Christos Tsaltas of Sportal recently reported that he’s heard the Sacramento Kings have a specific role in mind should Sasha Vezenkov depart from Olympiacos and joins the NBA, and by the sound of it, it could implicate the future of unrestricted free agent Trey Lyles.
According to Tsaltas’ information, the Kings “intend” for Vezenkov “to back up Keegan Murray in position 4,” the role Lyles had all of last season. He added that the two forwards will play together at times as the coaching staff also aims to “to utilize Murray at the 3 spot next season in order to get all the good elements of his game.”
For good measure, the Greek reporter added that the pursuit of OG Anunoby “also plays an important role in this.”
There’s no world where the Kings view Murray as a trade piece. Any doubt about Vezenkov coming to the NBA seems more like business posturing than anything, seeming to cement the likelihood he journeys west. And everyone can agree that bringing Anunoby to Sacramento would be a home run. But in all of that, there does seem to be some room to think Lyles may go elsewhere.
That is, of course, if one confines Lyles to being nothing but a 4 in this league.
In reality, the 6’9″, 234 lb. Lyles is just as much of a center as the 6’9″, 225 lb. Chemezie Metu, who had by far the most tread as the reserve behind Domantas Sabonis. In fact, it’s certain that Lyles’ bigger body makes him a better rebounder, that he actually has an outside shot to stretch the floor, and that he has a very high basketball IQ.
It’s hard to argue with the idea that—on account of the fact Metu held down the role for most of this past season—Trey Lyles would make an adequate backup 5 in the modern NBA.
Outside of athleticism, Lyles has Metu beat in practically all categories.
And this past year, when the stakes were higher, coach Brown clearly felt more comfortable and confident going with Lyles than he ever would with Metu.
In late January, for example, everyone remembers how the Kings defeated the Timberwolves in a road overtime game. Sabonis had fouled out and instead of going to the backup 5 at the time in Chimezie Metu, Brown went with number-41. Lyles’ ability to stretch the floor as a center forced Rudy Gobert outside of the paint, which helped his team score 15 points in OT in order to win.
After that contest, Mike Brown referred to the option of playing Lyles at the 5 position as “something that we have in our back pocket,” but the notion of making him the full time reserve center did not appear to be imminent. And it wasn’t.
What about for next season? It seems ripe with opportunity.
Some skeptical observers, however, may be prone to question. They may very well assume that if Lyles was capable of holding down the backup center role full time, he’d have been doing it by now.
That’s the thing though. Fans’ pleas to have Lyles fill in the minutes at the backup 5 weren’t being ignored or overlooked. Rather, nothing materialized because such a move would have been impractical given the roster makeup this past season. Who would have slid into the backup 4? Metu? That sounds like insanity and would have been an explicit example of moving in pointless circles.
Perhaps that’s what truly secured Alex Len an actual crack at holding down the reserve center role in March. The depth chart was such that Lyles, essentially, had to remain as Keegan Murray’s backup, forcing someone else to step up.
However, if you add Vezenkov and bolster that power forward position, you have now granted yourself the flexibility to use Lyles at the center position. In other words, it gives Mike Brown the liberty to play a better variation of lineups, allowing him to put the five best guys out on the floor.
So just because Sasha Vezenkov is envisioned to fill the role Trey Lyles had last season does not mean Lyles is the odd man out. In fact, it’s likely the opposite as the addition of the Bulgarian sharpshooter would grant the Kings the opportunity to tap into the versatility offered by Lyles.