Monday, November 15, 2010

JT ain't no 3.

We finished our last racing assignment of the year  - which means until mid January it is all basketball and music over here. ...Of course, I’ve been watching as much hoop as I can get away with while still doing my racing gigs professionally; I just haven’t been blogging about it. I do “Tweet” with regularity so if you are one of the three or four people who reads this space and you want to keep up with my most timely thoughts—you can follow me on twitter. The account name is @BasslineSpin.

Where to start? Well - nothing has boiled by blood pressure like the Sacramento Kings inability to correctly use their personnel and establish some sort of dependable rotation. I lost my Twitter cool when Sac began trying Jason Thompson (pictured) at Small Forward. At times, JT was on the floor with Center Samuel Dalembert, and Power Forward Darnell Jackson.

There are but a handful of rules in the NBA that I see as unbreakable truths. One is that your “THREE-man”, or SF must have the ability to either shoot the three-point shot or be capable of taking his man off the dribble to make a play. Jason Thompson does neither. He is 1-18 from beyond the arc for his career. As for playmaking, JT has more turnovers than assists, and his ball-handling is nothing you ever want to see more than two dribbles (if that) of. True, there are a few SF’s in the NBA that he CAN match up with defensively. But I will continue to maintain that WINNERS make the opposition match up with them—not the other way around.

It is particularly troubling to me that Thompson has been forced into this situation because after an off-season of hard work that saw him improve his upper body strength—I really believed (and still do believe) that JT could help this Kings team if given a steady diet of minutes at PF or C. The monkey wrench in this deal (aside from the questionable coaching) is Darnell Jackson, who has played well at times. Jackson “forced” the Kings coaches to find him some minutes which, I can only imagine, was the impetus for the JT position juggling.

But that is no excuse. Thompson simply NEVER, EVER should have been trotted out at SF. What happens from a floor spacing standpoint, when a non-threat from the perimeter plays SF, is you wind up with a clogged middle. Defenders do not need to worry about running all the way out to the three point line - so they smartly cheat toward the middle of the floor.

Having a clogged middle is especially bad for Sacramento. Tyreke Evans’ game (and most backcourt scorer’s games) is largely dependent on dribble-driving through the paint. The baffling part is that I know the Kings coaches HAVE TO KNOW THIS. So why did they play JT at SF?

The Kings margin for error relative to the rest of the NBA is still very small. Teams with losing records cannot have hiccups while experimenting. ...Which leads me to this… A big NBA fallacy is the thought that a “good” defender deserves playing time even though that same player is not offensively gifted.

The truth is that very few defenders are so “good” that their presence overcomes their offensive liabilities. There is a scoreboard which must be lit up with scor-ING to win a game.  Antoine Wright is a “safe player”. He defends his man and he doesn’t turn the ball over. We know this from his historical data. He’s played over 5,700 minutes in his career. What we also know is that he is not and most likely never will be efficient. It is my belief he is the current poster-child for what I just described above; a “good” defensive player that simply isn’t so good of a defender that it makes up for the stuff he can’t or won’t do on offense.

Efficiency always matters. The Kings are not at a level where they can afford to play one guy out of position and then give minutes to a guy like Wright, and expect anything but a five game losing streak.

To go further into nitpicking - Sacramento still has backcourt issues - and front court scorer Carl Landry has underachieved. Landry is not getting to the free throw line enough, and in my opinion, he has settled for his fall-away jumper too often. 

Beno Udrih and Evans should play until they drop dead based on their only backups being Luther Head, Wright, and Pooh Jeter. Apparently the coaches do not trust Jeter enough to play him. Jeter’s preseason numbers didn't do anything to help the staff believe he is ready for real NBA minutes.

Head might be okay as a 'fifth guard type backup' at Shooting Guard but his body dictates that bigger SG’s will always give him problems.  Head should not be looked at as a PG. Just because his body type says PG - that doesn’t mean his skill set agrees. Wright, ...I’m not sure should even be in the NBA. I still don’t really buy Evans as a PG. So that means Sac has Udrih as the only PG option. 

Francisco Garcia has spent time playing SG but that is not his natural spot. A good SG should be able to take someone off the dribble and create a shot on his own. "Cisco" excels more at spot shooting. He is a SF that DOES stretch the defense.  Garcia has outplayed Omri Casspi to date.

Bottom line. My fix for the Kings: play Udrih and Evans all that you can (or go get a real backup PG). Start Garcia at SF, with Thompson, and Dalembert up front. Landry has always seemed most comfy coming off the bench—so bring him in as the first sub for JT. DeMarcus Cousins spells Dalembert. I’d give Casspi the nod as Garcia’s backup, and Head (as the roster stands) would get a handful of minutes backing up at SG. If there is any experimenting done - I wouldn't mind seeing Casspi given a shot at SG. He moves well and his offensive aggression is sorely needed. He has proven he can’t guard a SF like Michael Beasley so maybe Casspi’s length, against the generally smaller players at SG, would be a better fit.

I too like what Jackson has brought to the table early in the season. He does simple things within his ability. But he too has holes in his game. He struggles as a free throw shooter, is just an average rebounder for his position, and he gets an assist about once every ten days. All that said - he is not (in my opinion) better than Thompson, Dalembert, Cousins, or Landry. So Jackson should probably just be getting minutes when the team needs a spark. If the Kings really believe Jackson is an answer going forward - then they should try to trade one of their BIGS to get that backup Point Guard that they need so badly.

1 comment:

  1. As you know from our conversation I think before you wrote this, I fully agree with you about J.T. at the three. I can roll with a position change for a possession matchup for a certain situation. Other than that, hail no... Why not play a playa at the position for which he was drafted so he can make it do what it does...

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