Jason Thompson has been a regular in the Sacramento Kings starting lineup since being drafted 12th overall in 2008. The big has amassed 281 starts (in 378 NBA games) and earned a career-high 81 in 2012-13.
The Kings run Thompson because the 27-year-old is a well-rounded power forward. He can back down opponents and score with either hand, shoot accurately from 20 feet, rebound, and on defense stay between his man and the hoop. Thompson doesn’t demand the ball, and the sixth-year pro resembles the closest thing to a vocal, experienced leader on a tumultuous Sacramento roster.
These are all reasons why the forward should start, but the reality is the bench needs Thompson.
Why? DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t have a backup!
The Kings are stocked with traditional fours and stretch-fours but no center beyond Cousins.
Say what you will about Chuck Hayes’ play at the pivot with the Houston Rockets, but the burly man is 6-foot-6 and merely a specialist at guarding the block at this stage in his career. Carl Landry and Patrick Patterson are both 6-foot-9 and can stretch the floor with their shooting but are major liabilities defending the five. We won’t touch Travis Outlaw or Luke Mbah a Moute.
Fortunately for head coach Mike Malone, he possesses a sturdy tower in Thompson who is 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds. The veteran is scrappy, efficient, and contests shots. On paper, he is an ideal second-string center.
Thompson does play better at the four as opposed to the five (he posted a net Player Efficiency Rating of -0.6 and -5.7 at the respective positions last season, according to 82games.com). But he’s familiar with coming off the bench (Landry was once a reason for that), and the team’s needs come first. Thompson would bolster the second unit by eating space and altering shots while providing his usual board-crashing numbers and nifty offense at the key.
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