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Training camp preview: After years of questions, Kings have stability at small forward

We could spend a lot of time rattling off the names of players who have been starting small forwards for the Kings since Ron Artest was traded in 2008.

But we don’t have that kind of time.

The Kings finally found their answer at small forward last season when they traded for Rudy Gay.

In Gay, the Kings found the right cross for their 1-2 punch along with DeMarcus Cousins.

And when Gay decided to pick up his option for this coming season worth $19.3 million, the Kings were relieved to know he wasn’t just a rental for last season.

Gay should be good for at least 20 points and six rebounds most nights. He’s no longer the new guy on the team, so Gay will be expected to speak up more in the locker room.

Gay will also be expected to be a more active defender. Coach Michael Malone said that in July when Gay visited the Kings’ summer league team in Las Vegas.

Gay has the size, athleticism and smarts to be a more than capable defender. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Gay can defend either forward spot in some cases.

That versatility on the wing will be needed as the Kings look to improve their defensive efficiency.

Derrick Williams was the new small forward last season until Gay arrived. That put the second overall pick from the 2011 NBA Draft into a tough spot.

He never looked completely comfortable coming off the bench and he never fully showed off his athletic ability consistently.

For Williams to earn playing time, he has to be an energy player. If he rebounds, defends and runs, he’ll get plenty of time behind Gay and even at power forward.

If Williams is inconsistent, the Kings have another option in a familiar face, Omri Casspi.

One of the Kings’ two first-round picks in 2009, Casspi is back on a one-year deal. Since being traded in 2011 to Cleveland, Casspi spent last season with Houston.

At his best, Casspi can be a three-point threat and a tenacious rebounder.

The Kings believe Casspi can also be used as a stretch power forward.

Casspi returns a more mature player and should be able to help if the Kings can stick to their plan of playing fast this season.

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