For most of the past seven seasons, Jason Thompson started at power forward for the Kings.
This season will be different. To revamp the position, the Kings traded Thompson, their longest-tenured player, to the Philadelphia 76ers over the summer. The 76ers dealt Thompson to the Golden State Warriors.
The Kings now have multiple options at power forward as complements to All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. Coach George Karl began examining the candidates Tuesday during the team’s first practice of training camp at UC San Diego.
The team has looked for a power forward with shooting range, or one who can contribute through effective defense if not an impact scorer.
First-round draft pick Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-footer from Kentucky, is athletic and expected to improve Sacramento’s shot blocking. Veteran Kosta Koufos, who played with the Memphis Grizzlies the last two seasons, prides himself on setting good screens, rebounding and defending.
Quincy Acy, who is only 6-7, is in his second stint with the Kings, knows how to play with Cousins and has worked on a three-point shot. Small forward Rudy Gay also is in the mix. He played power forward for stretches in Karl’s first few months in Sacramento.
The key is none of the four occupies the same area as Cousins and needs the ball to be effective.
I think we can match up with the Golden States (playing small) and also the Memphis Grizzlies (playing big) at the same time.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins
“I think everybody’s going to get their opportunity,” Karl said. “I think everybody knows I would like to play Rudy some at four (power forward). But what’s our best team? I don’t know.
“If our best team is Kosta and Cuz and bringing Willie off the bench, or if my best team is starting Willie and then Kosta leading the team off the bench, I don’t know. I like to play a strong hand from the bench.”
Cousins welcomes the various looks the Kings can display.
“We can go big; we can go small,” he said. “I think we have so many different looks and each look we can play a different type of way. I think we can match up with the Golden States (playing small) and also the Memphis Grizzlies (playing big) at the same time. I think we have the perfect combination of players.”
Koufos, who played under Karl with the Denver Nuggets, is eager to do “whatever is asked of me.”
“Doing the little things of setting screens, rolling hard,” Koufos said. “Getting people open, rebounding, blocking shots and defending and scoring when needed.”
Karl said Koufos is a better player since he last coached him, from 2011-13.
“He’s always been kind of a no-nonsense, no-mistake guy,” Karl said. “But his defense reads are very good. He just doesn’t let the ball get to the basket. When he’s on the court, there’s kind of a no-layup mentality to his talents.”
After the draft, Karl said he was eager to see how Cauley-Stein played alongside Cousins. Like Koufos, Cauley-Stein said doing the little things – rebounding and challenging and blocking shots – is how he can best help the Kings.
Cousins is one of the best scoring big men in the NBA, while Cauley-Stein is noted more for his defense.
Getting people open, rebounding, blocking shots and defending and scoring when needed.
Kings big man Kosta Koufos on his strengths
“We’re polar opposites,” Cauley-Stein said of Cousins. “That’s how we complement each other. He’s going to do things I don’t do, and I’m going to do things he doesn’t do, so then it’s going to mesh together perfectly.”
Karl said the rookie showed promise in his first practice while acknowledging there will be a learning curve.
“He had a stretch of minutes where he was pretty effective defensively,” Karl said. “But I think in general he was kind of shocked by how big and quick and how strong our guys are.”
Key dates for Kings
- Tuesday-Saturday: Training camp at UC San Diego
- Oct. 5: First preseason game, at Portland, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 8: First preseason home game, vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 28: Season opener vs. Los Angeles Clippers, Sleep Train Arena, 7 p.m.