For the last seven years, the Memphis Grizzlies penciled in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as their starting frontcourt. The two played off each other perfectly, forming one of the best big tandems in the NBA. Coach Dave Joerger doesn’t have the luxury of a seasoned duo in his first season in Sacramento.
Some folks want to call DeMarcus Cousins the starting power forward for the Kings, but in reality, he plays mostly at the five spot. He guards centers on the defensive end, and while he hits the 3-ball remarkably well for a man his size, he makes his money in the paint.
With Cousins’ unique skill set, Joerger has plenty of options to pair with him. They have a defensive juggernaut, a speedy combo forward, a veteran sharpshooter and a rookie with incredible upside.
Will it be power forward by committee or will Joerger settle on a starter and let him build continuity with Cousins?
2015-16 stats: 7.3 points, .3 assists, 5.3 rebounds, .6 steals, 21.4 minutes
Cauley-Stein had an up-and-down rookie season that saw him jump in and out of George Karl’s rotation all year. Injuries took their toll as well, as the 7-footer out of Kentucky was limited to 66 games.
Joerger has had players similar to Cauley-Stein in the past, including Ed Davis and Brandan Wright. But the Kings are expecting much more out of the sixth overall pick from 2015. He can guard almost anyone on the floor and his incredible length and athleticism causes issues for his opponents.
He has worked tirelessly on his jumper, but he is still raw as an offensive player. He can take some of the stress off of Cousins on the defensive side of the ball, but he will need to show more in year two if he hopes to play major minutes alongside the Kings’ All-Star big.
2015-16 stats: 11.8 points, 1.4 assists, 5.9 rebounds, .8 steals, 27.2 minutes
Casspi can play both the small forward and power forward position for the Kings, but the team has been touting him as a stretch four over the last few months. He can really run the floor and he’s Sacramento’s best 3-point shooter. He’s also played extremely well alongside Cousins and Rudy Gay in the past.
While the league is moving to this style of player at the power spot, Casspi’s natural position is the wing. He’ll have to prove that he can rebound at a higher rate and keep opposing bigs off the glass if he is going to earn 30-plus minutes a night in a crowded frontcourt.
Casspi’s ability to run might save Cousins from having to sprint up the floor on every position. He can also stretch the floor with his 40.9 percent accuracy from long range, giving the big man plenty of spacing down low.
2015-16 stats: 5.3 points, .3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, .4 steals, 18.6 minutes
Tolliver hit the free agency jackpot, signing a 2-year, $16 million deal with Sacramento after making just $12 million total in his previous 10 seasons in the league. At 31, Tolliver isn’t expected to play 30 minutes a night, but he brings an intriguing skillset and is known for his positive locker room demeanor.
Joerger might turn to the veteran late in games to bring a calming influence to the lineup and bury triples. Then again, Tolliver might struggle to find minutes on a team loaded with bigs and combo-forwards.
The Kings gave him big money to play, but also to grow the team’s culture. Depending on how the other options pan out, Tolliver will either play around 18-20 minutes a game like he did last season for the Pistons or find himself buried on the depth chart.
2015-16 stats: 10.0 points, 2.1 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 28.8 minutes
Unconventional? Yes, but Matt Barnes knows the system, can play the two, three or four in today’s NBA game and brings a boatload of intangibles to the table. Joerger has already spoken on using Barnes at the four during camp, but would he start him there?
Why not? If Rudy Gay is your starting small forward, Barnes makes perfect sense. He plays defense, can distribute the ball and can switch with Gay on the defensive end depending on matchups. Barnes is probably better as one of the first Kings off the bench, but Joerger is going to play the players that give him the best chance of winning.
**2015-16 College stats: 6.6 points, .3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, .3 steals, 15.8 minutes
The smooth shooting big man struggled in his lone season at Kentucky. He found coach Cal’s doghouse and then stayed there through most of the year. But the 20-year-old Haitian has tremendous upside and may eventually be the stretch-four the Kings are searching for.
He can shoot, run the floor and boasts a 7-foot-2.5 wingspan. If he can build off his strong showing in Las Vegas Summer League and add some much needed strength/weight, Labissiere might find minutes as a rookie.
There is a good chance that Labissiere will ride share with Malachi Richardson up to Reno to play for the Big Horns, but you never know. He has impressed everyone coming into camp with his incredible work ethic and he started learning Joerger’s system months ago. Don’t be shocked if Labissiere is given a chance to shine early in the season. Probably not as a starter, but he will see the court.
This is a tough one. Cauley-Stein brings a defensive edge Joerger loves. But he can also play some center in a small-ball lineup off the bench.
Casspi can open the floor with his offensive game and is an interchangeable defender with Gay. But he might find more success as an offensive threat off the bench.
Cauley-Stein will likely start the season at the four, but Casspi will eat major minutes as the Kings' spark plug. Tolliver will fight for scraps and Barnes is always in the mix. Barring injury to the other three or Joerger taking a flyer on a young player, Labissiere will spend plenty of time watching and learning in year one.