They have three issues. First is whether to turn the ball over to Tyreke Evans or to use Beno Udrih as a solid point guard who sets up people and helps them win games as a group. Second is how they manage the minutes between DeMarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert [when Dalembert returns from a groin injury] at center. Third is how they deal with all of their other guys -- Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi, Donte Greene, Francisco Garcia -- who seem to think they can average 20 points a game.
They have good pieces, but nobody has a firmly defined role. They have the potential to be all over the place, which is why I believe Udrih needs to play a lot at point guard and have some control over who gets the ball and where they get it.
Evans has been built up to be the guy who has the ball all of the time, and I think he's a guy who is looking to shoot first. I think he wants to be the man so that he get his numbers. That seems to be important to him and the people in his camp. But he did average almost six assists a game as Rookie of the Year, and as he gets better players around him, he should be more willing to be a passer. I believe he's going to figure it out.
He and Derrick Rose have similar traits, and if you pair either of those guys with two great shooters out on the wing while the point guard is getting to the basket and finishing plays, now you're looking at 20 points and seven or eight assists a game.
Evans has to improve his three-point shot. Otherwise you can put a longer guy on him, knowing that he wants to go into the post and shoot from mid-range. Last year you could go under the pick-and-roll on him and collapse inside against him. But it's not like it's easy to defend him. Even the bigger guards have trouble dealing with him. And then if you have a smaller point guard, you probably need to think about putting your 2 or 3 on Evans, which is going to wind up creating a mismatch elsewhere.
Evans turned the ball all over a lot, but I don't think he was playing too fast. In fact, I liked the way he controlled the pace. And when I watched him play, I didn't see him shooting it too many times. There were some ill-advised shots, but I've seen him be big in game-winning times. He's not a good three-point shooter, but he would make threes in the fourth quarter. I really liked his sense of control and the fact he was playing hard and giving them a chance to win games as a clutch player.
Thompson is skilled for his size. He shoots the ball and he can post up, but he also seems to want to have the ball a lot. And yet when he has it, you don't see him making a big impact. He did continue to get better as a rebounder, and he'd be a more important player if his goal was to lead the team in rebounding and get as many offensive boards as possible for easy baskets.
This guy has as many skills as LaMarcus Aldridge. But he has to get into a comfort spot where he's defining who he is and what he does. Maybe he decides he's a pick-and-pop guy from 15 feet and maybe he could be a good passer like Brad Miller, but I don't have the impression that's what he wants to do. Plus, he has to get better defensively to where he's not fouling all of the time, though that's not all his fault -- on bad teams, the big guys often get in trouble because guards are getting beat and big guys have to help.
Cousins could be their No. 2 player. But with this group, I don't know who is going to show him the way. They hired his former high school coach, but you have to ask what a high school coach is going to know about the NBA. In the summer league, Cousins had two great games and then in the third game he started believing he could make threes and he was dribbling between his legs and shooting pull-ups -- a lot of goofy stuff and a lot of talking.
Cousins could make a huge impact because there aren't many centers. There's nothing wrong with improving his overall game and becoming a good outside shooter, but that can't be his first thought. He should be thinking about leading the league in rebounding and aiming to shoot 70 percent from the field. That's how he's going to make his money.
Dalembert is known as the last guy to practice and the first guy to leave, and he can be a little bit loopy at times, but he's tended to get better every year up until last season. If I had a team full of young guys, I don't think I'd be looking to him to be the veteran leader. They could definitely use somebody more along the lines of Kurt Thomas.Carl Landry is at his best coming off the bench; he can't match up physically with the bigger guys who start at the 4-spot. Landry scores inside not because of his skill set as much as it is his determination. He's improved his range on his shot, but he's still a hustle guy. He can put the ball on the floor for a couple of dribbles, he takes good shots and he attacks.
I like Casspi because he plays his butt off all of the time and he's tough. When he takes a bad shot, it's often because he hasn't been able to touch the ball for a while and he's a slasher who doesn't back down. He's not a great defender who stays in front of his man, but he does try all of the time. He has a good skill set.
Greene could be a matchup problem if he were not always standing at the arc shooting threes. He's the new Vladimir Radmanovic -- all he wants to do is shoot. And he can shoot. But he belongs on a team where he can get away with hanging out on the three-point line and jacking it up.
Garcia is hurt a lot. He could be a good third guard because he can play both spots and he has size.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.