SACRAMENTO -- Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes are out of action against the Miami Heat on Thursday evening, leaving the Kings without 40 percent of their starting lineup.
Barnes suffered a left foot strain against the Grizzlies on Sunday. He tried to play through the injury against the Nets on Monday, but is clearly being impacted by the injury.
Holmes will miss his second straight game with a sore right knee. Like Barnes, he injured his leg during the loss to Memphis.
Neither injury is considered serious, but with Sacramento riding a four-game losing streak, where will Luke Walton turn with the Kings host the Heat?
Walton has a few options to fill out the starting lineup, but Barnes’ minutes will be particularly difficult to fill. The team’s starting small forward is averaging 35 minutes per game, splitting his time between the three and the four.
With Holmes out of action, Walton can start former Heat big man Hassan Whiteside, but that would severely limit the team’s depth at center. A more likely scenario is that Marvin Bagley moves over to the five to match up with Bam Adebayo and Walton tries to fill the void at power forward.
Nemanja Bjelica is finally back in the rotation after a 14 game absence. He started 137 games over the last two seasons for the Kings and his ability to shoot from the perimeter could help with the team’s spacing.
Veteran Jabari Parker is sitting deep on the Kings' bench, although he has yet to make his debut for the Kings this season. Parker struggled with a back injury during training camp and left the team for a stretch in January to attend to a personal issue. He also faced quarantine upon his return, but he was on the court getting in a workout following the Kings' loss on Monday.
Walton also has options at the three. He can shift Tyrese Haliburton or Cory Joseph into the starting backcourt and shift Buddy Hield to the small forward spot. Defending Jimmy Butler won’t be an easy task for Hield, which may force Walton to go a different route.
Glenn Robinson III has the size to contend with Butler, which might be Walton’s best bet, at least to start the game.
Regardless of what Walton does, the Kings are in trouble. They’ve lost four straight games and now injuries are starting to pile up. They’ll also be without two-way big man Chimezie Metu, who broke his wrist over the weekend and is out for a minimum of four weeks.
The Kings will face a talented, but struggling Heat team that lost Wednesday night at Golden State. Miami has lost three straight, one less than the Kings’ current skid, and they are in the midst of a seven-game road trip.
Walton’s best bet is to have his team push the tempo and try to run a road-weary Heat team off the court. That means that he should probably use Bagley at center and turn to some form of a small-ball lineup to open the game.
An early prediction is a starting lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Robinson III, Bjelica and Bagley. But Walton will have options.