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Game Preview: Pelicans at Kings

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans will conclude their arduous road trip tonight in Sacramento and hope to salvage a win on the 5-game West Coast swing. Many figured the Kings presented the best chance for a victory before we even left New Orleans, now it's our only one.

The 8-18 Kings (4-6 in the last 10) are noticeably different from our last meeting back on April 10 of last season. We won't have the pleasure of facing Greivis Vasquez, but will encounter Rudy Gay, Derrick Williams and Ben McLemore. Gone are Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, James Johnson, Toney Douglas and ... Tyreke Evans. Oh, and our old pal, Marcus Thornton, has been trending the wrong way. After opening the season as the starter, his minutes have wavered enough that he's usually just an afterthought in game-planning.

Have these transactions made the Kings a better club?

In 81 minutes of court time, their current starting five of Thomas-McLemore-Gay-Thompson-Cousins has a offensive/defensive rating of 102.2/128.1. Ouch. On the other hand, substituting Thompson (reportedly available on the trade market) for Williams and suddenly the five are quite viable: 121.9/109.4. A similar positive outcome is attained when instead the original starting five has Thornton replacing McLemore.

Yes, the sample sizes are much smaller once the team moves away from their current starting lineup, but the biggest thing to take away from all of this is rhythm, or a lack thereof. With so many new faces, changes in mid-season and the franchise attempting to clean up their image under Mike Malone, inconsistency should be expected. Thus, their highs and lows will vacillate wildly, especially considering 3 enormous usage rates (Thomas-Gay-Cousins) have a total of six games under their belts.

Probably, very few of us have had a chance to gauge the team under the eye-test, but the numbers can give us a clues as to what to expect. First, the top 5 Rudy Gay lineups, in terms of minutes played, have extremely high pace numbers. The lowest one (99.17) is their starting lineup, still quite fast. Second, their TOV% is extremely high in 3 of the top 4 Rudy Gay lineups. Lastly, the top 5-Gay lineups have very high TS percentages.

So, the new look Kings like to play on one side of the floor and are in a hurry to do so -- sounds like a pretty good match for our opportunistic defense. As long as we don't get sucked into a track meet (especially Evans trying to impress his old home crowd), the Pelicans should be able to execute rather well and triumphantly fly home on the heels of a much needed win.