Casspi is only scheduled to make $3 million this season.
Why Casspi was the Choice
The power forward position was a tossup between Omri Casspi and Anthony Tolliver. I went on to choose Casspi because of his superior three-point shooting accuracy, his potential to take another step forward, and his mostly superior advanced metrics last season.
Feb 23, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Center- DeMarcus Cousins
In any lineup featuring the current Kings roster, it is nearly impossible to leave out Mister Cousins. Most of you have read my thoughts on Cousins offensive game and statistics recently, so I want to talk about his defensive prowess. Last season, Cousins averaged 9.1 defensive rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. Those are an impressive combination of statistics. He averaged 11.5 total rebounds per game last year. According to nba.com/stats, Cousins and Andre Drummond were the only two qualifying players in the NBA last season to average more than 10 rebounds, 1.5 steals or more, and 1.4 blocks or more per game.
If you care to read more about Cousins’ offensive game, you can find an article I wrote about his best shot areas here. You can also read more about his offensive game in the Kings best offensive rotations piece found here.
It is not just the fans or All-Star appearances or All-NBA team selections, the advanced metrics love DeMarcus Cousins too. The last three seasons combined Cousins has a box score plus/minus of positive 4.3 offensive and positive 7.8 defensive. His VORP is positive 9.9. His three-year combined win shares are 9.3 offensive and 10.3 defensive. His average win shares per 48 minutes in those three seasons are 0.144, well above the league average of 0.100. All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted. Cousins is a dominant offensive player, but the advanced metrics actually rate him better on defense. Cousins is truly one of the NBA’s best players.
There you have it, a glimpse into my opinion on the Sacramento Kings best small ball lineup for the upcoming season. It may not be on par with the Warriors death lineup, but it is my take on the best the Kings have to offer.
I think it could be effective in certain situations especially if Ty Lawson returns to form. That would allow Collison to play off the ball and be effective shooting threes. This lineup features five players who can handle the ball and distribute. That makes it tough for any defense to stop it, but it could create a back and forth game with this lineups defense being a little suspect. With Coach Joerger’s defensive focus, it will be interesting to see the fit if he actually experiments with this lineup. Here is to hoping we get to see it on the court and it thrives.