Though he's coming off the bench, Beno Udrih remains highly regarded by Kings coach Paul Westphal.

With Tyreke Evans making enough progress from plantar fasciitis to return to the starting lineup, Udrih went to the bench instead of Marcus Thornton.

Westphal believes Thornton, who entered Friday's game against the Denver Nuggets averaging 22.4 points in 19 games with the Kings, can be a formidable tandem with Evans.

Udrih, however, still will be counted on a lot.

"I think Beno, you can make an argument he's been our most valuable player from Game 1 all the way through the season," Westphal said.

Udrih is the guard most naturally suited to run a team, and the Kings' ability to run the offense when he's not on the court is often a concern.

Westphal said not starting Udrih doesn't mean he'll play any less.

"I told (Udrih), 'I don't want you to think this is a demotion,' " Westphal said. "This is just a little change in the way we start the game. He's a very important guy, and he'll continue to be."

Westphal noted Thornton, 6-foot-4, and Evans, 6-6, should defend well and rebound in addition to score.

"I think they respect each other," Westphal said. "They're a tough matchup for most backcourts at either end. You have to make a decision who you're going to put your little guy on if you play a little guy. And we can create a lot of advantages with those two."