Through the seasons first four games, the Sacramento Kings are holding opponents to 95.8 points per game, good for 10th in the league – and that includes the double overtime game with Indiana last week. For a team that gave up a league high (and it wasn’t even close) 104.4 points per game to their opponents last season, that’s a hell of an improvement – even if it’s only through four games.
However – and you knew there was a however – it’s a small sample size and the Kings’ opponents through the first four games haven’t exactly been offensive juggernauts themselves:
- Chicago Bulls FG% – 45.6%
- Minnesota Timberwolves FG% – 43.8%
- Indiana Pacers FG% – 40.1%
- Golden State Warriors FG% – 43%
Granted, it’s only been a handful of games, but even going back to last year – none of the said teams were exactly known for their offensive efficiency (only one of the four placed in the top ten for FG%) and in the above cases, three of the four teams were missing their star players – Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Danny Granger.
In addition to the improved FG% against, the Kings have locked down the three point line, leading the league in opponent three point percentage – only giving up a paltry 20% of the shots taken against them from behind the arc. Giving up nearly two less looks than last year, the Kings’ improvement on the perimeter has been a pleasant surprise given they allowed 35% from the three point line last season.
The Kings have also cut down on their opponents assists, ranking top five in the league allowing just over 18 dimes a game as opposed to last seasons 24 – good for last in the league.
Lastly, one of the big changes to the improved defense is the lack of fouling. Currently, the Kings are only averaging 18 fouls a game – good for fifth in the league. Last year, they ranked in the upper half of the league with 20 fouls – and again, that’s including a double OT game where the Kings had to foul 26 times in hopes of extending parts of the game. As unintelligent as they look on the offensive end – they’re playing a smarter game on the defensive side of the court.
All in all, it’s tough to say the Kings haven’t improved on the defensive side – something head coach Keith Smart has preached all offseason. Is it skewed? Given the small sample size and lack of efficient offensive opponents through the seasons first week plus, you could say that – but that shouldn’t take away from the effort the guys are putting in which is much better than last year.
Learning to play defense and mastering defensive schemes takes time and practice, but effort, that’s only a matter of desire – a desire this group didn’t have last year. As the season goes on, they’ll learn how to play better defense, I just hope their early season effort remains intact.