The Sacramento Kings opened the 2015-16 season with a pair of seasoned veterans manning the point guard position. Rajon Rondo won the starting job coming out camp and started 72 games for the Kings, while Darren Collison played 74 games both off the bench and as a starter.
Rondo is now a Chicago Bull and Collison is awaiting league suspension after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence earlier this month. Although he is expected to regain his starting job when he returns, there is no telling how many games Collison will miss.
It took a while for the Kings to find potential stand-ins and now they have a collection of players vying not just for a roster spot, but for the opening night nod.
2015-16 stats: 5.7 points, 3.6 assists, 1.8 rebounds, .8 steals, 21.4 minutes
There was a time when Lawson was considered a frontline starter. Still just 28-years-old, the speedy assist-man signed a one-year, make-good contract with the Kings after bouncing from the Nuggets, to the Rockets, to the Pacers over the past year.
Rondo found his game in Sacramento last season and the Kings are looking for a similar career revival from Lawson this year. If he can get back to the player that averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists per game during the 2014-15 season, Lawson might compete with Collison for the lead guard spot going forward.
If he slips up, the Kings have the option to waive the talented, but troubled guard and never look back.
2015-16 stats: 7.3 points, 1.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, .9 steals, 24.4 minutes
Temple turned a career-year into a 3-year, $24 million deal with the Kings and he’s the only one in the running with a guaranteed deal. It’s been awhile since Temple has been asked to fill in at the point, but the versatile wing can be a stop-gap if Collison’s suspension comes in low.
Defensively, Temple should have no problems slowing the opposition on most nights, but his lack of offensive aggression might jam up the middle where DeMarcus Cousins earns his money.
Temple, 30, was brought in to provide depth at the 1, 2 and 3, as well as help with the club’s culture. If he is the starter on opening night, it will be merely as a placeholder for Collison.
2015-16 stats: 9.2 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 24.3 minutes
Farmar spent most of the 2015-16 season playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, before joining Dave Joerger in Memphis for the final 12 games of last season. Like Lawson, Farmar signed a partially-guaranteed deal with the Kings and will have to fight his way onto the roster.
The former Laker, Net, Clipper and Grizzly guard is the best shooter of the lot, sporting a career 37.4 percent from long range. But the Kings walk into camp with 14 guaranteed contracts, making it a dogfight for a roster spot.
He knows the coach from last season’s cup of tea in Memphis, but he needs a really good camp to earn a spot over Lawson.
**2015-16 College stats: 12.6 points, 4.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 33.4 minutes
The last of the Kings' four 2016 draft picks, Cousins has an uphill battle to make it to the opener. He’s a big, strong, physical guard, but an injury during summer league limited his opportunity to shine.
He is a project that needs more seasoning, but the 22-year-old rookie out of Oklahoma will likely spend time in the D-League honing his craft in year one. The Kings don’t have the luxury of sending him back and forth to Reno like they did with Duje Dukan last season.
Lawson is the most logical choice of the quartet, but he has to prove that he has his life back on the straight and narrow and that’s he’s found his explosion that was missing last season. The Kings will give him the opportunity to win the job with the hopes of turning the second unit into a run-and-gun change of pace offense once Collison is back on the job.
The Kings love Temple’s intangibles, but he will most likely open the season as a super-sub at multiple positions. He’ll see minutes backing up Lawson, but also fill in behind Arron Afflalo and Rudy Gay at the wing positions.
Farmar has an outside shot of making the team, especially if Lawson stumbles. But he will likely be on the outside looking in, along with Isaiah Cousins.