How can losing a player that averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists be good for a team?
That’s something the Kings have to answer this season.
The Kings’ decision to not keep Thomas (who was dealt to Phoenix in a sign-and-trade) and instead sign Darren Collison in July was criticized by fans and journalists.
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• Collison might have been cheaper, but Thomas’ production (especially on offense) trumps Collison’s.
• Thomas was wildly popular in Sacramento.
• Did I mention money? Some believed the Kings’ decision not to pay something better than the four year, $27 million deal Thomas landed with the Suns was a matter of the team just being cheap. After all, the team signed Carl Landry to a four-year contract worth $26 million a year earlier and Thomas is younger with seemingly his best years ahead of him.
Still the Kings made the unpopular move to replace Thomas. The thinking is something from a 28-win team had to change.
So the point guard position will look very different this season.
Collison figures to be the man to replace Thomas in the starting lineup. Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum will also get time at the point, either leading the offense or playing off the ball, a role the Kings didn’t have the personnel to use Thomas in most of last season.
Kings’ brass realizes their decision will still be criticized. But they’re excited about the possibilities.
The Kings are hopeful there will be more shots for other players because having three players average 20-plus points only got them 28 wins.
The pressure will be on Collison to prove he can start and hold on to that starting job. He was a starter in Dallas two seasons ago before coach Rick Carlisle deemed he was better off the bench.
Collison was injured when he lost his starting job in Indiana, even though he started 135 of 139 games with the Pacers, the public perception seems to be that he was a backup there most of the time, probably because George Hill landed a big contract which led to Collison ending up in Dallas.
It’s something Collison is quick to correct when asked about it, too.
Collison has been a competent shooter (46.4 percent from the field, 36.5 percent from three, 86.1 percent from the free throw line).
Collison has never averaged more than 13.2 points in his five seasons, but he’s also only averaged more than 30 minutes and has never averaged more than 11 shots.
That’s big for the Kings. They want more shots for Ben McLemore, who too often simply stood and watched on offense. They want the ball in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay’s hands more.
If Collison is shooting about nine times per game, which he’s done the last three seasons, there should be less griping about the point guard looking for his own offense.
The Kings are also convinced Collison will be a better defender.
The Clippers gave up 107.6 points per 100 possessions with Collison on the floor and 104.5 without Collison according to 82games.com.
Meanwhile the Kings allowed 108.6 points per 100 possessions with Thomas and 112.9 without Thomas.
Were there factors the Kings considered with such data? Sure. Collison played with the Clippers’ second-unit and Thomas’ backup a good chunk of the season was Jimmer Fredette or McCallum, a rookie.
The Kings are convinced Collison’s track record prove he is a solid defender.
This wasn’t meant to be a post all about Collison, but he’s the player with the four-year deal and who many are convinced was a downgrade from Thomas.
The Kings did agree to terms with Sessions over the weekend on a two-year contract.
Collison is younger and been a starter more than Sessions, but don’t be surprised to see the two play together.
Some of Collison’s best play last season came when he played with Paul in a two-point guard attack.
It’s all part of the Kings’ vision of a team that will play faster and put pressure on opponents with multiple players who will get down the court quickly.
Sessions can score but averages 9.1 shots for his career. So even when he’s on the court with Collison, the hope would be there would still be plenty of opportunities for the other Kings to get the ball, mainly Cousins and Gay.
This would seem to leave scarce minutes for Ray McCallum. It’s hard to play three point guards, even if one plays off the ball because that would cut into the playing time of McLemore and Nik Stauskas.
The Kings like McCallum, who will be in his second season. But he didn’t play a lot last season until Thomas was injured. McCallum tries to play defense, too, which coach Michael Malone loves.
But it will be tough for McCallum to beat out two veterans for playing time.