As Kings Training Camp quickly approaches, learn more about the team’s guards who have NBA experience running point. Plus, who will start at the one when the season tips-off Oct. 31?
Following the offseason acquisition of Aaron Brooks, three Kings players – each possessing substantial prior success and presenting a unique skill set – will vie for Sacramento’s starting point guard position, a battle which will begin at the onset of training camp on Oct. 3 and could continue through preseason action.
“Rather than stay the status-quo, I think (President of Basketball Operations) Geoff (Petrie) and (I), we wanted to push the envelope, and you can’t go wrong with having some good players on your basketball team – and (strong) competition is always good,” said Kings Head Coach Keith Smart after Brooks’ signing in July. “Iron sharpens iron.”
Competition is certainly nothing new to the incumbent, Isaiah Thomas, who has shown remarkable determination in the face of constant skepticism and challenges throughout his basketball career.
After beginning the 2011-12 season third on the team’s depth chart, “Mr. Irrelevant” made an immediate impact in 37 games as a starter – during which he averaged 14.8 points on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 40.6 percent from downtown to go along with 5.4 assists – as the up-tempo Kings led the League in fastbreak points (20.7) and possessions (98.9), and improved in nearly every major statistical category.
A two-time Western Conference Rookie of the Month award-winner and an All-Rookie Second Team selection, Thomas led Sacramento in assist percentage (25.6) and three-point accuracy (37.9), while improving his averages – points and assists, respectively – each month. The 5-foot-11 point guard has exhibited the ability to comfortably and confidently run the offense, recognizing when to attack the basket, pull-up for mid- and long-range jumpers, or set up his teammates for easy looks.
“I come in and I try to play as hard as possible and make the guys feed off me,” said Thomas. “I just want to stay aggressive and make plays for myself and my teammates.”
Brooks, a fellow Washington native, has been a superb scorer, outside shooter and playmaker throughout his career, recording 14.2 points and 4.1 assists per game (24.6 assist percentage) over his last three NBA seasons, while knocking down an NBA-leading 209 three-pointers on 39.8 shooting from long range in 2009-10.
Last year, the Oregon product averaged 22.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting from the field and 4.8 assists per contest with the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, revealing that the experience allowed him to develop into a more complete all-around player.
“It’s a different type of game over there, a lot more physical, and I had to be more of a playmaker,” said Brooks. “So I think my passing became a lot better, and hopefully that translates to the NBA, makes me a better player and more dynamic.”
In addition to his potent offensive prowess, with three years of postseason experience under his belt – including a seven-game second-round series against the L.A. Lakers in 2009 and a trip to the CBA Finals last season – Brooks also brings veteran leadership to one of the youngest teams in the League.
“In Houston, we had a lot of (position) battles and that made us a better team,” said Brooks. “We went into the Playoffs and had a good run.
“Isaiah had a great year. Tyreke (Evans) is a great player … I just want to do whatever I can, play the best I can play and help this team win.”
Although Evans finished the 2011-12 campaign playing off the ball on the wing, the former Rookie of the Year award-winner has spent the majority of his career to date as Sacramento’s starting point guard, averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 158 contests at the position. The Memphis product has led the Kings in assists per game in each of his three seasons and ranked second in assist percentage, holding a 24.5 career rate.
At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, No. 13 poses a difficult matchup for opposing guards, utilizing his imposing blend of size, strength and quickness to seamlessly attack the basket and create opportunities for his teammates. Evans has also developed into a solid defender, using his physical tools to frustrate opponents and swipe 1.4 steals per game.
Continually striving to improve his jumpshot over the summer, Evans could be in prime position to take his game to the next level.
Who do you think should be the Kings starting point guard in 2012-13? Share your thoughts in the comments or let us know on Facebook.com/SacramentoKings.