The early talk this summer had Rudy Gay making a move to the power forward position in George Karl’s uptempo offense. That may still be the plan as the Kings have added plenty of depth at the wing spot. But Vlade Divac also signed big man Kosta Koufos in free agency and added super athlete Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Gay will get his minutes at both forward spots, but where he starts for game one is a mystery. Whatever scraps are left at the wing will be fought over by a triumvirate of athletes, each possessing intriguing skill sets.
2014-15 stats: 8.9 points, 1.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 21.1 minutes
In his second tour of duty in Sacramento, Casspi turned heads with his maturity and refined game. While others struggled during a chaotic season, the Israeli-born wing found his groove, especially once George Karl assumed the coaching duties. Casspi re-upped with the Kings on a budget two-year, $5.8 million deal this summer, which is pennies by today’s NBA standards.
Under Karl’s tutelage, Casspi saw an awakening. Not only can the 27-year-old forward run the floor like a gazelle, but he led the Kings in 3-point shooting at 40.2 percent on the season. Following the arrival of Karl at the All-Star break, Casspi shot an impressive 46.2 percent from long range and earned a string of starts down the stretch.
In the Kings’ final eight games of the season, Casspi averaged 19.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 34 minutes per game. Off the court, Casspi is a locker presence and worked hard to build a bond with teammate DeMarcus Cousins.
Casspi showed he can run and gun, but he allowed his defense to slip this season in Sacramento. He brings energy, but he likes to gamble and no one cherry picks like no. 18.
2014-15 stats: 5.9 points, 1.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.6 steals, 20.8 minutes
Father time is creeping up on the former All-Star small forward. Butler saw a major decline in his production in his 13th season in the league, but that didn’t deter Vlade Divac from giving the 35-year-old Connecticut product a two-year, $3 million deal.
Butler was once an elite 3-and-D player, but now he settles for for being in the right position and dropping in 3-pointers at a 37.9 percent clip. Butler will play sparingly, but his influence off the court is likely why Divac handed him a two-year deal. The Kings have been searching for a glue guy in the locker room for a long time and there is hope that the player known as Real Tough Juice can provide the veteran leadership this team needs.
**2013-14 stats: 10.9 points, 1.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.9 steals, 28.9 minutes
Anderson spent the 2014-15 season in Lithuania after a successful season in Philadelphia the year before. The Kings added Anderson early in the offseason, inking him to a two-year, $2.1 million deal, but then they kept adding pieces. There is hope that Anderson, 26, can be a perimeter defensive presence at both the shooting guard and small forward position, but he joins a crowd of accomplished athletes at either spot.
For Anderson to gain traction in the rotation, he will have to provide energy, defend and improve on his career 33 percent shooting from downtown in limited opportunities. In past years, the Kings would have been ecstatic to have a player like this on their roster, but there is a good chance he gets lost in the shuffle with this group.
Casspi has provided Karl with a viable option at the three if he chooses to shift Gay to the power forward spot on opening night. His performance down the stretch of last season turned heads around the league. He’s a prototypical Karl player and it’s hard to see either Butler or Anderson biting into his minutes early on.
Butler is a proven winner and still possesses the ability to shoot the ball. His presence with likely be felt on the bench and in the locker room as he enters his 14th season in the league.
Anderson is a wild card. If he has improved his perimeter stroke, it may free up Karl to start Casspi on the front line with Gay and Cousins.
There is a lot to be decided as camp opens, but Casspi used his 30-game trial with Karl to earn the right to not only play, but have a major role with the Kings this season.