I've thought a lot about how to write this, and frankly I'm still confused. That's how confounding this group really is when you get right down to it. On the other hand, there are possible solutions out there. So let's discuss them, yeah?
After the jump of course.
Option 1: Stay the course
This is one option that I think eludes people. After all, how often does changing things really result in the actual difference of effectiveness that one looks for from the change being made? Not often is the answer. (If you can ignore the obfusiveness of the sentence that is. Call it my tribute to Geoff Petrie.)
Stay the course is the real answer you have if you want to keep this roster together (for better or worse). So what does staying the course look like? Well, like many others have suggested, I think Chuck Hayes should start. Not because Jason Thompson is disappointing, but the ball movement and getting guys shots where they can be valuable is something the starting lineup is missing. With Hayes healthy, active and effective doing what he does, I do think he can bring something to the table that JT simply can't at this point.
The upside to this is that JT is so much better as a Center (in part because there is less talent at the Center spot) than he is at the PF spot. On the other hand, it also keeps the Kings from being so chronically undersized coming off the bench which is one thing that could lead to what is currently the 3rd worst DRB% in the entire NBA at 69%.
Other than that, keep the same starting lineup and do a few different things.
One is to keep Cousins at the high post at least 70% of the time. I can keep droning on and pontificating about such things, but the reality is that Cousins lacks the explosive athleticism needed to get clear and effective shots when Cousins is near the basket attempting shots. Especially so when dribbling from the high post into the lane. Thus, if Cousins stays out of the low post where he gets very few effective shots, and sticks to the high post where his passing, shooting and floor spacing can help the Kings.
Two would be to get Evans and Johnson on the block a lot. Like, 60-70% of the time they are on the court. Both Evans and Johnson possess the ability to play in the block. They need to do it game in game out. How many teams possess the size to keep both of them from getting to their spots in the block? Not many would be my answer.
Three would be to use Thomas and Cousins in a pick and roll action more. Again, nothing new in terms of analysis here, and for the many fans who have suggested it I agree with them. But I think it needs to be weaved in the context of how you use the post game with Cousins/Evans/Johnson at any given time. Plus it could add the prospect of getting Cousins more shots at the rim which is something Cousins is always attempting to do. The difference is that Cousins is so much better playing in the P&R game than he is at backing his guy down and getting a quality shot in the low post.
Four is get back to defense. Elements one and two are (or should be) the offense that Keith Smart described in the offseason and preseason: The Triangle. The triangle is also known as the triple post offense, and the trick isn't just to figure out where one player is. It's to utilize the various skills or your best players (really who is this teams best players right now?) without a traditional ball handling smaller G typically. On top of that it's to keep all 5 players involved in the offense rather than working with just two or so players at any given time over the long haul. Sound familiar?
Like most things, it all sounds good in theory. The problem is that Cousins shoots the theory right out of the window by himself. Evans does the same thing even if he's not as noisy or obtrusive about it. Let's forget James Johnson in that since the guy has been here for 9 games that count and is not one of the two best players on this team (supposedly).
You go as your best players go. Which players are the Kings best right now? We should know. We don't and that's the single biggest problem. Yet again, rinse wash repeat. This is nothing new. (Just in case you think it's a new problem that is.)
For all the talk about Marcus Thornton not starting, I find it hard to believe that starting Thornton is the right answer realistically. Let's be honest here: Thornton is averaging the 4th most amount of minutes per game on the team. That's typically not a bench player who is "just a bench player". So let's table the talk about Thornton getting more minutes or starting. I don't think it makes a difference as much as one might think intiially.
Last, what else can the Kings do internally before looking to change the team from the outside? I'm not sure. The problems with the Maloofs (terrible ownership with no resources) and Geoff Petrie (too many issue's here to state) are still there regardless. I don't think the problems will get solved. But that's me. So onto the other realistic solution.
What kind of trades could the Kings make?
Let's be honest here. Who is untouchable right now? Cousins? Evans? Thornton? Robinson? I'd answer no to all four of those in the best case scenario so why would I answer yes they are untouchable right now?
Cousins hasn't played well enough, doesn't possess enough talent anyway, and the attitude is just another wrinkle to the complex issue that is DeMarcus Cousins. Evans has the talent but doesn't seem to have the capability. Outside of one stellar game in Chicago, Evans has not done much this season other than play defense. (Which should have happened earlier in his career.) Thornton isn't good enough in any scenario to be considered untouchable. Robinson is talented, but young and I'm not sure the Kings benefit more from trading Thomas Robinson than keeping him. Whatever is going wrong with Robinson himself, first and foremost the rookie is not the biggest issue this group has on the court.
Trade 1: Trade Marcus Thornton for Richard Jefferson
I know I know. I wanted Jefferson over the summer, and I stand by that. The problem? Jefferson has stunk coming out of the gate for the Warriors in a decent number of minutes so far on the season.
Could Jefferson change in Sacramento? Possibly, possibly not. Is he too over the hill, or not? And, of course, why would Golden State want Thornton necessarily? Is he the answer for them? This is probably not a realistic trade because A) Petrie won't do it and B) Golden State might not either.
Trade 2: Trade Marcus Thornton for Arron Afflalo.
I doubt Orlando does this trade, and whether or not Sacramento would is besides the point if Orlando doesn't even consider it.
That's all I got. There isn't a lot of trades for realistic players that exist that include reasonable trade asset's the Kings can give up and still get better. (Hint: This means that despite the pure mass of suckitude that Cousins and Evans have displayed this season, you still have to keep them. They posses the most "talent" of anyone on the roster, and that isn't likely changing unless you trade one of them for a player of their talent caliber.)
Jason Thompson might be available, but there are two Center's on this roster right now. Cousins is the other one. What value do you get trading Jason Thompson? (Also JT can't be traded until January 15th. So there is that.) I would say not as much as you would hope.
Chuck Hayes will start. Keith Smart will say the right things because, honestly, what choice does he really have? Either Cousins and Evans grow up, or they do not. But the Kings won't trade Marcus Thornton for Richard Jefferson because, it's quite possible after all, that Jefferson is washed up and not worth acquiring. Or, it's possible the Kings value a guy like Thornton too much given that much of Thornton's value is shooting (he shoots 25.5% from 3 right now–cmon now) and doing so when the game is on the line. But, and I think this should be more obvious than it really is to some, how valuable is clutch shooting if you aren't in the game down the stretch at least 60% of the time?
Again, I don't know what can happen with this group. But I just wouldn't expect much from them again with the way things are going unless dramatic changes happen with Cousins and Evans (for starters), and everyone else can pick up their cues off them as a result. This team is stuck without that, and there is no trade or magical exilir that can fix a NBA team without a star NBA player unless that elixir or trade brings that star player back.
In otherwords, just another day in the life in Kings land.